Lahori London – A Blog Four Years Pending – Sara I.

I had stopped updating lahorikhaabay 4 years ago. When I looked through my last saved drafts today, I came across this. A wonderful person I knew a few years ago had written this when I was looking to feature fellow paitu log on lahorikhaabay.

By publishing it now, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I feel that I should. Sara put a lot of effort in writing this and I guess it really captures how Lahoris love food the same way, wherever in the world they are.

You can follow Sara on Twitter – @SupaSaara


Sara I.

“When you’re looking for a good place to eat at, always follow the crowd” –¬†Mamu

You’re never too far from¬†desi¬†dining in London, be it a local Indian take away or an all out Lahore Karahi. Driving down the very¬†desi¬†high street of Tooting, you’ll find a handful of restaurants, each with a long list of why not to eat there but you do it anyway.

For the beginning of the 10+ years I’ve spent in this country, I found myself spending a lot of time, in family gatherings, at this high street. We’d started off at one end and gradually through the years discovered the rest of the high street.

I walk into this little ‘room’ of a restaurant, Desi Khana. This place seems to be overcrowded by¬†goray¬†but is still frequented by the desi families of Tooting. The gora-attraction reason being, this is probably the only place that caters to your choice of ‘curries’, your level of spice and allows you to bring your own drinks! I’m greeted by a young waiter, like most of the others working here, probably a student that’s just arrived from back home, who can’t believe he has to work when all his life¬†naukar¬†cleaned up after him, at the same time thrilled to have found work with his fellow Pakistani/Indian work mates.

desikhana

I’m seated a little towards the open kitchen area. As I sit myself down, my complimentary¬†papad¬†arrives with a choice of¬†raita¬†and¬†mango chutney. I’m not keen on the¬†zeera¬†in my poppadum. You’ll notice how, when you’re hungry, you’ll still be dunking your poppadum in the¬†raita¬†(yoghurt), despite the¬†zeeragetting stuck in your teeth. We give the waiter our order; Karahi Saag Paneer, Karahi gosht, Chilli Chicken and of course, a mixed grill. Let’s not forget the naan. They have a wide variety ranging from chilli and garlic¬†naan, to peshawri and keema¬†naan, not to mention the¬†parathas¬†and the¬†rotis,¬†for the small minority in my social circle.

Drinks are not at the top of my list when I’m prepared for a big meal, tends to fill me up quicker! So I order a coke, and that’s that. We don’t have to wait to long before the food arrives. First the¬†saag¬†and the chicken. The¬†gosht¬†to follow and not long before the mixed grill arrives, sizzling hot. It’s always hard to compose yourself, and not seem pretentious but still attack the food before the good stuffs all gone! I try to be subtle, but it’s not long before dishes are flying everywhere.

There’s a brief pause before the¬†naans¬†come rolling in, hot off the¬†tava. I tend to start with something that looks least tempting, so I can savour the best at the end. Everything looks delicious, I choose to start with the karahi¬†saag paneer¬†(spinach), since¬†paneer¬†is not my first choice. The blend of¬†masalas¬†is just right. I cup my¬†naan¬†and aim for the chicken, mixing it with the¬†saag. So what? I like to mix and match!

desikhana1

You have to be careful not to be too subtle when going for the mix grill. You want to just pounce and grab the chops while they’re still there. Once they’re gone, that’s it. There are never enough chops in any serving of mixed grill. I’m lucky. I get there fast. I’ve learnt well over the years. The chops should be eaten within five minutes of they’re arrival. Although, still very tender if left to cool, always a lot more delicious when eaten hot. Don’t be afraid to add a spoonful of the grilled onions and tomatoes to your plate, that comes with the grill. The grill consists of grilled chops,¬†seekh¬†kebab, chicken¬†tikka¬†, lamb kebab and tandoori wings. Three pieces each except the wings, which has four pieces. The chilli sauce has a tangy flavour to it, goes well with the spicy kebabs, my all time favourites.

I’m making my way to the¬†karahi gosht¬†now, although I can already see there’s not much left to it, so I tip over the whole dish into my plate. If you’re dining with your husband/wife or a couple of friends, the portion sizes will do just fine. However, if dining with a larger group, the karahi dishes will seem too small, so yo’re better off ordering two of your favorite dishes, one for either end of the table. The¬†gosht¬†is really well made, the meat nice and tender, a nice blend of spices, again not too spicy unless you ask for it to be extra spicy, in that case they’ll chop some extra hot green chillies and add them to your karahi.

The choice in sweets isn’t as wide and varied as our food. I tend to avoid sweet dishes from just any restaurant. You have to go to the right places to get nice¬†ras malai¬†and¬†falouda. Most order a¬†Kulfi¬†or¬†falouda¬†after they’ve finished licking and smacking their lips, to get the last bit of flavour out of their teeth.

Dessert arrives in due time. I dig my spoon into the kulfi of the person next to me. Like I said, I can’t have dessert just anywhere, and I don’t like to waste food when I know I won’t be cleaning my plate. The kulfi’s nothing to fuss about. I’ve had better.¬†Chai¬†is not needed this time, as we don’t have a large amount of¬†chai¬†lovers on our trip today.

We pay the bill, not too pricey, and make our way out into the icy cold winds and freezing temperatures of London. We have enough warmth in our bellies to get us to our transports and still be warm and fuzzy.

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