Whether it's the slow, steamy burn of spicy masala or the cooling creaminess of kulfi, Indian ice cream, there's lots to love about Indian food.

Good thing Tucson boasts plenty of Indian restaurants.

Our latest Food Fight focused on the cuisine, with readers offering up their favorite dishes and where to eat them. Two restaurants popped up again and again: Gandhi Cuisine of India and Sher-e-Punjab.

Readers saluted Gandhi for its relaxed atmosphere and pleasant service - and, of course, the food.

Merry Desireé Starr, an administrative assistant for Harvest Moon Chinese Cuisine, offered a drool-worthy description of her favorite meal.

"Ghandi is the best I've had," she wrote. "Especially love their kabuli crawfish in a rich sauce of nuts, tomato and cream. Also on our table would be Kashmiri naan with nuts and raisins. For dessert, kulfi cake - pistachio kulfi sandwich topped with a nut sauce. Those are a few of our favorite things from this friendly establishment. Great food, reasonable prices, comfortable ambience."

The eatery specializes in northern Indian fare, noted for the liberal use of spices, creamy sauces and fresh vegetables. In fact, Gandhi is known for its vegetarian fare, including navrattan, which features eight vegetables and paneer in curry.

Mukhtiar Singh, who owns the restaurant with his two brothers, says meat eaters adore the nargisi ghosht, tender lamb loin stuffed with spinach, paneer and fresh herbs, and served in curry sauce.

He suggests those new to Indian food try the "Dinner for Two" menu option, which features a vegetarian and non-vegetarian sampler plate. That way, diners get a full introduction to the cuisine.

As for Singh, he prefers his version of chicken masala.

"It's really, really good," he said.

That's University of Arizona student Emily Bowen's favorite entree, too. She swears by Sher-e-Punjab's dish.

"It is flavorful, and ordering it with some extra heat doesn't override the taste," she wrote.

Owner Rashbal Singh, who's not related to the Gandhi restaurant Singhs, says the chicken masala is one of his most popular dishes. Diners also love chicken korma and lamb korma.

You can't go wrong with Sher-e-Punjab's medium-heat vegetarian dinner for four, said reader Nina Bossert.

"Every one of those dishes - the paneer spinach, the fresh samosas hot out of the fryer - are so good," she wrote. "Add a mango lassi and I can't think of a better meal."

Indian-food aficionado Lynn Ratener adores the south Indian staple masala dosa - spicy potato-filled crepes. She makes a point of ordering them for lunch every few months at Amrutha Cuisine of India.

"This may be the only place in Tucson you can get them," the retiree wrote. "The special dosa griddle takes 10 minutes to heat up, but it's worth the wait."

The Contenders

• Amrutha Cuisine of India, 2510 E. Grant Road, 881-2786, www.amruthacuisine.com

• Gandhi Cuisine of India, 150 W. Fort Lowell Road, 292-1738, www.gandhicuisineofindia.com

• India Oven Cuisine of India, 2727 N. Campbell Ave., 326-8635

• New Delhi Palace, 6751 E. Broadway, 296-8585, www.newdelhipalace tucson.com

• Saffron Indian Bistro, 7607 N. Oracle Road in Oro Valley, 742-9100, www.tucson indianrestaurant.com

• Sher-e-Punjab, 853 E. Grant Road, 624-9393, sher-e-punjabtucson.com