By TAN BEE HONG
WHILE Indian and Punjabi cuisine share many similarities, there are subtle differences.
The latter has more meat dishes and very little, if any, coconut. The use of spices is also more subtle and Punjabi cuisine is generally more delicate in flavour, even if dishes are of the same genre, such as biryani.
There are many Indian restaurants in the Klang Valley but few Punjabi ones.
Originally located in SS15, Subang Jaya, Big Singh Chapati (BSC) has opened a second outlet in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, just a month ago.
The interior of the TTDI restaurant is simple, featuring a bright and cheerful ambience with wooden tables, chairs and perimeter seating.
Poring over the menu, I wished there were pictures to help guide customers who are not used to Punjabi/Indian food names.
Luckily, we were there early and the place was not full, so one of the very helpful staff patiently explained the various dishes. It helped that we were there before noon when the place was only half occupied.
The menu is impressively large and there are fortnightly specials chalked on a board at the entrance.
On weekdays, BSC offers a set menu (priced from RM7.50 to RM17.90) from 11am to 4pm. For RM7.50, you can get dal thadka, chicken curry, papadum, salad and a sweet to go with a choice of two chapatis, one plain naan or two basmati rice.
Except for the biryani and prontha (Punjabi for paratha) sets, all other sets, such as mutton keema, curry and tandoori, come with choices of chapati, naan or rice.
We started with sips of Punjabi ginger tea (RM4.50/hot), masala tea with fresh cow’s milk (RM6.50) and lassi (from RM6.90).
There are nine types of lassi, from plain, salt and sweet to jeera, mango, mint and black pepper salt.
Then we nibbled on vegetable pakora (RM8.90) served with mint chutney and chilli sauce as well as cheese mushroom tikka (RM15.90).
The latter packed a bomb. Aromatic and juicy, the mushrooms are stuffed with paneer and melted cheddar cheese, with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and rubbed with tandoori spices on top.
Then the serious eating began, starting with mutton dum biryani (RM18.90). The rice was fragrant and al dente, but I was not pleased to find mutton bones with little meat.
When I pointed this out, the staff rendered an apologetic smile and promptly replaced them with chunks of tender mutton. Kudos for the excellent service.
We had garlic butter naan, cheese garlic naan, butter chapati, mutton keema naan and gobi prontha.
There are nearly 30 types of breads on the menu, so making a decision can be quite a pain.
Of these, I enjoyed the mutton keema naan (RM10.90) while waiting for the Gobi prontha (RM6.90) to be served.
The dish blew me away, with the grated cauliflower and spices pushing the humble chapati many steps up the taste ladder.
To go with the rotis, we had paneer butter masala (RM23.21), bhindi masala (RM13.90), chicken sheekh kebab (RM16.90) and the fortnightly special, chicken bharta (RM24.90).
I found the paneer butter masala a little ho-hum and a tad on the sweet side, but the bhindi (lady’s finger) and kebab were yummy, while top points went to the chicken bharta.
This is a big deal, as I’m not very fond of chicken, minced or otherwise.
Somehow, with this dish, the BSC chef has captured the flavour of spices in a well-balanced rhythm.
BSC desserts include gulab jamun (RM2.50 per piece), kheer (RM6.90), kulfi (RM7.90) and carrot halwa (RM6.90).
Tan Bee Hong is a food critic/blogger at fatphoenix.my. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.