Thomas Chalk continues our series on vegetarian and vegan eateries in and around Leeds, and visits Anand – sweets and savouries to eat in and to take away; an ideal calling point on Harehills Road.
Anand Sweets have been running for nearly twenty years. I’ve spent quite a lot of my time in Leeds living in and around Harehills, and no shopping trip to Harehills Road to stock up on spices and veg for curries has felt complete without popping in for something sweet that may or may not remain uneaten by the time I get home.
In the last few years Anand have expanded their premises a bit, and now have a dozen or so tables where you can eat in. They offer a range of savoury dishes, all available in small or larger portions. It’s a handy place to stop and rest while you consider what spices and veg (and sweets) you still need to buy. They are open until 8pm, too.
We went for a late-ish lunch on Saturday. There was a steady stream of customers, evenly split between people eating in and people buying things to take away. Anand’s is all-vegetarian, with many vegan options. I had half thought to order solely vegan in the name of research for this review, but wavered when I saw salted lassi on the menu: this yoghurt drink is my delicious kryptonite (though just about everyone I try to convert to it pulls a face and looks at me with disgust as though somehow it’s my fault that they have no taste). Anand’s was particularly good – not as heavily-salted as some, rich and creamy but still with that refreshing lactic yoghurt tang.
The friendly staff member asked if we have eaten there before. Sweets aside, I haven’t for about five years. She suggested our lunch might do well to include bhatura, a fried balloon of wheat bread, and samosa chaat, two whole samosas covered with chick peas in a tamarind sauce and dressed with diced onion, sev (little bits of crispy fried noodle), and yoghurt. We didn’t need much persuading. We added a small portion of tarka daal and a large portion of malai kofta. I’ve been reading recipes for malai kofta – deep fried dumplings of paneer and potato – and wanted to try them made by someone who knows how (my first attempt having been a disaster).
The five years since I last ate at Anand are about five years too many. It’s all at least as good as I remember it. The bhaturas are light, lighter and less oily than you might expect from a deep-fried bread. The heft in our lunch comes from the samosa chaat rather than the bread, what with the potato filling and pastry and chick peas. This was was set off beautifully by the sweet-sour of the tamarind and the freshness of the onion, yoghurt and coriander – I love tamarind, with its not-vinegar not-citrus acidity, and Anand’s is complemented rather than muddied by the subtle spicing in the sauce.
The daal is billed on the menu as tarka daal, but while that title most often indicates a smooth, turmeric-yellow curry of toor daal heavy with garlic, here it is an altogether more earthy affair. Urad daal and a few kidney beans combine to make something more like a daal makhani, though without the heaviness of the large quantities of butter and cream that this would normally contain; indeed, it appears on the receipt as daal makhani. It is nicely soupy, warming with spices rather than pungent with garlic.
The koftas are a surprise – airy and more breadlike than I expect. I can’t work out what’s in them, but suspect there isn’t any potato. The menu describes them as milk dumplings, so perhaps there isn’t any paneer either. On their own, they would be bland, but the gravy they come in… For the second time in as many reviews, I find myself thinking ‘I wonder if they will bring me an extra mug of this on its own?’ This tomato-based sauce is smooth, so I can’t be sure if it is enriched with cashews, or just cream, or both. At risk of damning it with faint praise and lazy comparisons, it is like the thickest, most unctuous cream of tomato soup ever, spiked with a good kick of chilli. It’s sweet and tangy, but differently so from the tamarind on the chaat, with the emphasis further towards richness than light freshness.
It’s £15 for our eat-in food – a good-sized lunch for two, packed with flavour.
…and take away
Before we left we picked up a selection of sweets and savoury snacks to take away, all in the name of research, of course. Anand make some of their sweets with vegetable ghee rather than butter ghee, and the labels in the display counter helpfully give the ingredients, meaning it is easy to pick out which are vegan.
Laddus are a bright-orange ball of moist, cardamom-inflected gram flour that has been fried into small pearls rolled together into golf-ball sized pieces. Pale yellow bessan laddus, made with much the same ingredients, are more uniform in texture and far drier. They have an appealingly gritty quality rather than being flour-smooth, though some people may still find them cloying.
Pinny are in a similar vein to the bessan laddus, but studded with nuts and seeds. These three are the ones I always gravitate towards, but if you don’t like cardamom, these are not the sweets for you – consider exploring the array of fudge-like barfi (though your options will be rather limited if you are vegan). I took a piece of chocolate barfi – nice enough, though personally I prefer my chocolate sweets darker and more bitter.
My “selection” of savouries was in reality a box of dhokla, a steamed chick pea flour and rice flour sponge that manages to be both airy and moist. The sponge has a nice chilli heat, and a tanginess from fruit salt, a mix of acidic and alkaline compounds that I understand to be what makes the batter rise and give it its airiness. I added a couple of vegan paneer pakoras – because, research – but to my taste these strike a duff note. I think it is the vegan cheese that doesn’t work for me, though perhaps a non-vegan, non-paneer cheese pakora would equally not be my thing.
Somehow, all the sweets and savouries make it home. This is a testament to the heartiness of our lunch. Good curry makes for a great Saturday lunch. And dhokla makes for an equally great Sunday breakfast.