As a Carnegie Mellon student, you’re busy. You have class in an hour, a paper due tomorrow, and a midterm exam next week. On top of everything else, you’re hungry, so it’s hard to concentrate. But your next meal isn’t exactly what you want to be thinking about. So, what are your options?
You could put off eating until after your classes, run to the grocery store, buy ingredients, and cook a nutritious meal at your apartment or residence hall. Of course, by the time you’ve done that, you’ve lost at least two hours of what might have been productive work time — and you could be in for a long night ahead. Alternatively, you could grab a couple of snacks, which will energize you for a while … until you crash and burn a few hours later. With deadlines approaching, the last thing you need is to feel sluggish. There’s got to be a better option, right? There definitely is.
Nutrition Is Paramount to Success
“As a college student, your mental and physical health is as important as your education and extra-curriculars. In fact, nutrition is essential to success,” says Jessica Tones, dietitian and nutrition educator for Carnegie Mellon Dining Services. “Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods has been linked to improved cognition and mental functioning, in addition to lower stress levels, lower rates of chronic disease, and lower incidences of mood disorders. Having a dining plan helps you nourish your body consistently throughout the day.”
Of course, the problem is that stress and poor nutrition often go hand in hand: stress or lack of time leads to poor food choices, which in turn leads to a diminished physical and mental state that further increases stress in a vicious cycle. This cycle can be hard to break, but Carnegie Mellon’s dining program is designed to provide students with, convenient meal options for every palate.
A Healthful and Convenient Way to Eat on Campus
CMU’s dining plans offer a range of options and choices for students throughout their time as an undergraduate student or graduate student. They offer convenience for students who live or spend a lot of time on campus because dining locations exist on nearly every part and corner of campus. Additionally, investing in a meal plan removes the stress of figuring out where your next meal is going to come from, making it easier to take care of yourself (and treat yourself) when you’re busy or stressed.
Community Dining Plans
Students Say It Best
But don’t take Dining Services’ word for it: many current students enrolled in meal plans rely on them to stay healthy — and end up being pretty happy, too.
Russell Holbert, a soon-to-be-senior studying music, said this about his meal plan: “I love having a meal plan! It let’s me be social while eating my meals and helps me attend more events on campus. I don’t worry about finding time to shop and cook. It’s been such a convenience being able to get food where and when I want it, and it has helped me maintain commitments around campus at any time of day.”
After all, mealtime shouldn’t just be a study break. It’s an opportunity to explore campus, socialize with friends, and even meet new people. And with the extra time afforded to Russell by having diverse food options at his fingertips, he can take advantage of everything Carnegie Mellon has to offer, including extra-curriculars and special events.
Kanisha Vaughn, a junior studying psychology, echoed Russell’s sentiments: “I personally like having a meal plan because I like the convenience of being able to get food on campus, especially at times when I’m on campus late or need to grab quick food in the middle of the day. I would love to be able to cook regularly, and I did try it for a while, but I often get home late at night, and once I’m in my dorm room, I usually don’t want to have to cook — in fact, I usually just want to go directly to sleep. So it’s nice knowing that if I have the time and desire to cook, I can; but if I don’t have time to cook one week, I don’t have to force myself to take the time out to do so, since I have a meal plan.”
Dining Is Here to Serve You!
At Carnegie Mellon University, dining plans vary based on students’ needs and interests; they’re flexible, so students can get the most out of their meal plan. With more than 30 locations across campus, you’ll never have to eat at the same place twice in a row (unless you want to), and you’ll always have access to a satisfying meal, whether it’s an early breakfast or second dinner late at night. Chances are, you’re already busy enough — don’t let meals stress you out even more!
Eating Indian food is a culinary experience unlike any other: the bold and complex spices, the rich, silky texture of curry, the bright acidity of chutneys and achaars (pickled fruit or vegetable), the cooling effect of raita (yogurt sauce), and perhaps the best part, the fresh, handmade bread used to scoop and savor all of these flavors together in one perfect bite.
Indian food is as diverse as the subcontinent that it comes from. For those new to this distinctive cuisine, navigating the menu can be overwhelming. We asked Harjit Singh, chef and owner of Taste of India, to teach us the basics and help us explore his menu. Having served delicious Indian food to the Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon communities for 25 years, both at his location in Resnik and his restaurant on Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville, we knew he’d have a lot to share.
In 1982, Mr. Singh moved from the state of Punjab, located in northern India, to New York City. He lived there for nearly a decade, working in restaurants and building the foundation of his culinary skills and passion for cooking. In 1991, he moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to family and to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant. In the same year, he opened both the Penn
Avenue and CMU locations, specializing in North Indian cuisine. Mr. Singh describes his regional cuisine as “very rich, savory, and less spicy than many other regional cuisines.”
When we asked about the most popular item on the menu, Mr. Singh did not hesitate: “Chicken Tikka Masala.” It’s a recipe that is usually reserved for special occasions for a home cook, yet it is available at the CMU location daily. This labor-intensive dish is truly decadent: melt-in-your-mouth chicken, braised in a velvety, deep-orange curry, exploding with flavor from over a dozen herbs and spices, aromatic vegetables, tomatoes, and cream. As in any restaurant, Mr. Singh noted that there are a number of dishes that diners overlook. If you are looking for a hidden gem, consider the chef’s favorites that are noted throughout.
If you have eaten at Taste of India on campus, it is likely that you have tried an achaar, as it is offered as a complimentary condiment with any meal. Achaar translates to the word pickle, which is a fruit or vegetable that has been preserved with an oil or an acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice. Achaars may be sour and spicy, ranging from mild to very hot.
Alu or Aloo
Alu is the word for potato. The starches in potatoes make them perfect for absorbing and extending flavor, making them a favorite ingredient to highlight the depth of a dish. Alu is often prepared with a wet or dry curry and combined with other vegetables and proteins as a main dish, or transformed into a spicy filling for samosas, parathas, dosas, or alu tikki.
Baingan is the word for eggplant, commonly featured with other vegetables in curries such as alu baingan or in baingan bharta, a popular dish featuring smoky, char-grilled eggplant mashed with spices.
Rice is an essential base for Indian cuisine and Basmati is always the rice of choice. It’s a high quality, long grain rice that is prized for its aromatic qualities and nutty flavor. It may be served plain or in rice dishes such as Biryani.
This versatile rice-based dish can be prepared with any combination of meat, vegetables, and dried or fresh herbs and spices. For a sweet-savory twist, some variations include dried or fresh fruit and nuts. Biryani may be accompanied with raita, or other sauces or chutneys. If you make it to the Penn Avenue location, try one of Mr. Singh’s favorite dishes – Lamb Biryani.
Chapati or Roti – an unleavened bread prepared from atta (a finely ground whole wheat flour), water, oil, and salt. It is rolled to a tortilla-like thickness and quickly cooked over an open flame. This is considered the everyday bread in Indian homes, perfect for scooping up curry.
Paratha – an unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour. It is a thicker bread with flaky layers as a result of folding the dough repeatedly, similar to a pastry dough. Herbs or spices may be folded in to the dough. It is then pan-fried with a light oil or ghee.
Poori (Puri) – an unleavened deep-fried bread often prepared for festivals or special occasions.
Naan – a leavened bread usually prepared with white flour and cooked in a clay tandoori oven. It can be stuffed with vegetables and herbs. While this is the most popular bread in many Indian restaurants, Tandoori ovens are rare in homes; therefore, it is not a bread that is eaten regularly in everyday kitchens. Naan is the only bread available on campus, but all varieties are available at the Penn Avenue location.Check out the Taste of India Tandoori oven in action!
Chana or Channa
Chana means chickpea, a staple in Indian cooking. This creamy legume is incredibly versatile and may be served whole in dishes such as Chana Masala or mashed and mixed with spices and fried as an appetizer. Chickpea flour is used as a breading or to make savory pancakes, crepes, flatbreads, or crispy papadum snacks. Chickpea flour is also known as gram flour or besan.
Served as a condiment or accompaniment, chutney offers brightness and acidity, which creates a perfect balance when combined with rich, earthy, spice-laden dishes. Chutney is the name for relish and is typically made from fruits or vegetables combined with an acid (citrus juice or vinegar), ranging from sweet to sour to spicy. Green, tamarind, and mango chutneys are some of the most popular varieties.
Perhaps the style of cooking most commonly associated with Indian cuisine, curry is a general term for either a combination of dry and/or fresh herbs and spices that are ground into dry spice mixtures or a paste to create a signature flavor. Whole dry spices such as cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, or cardamom (to name a few) are always toasted to enhance the flavor prior to grinding. Curry paste may also include fresh aromatics such as garlic, onion, and ginger (Mr. Singh’s top three favorites), cilantro, or lemon grass, and combined with an oil or ghee to form a paste consistency. Dry curry or curry paste added at the beginning of the cooking process infuses the flavors into the cooking oil. Curry sauces are also known as wet curry, a gravy-like sauce created by the addition of a liquid such as yogurt, coconut milk, stock, water, milk, or cream. Each region or family is known for unique curries; however, some common names for curry on a menu are Masala (the word for spice), Madras, Korma, orVindaloo.
Lentils, peas, or beans, also known as legumes or pulses, which are often split and sometimes hulled (skin removed). The process of splitting increases the surface area of the legume, which decreases cooking time and exposes the starchy inside, creating a creamy, sauce-like texture when cooked. Dal is the name of both the ingredient and the prepared dish. It can be seasoned in a number of ways and is commonly prepared with aromatics and spices and cooked to a porridge-like consistency and served over rice with bread.
Clarified butter is made by melting the butter and removing the milk solids, which helps to prevent burning when cooking at high heat, making it more suitable for frying and sautéing. Ghee, while a typical cooking oil, has become less popular as consumers request vegetable-based oils for health reasons.
Rice pudding, served as a dessert, made with rice, milk, sugar, and cardamom. Variations may include ingredients such as rose water, nuts (like almonds or pistachios), or fruit.
Best translated as “meatballs,” although koftas are often vegetarian and may be made from potatoes, vegetables, or paneer. Saag kofta, or “spinach ball,” is made by mixing chopped spinach, onion, garlic, spices, and chickpea flour and forming it into balls, which are then fried and served in a curry sauce.
Mattar or matar is the word for green peas. Mattar is featured in many curries, combined with other vegetables (such as alu mattar), in mattar paneer, or added to samosa filling.
A fresh, non-melting farmer’s cheese that is set by an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. You will find paneer in many forms on the menu: cubed and added to curries, such as palak paneer or mattar paneer, or in pakoras, fritters that are served as an appetizer or snack. As it is generally an unsalted cheese, it can easily be transformed into a number of creamy desserts.
Saag or Palak
Although the words saag and palak are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Saag is the general word for greens, and palak means spinach. So technically, saag might be spinach or another green leafy vegetable, but palak will always be spinach. Another classic dish is palak paneer – one of the best vegetarian offerings on campus! If you go to the Penn Avenue location, you will have the opportunity to taste Mr. Singh’s favorite dish – lamb saag.
Pilav translates to pilaf, a rice dish with spices, aromatics, and vegetables, as in peas pilav.
This simple, satisfying dish features red kidney beans in a rich gravy with tomatoes, onions, and, of course, lots of spices.
A traditional style of cooking, utilizing wood or charcoal in a cylindrical clay oven, that produces smoky, grilled meats, vegetables, or breads at temperatures reaching as high at 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Favorite dishes include tandoori chicken (marinated with yogurt and spices) and naan bread.
Vindaloo originated in Portugal and is named for its key ingredients: a marinade of wine or wine vinegar (vinho) and garlic (alhos). The dish was transformed to become a traditional Goan dish, laced with warm spices, onion, and chili peppers. Vindaloo is assumed to be a very spicy dish due to the Kashmiri chiles, which contributes a fiery red color, but they are not an especially hot chili. The heat level will vary depending on the restaurant, but it is a dish that can be customized for those seeking a dish that offers more or less spice.
Carnegie Mellon University Dining is incredibly fortunate to have Taste of India on our campus and as a part of the Pittsburgh dining scene. Visit the CMU location, the Penn Avenue location, or have food delivered from the restaurant through Happy Belly. Catering for campus is also available upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to hear from you! What is your favorite Indian dish?
Tell us about how you got started in the food industry.
I had a very humble beginning in the food industry, starting out in a fast food chain restaurant at the age of 16. I became a dishwasher in a bar restaurant at 17 and a food prep worker in a country club at 18. By 21, I was the sous chef in a hotel conference center in Ossining, New York. One day the executive chef, who had trained and trusted me with his kitchen, walked out after an argument with the general manager. I inherited his position and from then on never stopped educating myself with food literature and through hands-on dining experiences.
What do you value most about Carnegie Mellon University?
What it represents as an institution – a multitude of ethnic backgrounds and cultures from around the globe. It’s as much a melting pot as my home, New York.
How do you develop your menu(s)?
I have a tremendously creative team. They bring a lot of ideas to the table, from dated classics to the latest trends. We talk the ideas through and come up with a plan. Then we communicate with our guests and the well-received items find their way back onto the menus in the future.
Why are you passionate about food?
I grew up with half of my backyard as a vegetable garden. When my father wasn’t picking my soccer ball out of it, he was picking tomatoes and cucumbers for his homemade pickles and sauce. Memorable experiences centered on food were a big part of my upbringing. One of my fondest childhood memories is “donut day” – the day my father would make a huge batch of sweet buttermilk donut dough. My sisters and I would create any shape that came to mind before dad would drop them in the deep fat fryer. We made dinosaurs, smiley faces, braided art … it was always good times.
So really, at the end of the day, I am passionate about family, and food is a big part of bringing family together.
Personally speaking, what’s your preference – cook in or dine out?
I love to cook in, but of the two I prefer to dine out. I am always looking for a new flavor profile that I haven’t experienced yet.
What is your favorite meal to prepare/cook/serve?
I enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. It is a family effort that can go in many different directions, but in the end it brings people you love together under one roof.
All-time favorite food or meal.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea in Manhattan has the best Moscow Borscht. It’s a hearty soup made primarily with cabbage and beets and was served with skirt steak and covered with a flaky pastry. It was amazing! I have duplicated it on several occasions and have even served it here at CMU on one of our Chef’s Table menus.
Outside of food and work, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
I like RPG video games, intelligent conversation, playing chess, On Demand cable show binging, dominoes, and, most of all, spending time with my beautiful wife, children, and grandchildren (pictured).
(And, for those who don’t know, RPG video games are digital versions of games like Dungeons and Dragons.)
Tell us at least one thing that is on your bucket list.
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