Ever since I moved to Penang in 2017, I’d always bemoaned the lack of a Punjabi restaurant in George Town, amidst its sizeable Indian population. Majority of Indian restaurants in Penang are Tamil-Muslim, Tamil vegetarian and Tamilian banana leaf rice joints, with a few North Indian spots offering generic renditions of tandooris, naan and butter chicken.
I satisfy my yearning for Punjabi food mainly at the langar (communal kitchen) of the Wadda Gurdwara (Sikh temple). But gurdwaras usually serve only vegetarian fare in their langars, so one cannot find those rich, meaty curries which Punjabi cuisine is renowned for.
So, I was more than delighted when I came across a 4-day-old Punjabi restaurant: Sardaarji - Flavours of Punjab on China Street (near the intersection with Beach Street) last Sunday whilst looking for a quick bite in-between watching the street performances at the George Town Festival (the annual arts fest which Penang is famous for).
The flatbreads were kneaded, rolled out and griddle-cooked upon order - the chapatis and the potato-stuffed aloo parathas we had were especially delicious: soft and fluffy as only freshly-made flatbreads could be.
To go with the flatbreads, we ordered a few types of meats - all of which were typical Punjabi renditions: spicy, greasy and heavy!!
Rogan josh - an ultra-spicy, tomato-ey mutton stew, bursting with aromatic spices and perked up with ginger & chillis. The chunks of mutton were served on-the-bone but tender.
Mutton kurma - this is a Punjabi rendition, hence it doesn’t have the light-coloured beige gravy one tends to associate with kurma/korma. Instead, one has a fiery-red, spicy rendition, replete with shredded mutton meat, onions and crisp-fried shallots.
Punjabi chicken - this is a dry-ish curry with a strong tomato-onion flavour. The chicken meat was fall-off-the-bone tender.
Palak paneer - this was the standard classic Indian cheese and spinach number, and not much different from the renditions in other North Indian restaurants.
Aloo gobi - another classic North Indian preparation of cauliflower paired with potaoes. The Punjabi version is much greasier from the liberal amounts of ghee used in the cooking.
Dhal tadka - one of my faves: yellow dhal/lentil curry. Again, it’s a variant of the common dhal curry - the Punjabi rendition being rather spicier.
For a new set-up, the kitchen is working like clockwork, churning out some very good Punjabi fare which was as I had expected.
Sardaarji - Flavours of Punjab
6 China Street (Lebuh China)
George Town 10200
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays.