Hardcore Punjabi food? Try Shan-e-Punjab
Restaurant or food reviews are usually of two kinds – one that is written with a sense of duty, and the one that is written out of consideration. This one is payback. The story is like this: A couple of months ago, a friend and I found ourselves stranded on – of all places – the Vepery High Road. It was 10.30 in the night, a Sunday, and the place was deserted. His bike wouldn’t move. But getting home was presently problem no. 2: it was hunger that was on top of our minds.
Suddenly we noticed a restaurant, Shan-e-Punjab, on the ground floor of a hotel called Park View Inn. The rest of Vepery seemed to have gone to bed, but this restaurant was aglow, and from the glass wall, we could see a couple of families eating. In we went. And in walked Mr and Mrs Varma into my life. About six months ago, they had brought the flavour of Punjab to Chennai.
The food, purely vegetarian, is authentic too, cooked by men from Ludhiana. That night, my friend and I had several stuffed parathas, dal makhani, paneer butter masala and curd. And the bill did not exceed Rs 200. What made me return was the stuffed parathas: they are superior, unlike the ones you get in so-called Punjabi dhabas where all parathas taste just the same. But this time the Varmas insisted that I try the traditional makke ki roti and sarson ka saag.
Last Sunday I returned to Shan-e-Punjab again, and this time Mrs Varma suggested I try their missi roti (missi is gram flour). “You can call it the Punjabi pizza,” she said. The sight itself of the multi-layered missi rotis, cut into round-edged triangles, is as good as having a starter. The main course begins when you actually lift the triangular piece and tear it to dip it into the accompaniments. This time I had aloo methi. Believe me, it would be a sin if you live in Chennai and have missed their missi roti and aloo methi.
I am going to go there again – this time to try their nargisi kofta and kaju curry. But the reason I keep going there is this: in most Punjabi dishes you get in various eateries in Chennai, the oil or the ghee expresses its dislike for the other ingredients so strongly that it stands out like a pond. At Shan-e-Punjab, the oil agrees with the other ingredients and in turn agrees with your stomach. And yes, the place is cheap: can you imagine a quality Punjabi thhaali for Rs 55, and a Sunday buffet for just Rs 85?
(Shan-e-Punjab is on No. 5, Vepery Church Road. Call 9381006304 or 42661888)