[Penang] Punjabi lunch at Chulia Court

Although your write-up seems tinged with a fair bit of disappointment. I don’t like the sound of the cauliflower dish - can’t see the sweetness really working for me - gobi manchurian would be a better bet, I reckon.

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I spy rumali roti on the right – hard to find outside India!

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The new head chef, Rahul Singh, hails from Amritsar, and has only started his new position here in Penang three and a half months ago. He’s still turning out very authentic fare - we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he doesn’t “localize” his offerings to suit the local palate too soon!!

Penang’s Indian community, just like in the rest of Malaysia and Singapore, is overwhelmingly Tamil, and oftentimes, many other Indian regional cooking has had to accede to their demands.

I still remember when Yogesh Upadhyay, a Mumbai native, first opened FLOUR, his fabulous North Indian eatery and my fave in all of Malaysia - he said that he had local Indian (Tamil) customers come in during the early days, took a look at his menu, and rudely asked him, “Where’s the 𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘪 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘪 (Malaysian term for Tamilian roti paratha)?! You call yourself an Indian restaurant and you don’t have 𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘪 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘪?!”

Now, of course, FLOUR has stamped its mark on KL’s dining crowd with its fine North Indian cuisine and is a Michelin-Selected restaurant.


Absolutely agree with you, John. The dish tasted rather odd.

Actually, we went back for lunch again yesterday, just 4 days later. I ordered dhal tadka (yellow lentils) but the same Punjabi waiter insisted that I try the dhal makhani (black lentils) instead, which he said tasted “better”.

I stood my ground this time, remembering the cauliflower fiasco. :joy:


I’ve no real preference between makhani and tadka. Both work. Our favourite local Indian offers both, as well as “maa ki”. The latter is a recent addition to the menu and I’ve not tried it yet - made from black lentils apparently. They also offer a Sindhi dal, which is fairly sharp from tamarind and amchoor, served as a starter along with crispy pakwan. Sandeep’s family originate from Sindh, now in Pakistan, but had to flee at partition, finding refuge in Mumbai. I just lurve dal/daal/dahl.

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You’re lucky to have such a good spread so close to home!
We sometimes struggle to find certain dishes as restaurants come & go

Dal makhani / maa ki dal / kali dal / dak bukhara is the Celebrity Dal of the north :joy:

Dal tadka / dal fry is the “plain” dal — even though restaurant and dhaba-style dal tadka is delicious because there is so much ghee and a much higher proportion of aromatics and spices in the tempering.

The waiter was probably really excited that the “fancy” dal was on the menu and thought he was saving you from the “boring” dal :smile:

I’m probably the sole indian person of a billion who doesn’t like Dal makhani :joy: (also black urad might be the hardest dal to digest :rofl:).

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I still remembered Bukhara (ITC Maurya Delhi)'s Dal Bukhara, made of black gram (urad dal), pureed tomatoes, spices and copious amounts of cream & butter, purportedly cooked on wood fire for at least 18 hours! Have you tried that?

I think my British colleague at the time was more impressed by the giant naan! :joy:


That’s why I mentioned Dal Bukhara :grinning:

It was so popular that they actually canned it in the days long before convenience foods were a thing!

(Bukhara was one of my dad’s favorite restaurants, so despite never having been there myself, I’ve eaten the food from it and Dum Pukht too — he’d pack it and bring it back from Delhi :joy:)

That’s quite a naan, paper dosa reminiscent.


I’ve eaten at Bukhara in Cape Town. It describes its food as “arguably the finest Indian cuisine on plant Earth”. It isn’t - but it was OK. And made a nice change form all the antelope stews I’d been eating in hotel restaurants earlier in the trip.


The Bukhara is a legendary restaurant at the hotel ITC Maurya in Delhi (not a chain, though many use the name).


Yes, I knew of the original. My recollection is hazy (it was 2011) but I have it in mind that the website sort of hinted there was a connection between the two. A bit of later research confirmed there wasnt.


There was a Bukhara Grill in nyc that was very good, and when I asked the owner if it was named for the one at the Maurya, he told me he had worked there for many years and named his spot for it. Maybe something like that?


I’d dined at two other Bukharas which are related to the one at ITC Maurya - both very, very good: at ITC Maratha in Mumbai and ITC Grand Chola in Chennai. The set-up at all three places were virtually identical.

Coincidentally, since I mentioned ITC Grand Chola in Chennai here - the early Tamil immigrants to Penang were called “Cholas” by the locals, in reference to the ancient Chola kingdom which had trade links with the old Hindu kingdoms in Southeast Asia. So, Chulia Street (where Chulia Court is located) was a mis-spelling by the 18th-century British cartographers of the name. It should’ve been Chola Street.


Yes, the ITCs elsewhere are very good too, as one would expect with that caliber of hotel chain But the original Bukhara at the Maurya must be respected!

Re Indian diaspora, when I read your posts about indian food and the stories behind it in SE Asia, it always strikes me how different communities historically emigrated to different places based on work, familiarity because there were others of their own there already, and so on. Different Southern Indian communities to the Middle East and SE Asia, Gujaratis (both Hindu and Muslim) to Africa and from there on to the UK, Sindhis seemingly everywhere that anyone else might have been afraid to venture :joy:.


And how food has evolved in those places. Madhur Jaffrey’s “Curry Bible” is good for this - recipes are obviously attributed to South Asian countries but she also includes “curry” from other countries that have had South Asian migration.


It’s Thaipusam today - a public holiday here. It’s also the largest religious festival in Penang, with over 1 million Hindu devotees expected to take part in the street processions and prayers in the temples. Over in Kuala Lumpur, about 2 million people are expected to take part.

It’s very Tamilian in origin (the British East India Company brought in thousands of Tamil workers when they started developing Penang in the 1780s onwards), but Penangites of every race & creed took part in Thaipusam nowadays, even the majority Chinese populace.

Last night, we went to look at part of the day-long procession of the revered Golden and Silver Chariots which wound their way across central George Town - they started at 6am from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple (Est. 1833) in George Town’s old quarter, and ended around midnight at the historic hilltop temple, Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani (Est. 1782).

The Penang Volunteer Corps, local uniformed militia guards, helped the police keep order, as the hundreds of thousands of people on the streets can turn pretty raucous!

Breathtaking! I’d recommend anyone who wants to visit Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to time their trips to coincide with Thaipusam, if possible, to witness the spectacle. Next year, it’ll be celebrated on Tue, Feb 11, 2025.


Previously, before we had Chulia Court and Michelin-listed Sardaarji, Flavours of Punjab, the only places for Penangites to savor Punjabi fare were at the local Sikh gurdwaras (which only cooked vegetarian), or food fairs like the one here:


RIP the genius behind ITC’s food legacy:


Very sad news. The man’s a legend.

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