Monday, April 9, 2012

The Great Punjab

Punjabi food as a whole is not the same as Mughlai food. Punjabi food could be vegetarian or non vegetarian while Mughlai is almost always non vegetarian. Dishes that epitomise Punjabi food are the Mah Di Daal [Black Daal made with Udad], Sarson Da Saag [Mustard Greens] Punjabi Kadhi, Paneer in various forms, Rajma [Red Kidney Beans], Rotis [Breads] of wheat as well as Corn [Makkai], food cooked in Tandoors, to name a few. Rice is eaten too. Milk products especially Ghee and Butter are widely used.

Mughlai food is quite different. It’s quite meat based and characterised by heavy onion based gravies with completely different spicing. The use of Lentils and Pulses is far less than in Punjabi food. Fragrant Biryanis and Pulaos, the use of perfume in the food as edible `Ittar’ meat based stocks are all forms of Mughlai cuisine whether it is from the North or the Avadh or Hyderabad area.

If one were to believe the Shettys who run the all pervasive Udipi/Multi Cuisine restaurants that are like a rash all over Mumbai, Punjabi and Mughlai are one and the same and wholly vegetarian to boot! Delhi has lots of good Punjabi restaurants serving really good food. The string of restaurants at Pandara Road in Delhi is just one example. If you like to go more upmarket the delightfully named Punjabi By Nature is an excellent choice. Getting good reasonably authentic Punjabi food in Mumbai is difficult. Getting good reasonably authentic Mughlai food in Mumbai is a simpler proposition. I understand that the most authentic Punjabi food is available at GTB Nagar in Mumbai. GTB is an abbreviation for Guru Teg Bahadur and this area is also called Sion Koliwada. It was here that Sikh refugees were given an area to live. Being a little Sikh Ghetto it has lots of Punjabi restaurants. I have not been here but I have been told the food is good but the surroundings leave a lot to be desired.

One of the places both HRH the Queen of Kutch and me frequent in Mumbai to get a dose of Punjabi food is The Great Punjab Restaurant on Linking Road at Bandra. We have been going here for years. The owners are closely related to the owners of Great Punjab Restaurant at Dadar. There is also Pritam Da Dhabha at Dadar which is also known for its Punjabi food. However, I that the Dhabha atmosphere and decor as well as the availability of Chinese food put the Restaurant into the gimmick/multicuisine category.

Great Punjab has the misfortune of being rather awkwardly shaped. It’s shaped like an aircraft fuselage, long and narrow. It widens at the back but it does feel a little strange to have two rows of seating separated by a centre aisle. The decor is pleasant, the air conditioners keep you cool and booze is available to wash down your food. Two brothers ran the place, Amarpal and Ravipal. Some time ago Ravipal migrated to Australia and has opened a Punjabi Restaurant called Raavis Cumin in Sydney. Amarpal runs Great Punjab in Bandra and a branch at Pune.

The Kebabs as starters are always good. The Kesari Methi Kebab is particularly nice as is the Chandani Kebab. As far as the entrees are concerned the choices are many. We particularly like the Seekh Kebab Masala which is Lamb Seekh Kebabs grilled on a Tandoor and then cooked in a rich brown gravy. The Chicken Patiala is another favourite. Chicken is cooked in a spinach based gravy and then the whole mixture is encased in an omelette. It’s delicious. The Black Daals, the Rajma, the Punjabi Kadhi and the Pindi Channa are delicious. The Paneer Bhurjee is top class.

Being Indian food, the photos are rather uninspiring, but let me assure you the food is very tasty. 

I have no idea what this is! Its probably Sarson Ka Saag but the colours are wrong.

Channa Pindi

Punjabi Kadhi with Onion Pakodas

Seekh Kebab Masala
The Rajma

If you do visit the restaurant in the winter do order the Sarson Ka Saag. This is a typical Punjabi dish of Mustard Greens which are cooked with spinach and a sour leaf called Bhatua – quite similar to Sorrel – and the whole mix is slightly thickened with actual corn flour not to be confused with the Chinese Cornflour. This is delicious with Makkai Ki Roti which is a corn flatbread.

As far as the breads are concerned, you could make a meal of the breads themselves. The Cheese Naan is to die for, to use a cliché. The Kheema Naan is awesome to use another cliché. The stuffed Parathas – stuffed with Paneer or Potato or Cauliflower – are super. Just this with a bowl of the Black Daal is a good meal.

Double Decker Parathas

Kheema Naan
Makkai Ki Roti and a Chura Paratha

Great Punjab, like Lings Pavillion is a family owned and run restaurant. The owner Amarpal Singh is almost always on premises keeping an eagle eye on things. His dedication is frightening. Every morning he personally tastes the stock gravies that are the backbone of a Punjabi restaurant to ensure that standards do not drop. The food is always served hot, it feels as if it’s been freshly cooked to order which, I always maintain, is very important as it ensures that the food is at its optimum seasoning and spicing. The food is rich and heavy with lashings of butter on the breads.

A word about the service. Service is decent with the biggest advantage being that the order taking Captains are all long time employees and not young whippersnappers or smartasses. The staff knows the menu and know what they are doing so you are in safe hands. Like Lings the prices are most reasonable in the Rs 200 range plus tax of course. Do make an effort and have a meal here. You will not regret it.


  1. We have eaten there twice, ones with you guys I think. Great food for sure.

  2. Yes indeed we did eat here when you were in Mumbai in 2006.