Roti was very rare and we had not even heard of Dal. Initially we resisted this change with all our might. “Oh ! Amma, not that Dal again,” we used to groan when my mother used to serve it for dinner. “It is good for your health beta,” she would reply. She had even taken to calling me beta by then. But slowly the Dals, the Paneer Sabji, the Aloo Matar and the Baingan ka Bartha grew on us. And within an year we simply fell in love with north Indian food. We began relishing it.
Now I am sure many of my north Indian friends who are reading this post have quite often visited south India on a holiday and have had the experience of ordering north Indian food in south Indian restaurants. Tell me something honestly, did you like it? Did it taste like authentic north Indian food? I bet most of you would shake your heads in despair and groan.
Well in most south Indian restaurants, cooks (except perhaps those in star rated hotels) do not know how to cook north Indian food which tastes like authentic north Indian. If you eat it, it will taste exactly like what it is: north Indian food cooked by a south Indian cook who does not know his job. The place where I live now, Kochi, is no exception. I have tried many restaurants and most places end up providing you north Indian food with a distinct Kerala flavor.
I will now introduce you to a restaurant in Kochi where the north Indian food you eat will make you suddenly forget the fact that you are in Kerala and make you think you are in a Dhaba in Amritsar. The restaurant goes by the unpretentious name of Punjab House. The exact address along with the Google map are given below.
Just like the name, everything else about this restaurant is unpretentious. But most importantly it is clean and hygienic. It is located in a small street and the ambiance is nothing great. There are neatly laid tables and comfortable chairs. But just wait till you taste the food ! As soon as you seat yourself they will immediately place a small cup full of onions, lemon and green Chilies on your plate.
A waiter will arrive at your table to take the order. All of them speak excellent Hindi. First thing I would advise you to try is their Aloo Paratha. Theirs is the only place in entire Kochi where the Aloo Paratha is sumptuously stuffed with Aloo. Most restaurants try to cheat on the quantity of Aloo (potato) stuffed into the Parathas. Here they serve it hot from the thava, stuffed overwhelmingly with Aloo.
Do not forget to ask for a small slab of butter when your Aloo Paratha arrives. The waiter will place it on your hot Paratha and I assure you, your mouth will start watering just by the aroma and the look of it. If you are calorie conscious and have reservations about stuffed Aloo Paratha you can order plain Paratha or Roti. I think other types of Parathas like Gobi Paratha are also available though I am not sure. Several varieties of Dals are available ranging from Rajma to Dal Makhni and Dal fry and they taste heavenly.
They have a great collection of Sabjis too. Aloo Matar, Matar Paneer, Karela (Bitter Gourd) Sabji, Boondi Raita, Baingan (brinjal) Sabji, Bindi (ladies finger), Palak Paneer, Paneer Butter Masala and Sabjis made of several other vegetables are also available. Some of these are available on all days and a few on specific days.
Variety rice of different kinds are also available. You can tickle your palette with Tomato rice, Puthina rice and several other types of rice dishes. You can also ask for plain rice. Unlike the usual boiled rice of Kerala, these guys serve proper rice. They have a variety of pickles but my favorite is their stuffed red chilly pickle. I like the Mango pickle they serve too.
The trouble with the curd served in most restaurants in Kerala is that it is usually sour. Punjab House does not suffer from this malady. You will get very good quality curd here. This restaurant is strictly vegetarian and if you are non-vegetarian I would suggest you visit this place on a day when you feel like: “Ah ! No more chicken or fish. Had enough of that ! Let us go veg for a change.” Another thing is they start serving only after 12.00 PM. So go in the afternoon or in the evening.
After you finish your meal, do not, I repeat, do not fail to ask for a glass of cold Lassi. They will ask you if you are interested in madhuram or uppit meaning sweet or salty. I have tried both and both taste heavenly. The food items I have mentioned here seem pretty run of the mill, but the point is, in this restaurant it tastes like authentic north Indian food which is very rare in Kochi. Once you tell the waiter you have finished, he will go and write something on a quaint slate with a piece of chalk. The woman at the cash counter sums up your bill based on what the guy writes on the slate and you can pay by card or cash. Of course, they give you a bill.
The prices are also very reasonable. Last time I visited, which was one year back, an Aloo Paratha cost Rs 20 and the Sabjis were all priced at Rs 17. I do not remember the price of rice. The Lassi if I remember correctly was priced at Rs 15. I referred to Zomato today and I can see that the prices have now been raised a little. Aloo Paratha now costs Rs 25 and the Sabjis Rs 20. But even with this small raise, I assure you it is good value for money considering the quality of food.
I made some inquiries from the owner and he told me that the restaurant was started by his grand father and they have been in business for the past 50 years. Their family is actually from Uttar Pradesh and when I discovered this, the reason for the authentic north Indian taste dawned on me. So guys if you do visit Kochi on a holiday or a business trip, do not fail to visit this restaurant. And most importantly please do not fail to visit my place in Kochi.