September 4, 2008

San Mateo Eatery Offers Quick, Healthy Indian Food

By Kyveli Diener


Nestled inside the Shoreview Shopping Center, the Dil Khush Indian Cafe is a small store that manages to feel quite spacious.

Each of the six tables is adorned with a single red rose in a small vase, and hypnotic sitar music floats through the bright, open space from a portable DVD player near the door.

The new eatery, which opened Aug. 12, has attracted customers with its healthy food and low prices, with nothing on the ever- changing menu exceeding $6.50. Owner Sulu Lalchandani attributes the steady business to the fans she earned by selling ready-made Indian food packets at farmers' markets throughout the Peninsula.

"The response has been really great," Lalchandani said. "A lot of my farmers' market people visit me here, so I have a really good following."

A native of Mumbai, India, Lalchandani opened her South San Francisco location of Dil Khush, which means "happy heart," in 2001. This first location is where she stores her inventory, in addition to preparing and packaging her instant curries, rice blends and chutneys. Soon she hopes to move all her operations to her new San Mateo location.

All of the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options at Dil Khush contain no oil, no MSG, and are gluten-free. This food follows an Ayurvedic diet, a portion of the ancient Ayurveda health care system practiced by the Indian people for thousands of years.

Lalchandani said the diet strengthens a person's immune system by keeping one "in sync with nature," allowing the body to adapt and remain healthy when the weather shifts between particularly hot and cold temperatures. She added that another goal of the flavorful food is to "satisfy all your taste buds -- that way you don't have too many cravings."

"You always maintain your weight, and once you can do that you eliminate lots of diseases, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and hypertension," Lalchandani said. "You do a lot of good for yourself by eating healthy and well."

The health benefits of Dil Khush's food attracted Sai Naraya, 34, of San Francisco, who stopped by after a friend recommended the cafe. Originally from the south Indian city of Madurai, Naraya said he enjoyed the healthy "home-style" food.

"I was looking for healthy food, something simple I can eat on a regular basis and don't have to worry about oil and fat," he said. "If you're looking for something more relatable to your own body, this is a good place."

Lalchandani said her goal in selling premade meals is to give people a healthy option for fast food in a hectic world. She also offers a cooking demonstration on her Web site,, where the products can be ordered.

"People find it so difficult to cook in this busy world," she said. "With these, you can cook a meal in 10 to 15 minutes."

Originally published by Kyveli Diener, San Mateo County Times.

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