I was up in Leicester last week to see my brother graduate and as he’s now moving down to London, I knew that this would be my last visit up to Leicester for a while. My brother had arranged to take us to all his favourite spots before he left and when I was given a choice of popular Indian restaurant off Belgrave Road (he recommends Blue Peter) or a cheap, little, out-of-the-way place where mainly Indian factory workers have their lunch. Well obviously I’d choose the latter and it turned out to be Rahat.

Rahat is more like a takeaway shop with space for eating – don’t expect luxury here. The tables and chairs are simple, there are jugs of tap water available and there’s a Bollywood film blasting away behind the counter. My brother gave me the lowdown – the menu is just a guide of sorts and not everything will be available. We interrogated the smiling man behind the counter on what they had in their kitchen. Chicken karahi, lamb karahi, chicken with spinach, lamb with spinach.

“Do you have dry meat?”, I asked. He replied, “Yes!” “Do you have keema?”, asked my brother. He replied, “No!” Another man came from the back and muttered a few things to him. He suddenly brightened and went, “We also have fish masala and king prawns!”

We made our order and in addition to naans, we asked for some pilao rice. The kind man’s face dropped – there was no pilao rice that day. We shrugged and said ok but he called us back soon after, the smile having returned to his face. “We can give you the rice from the akhni pilao. Normally this has lamb on top but we’ll just give you the rice!”. Great!

We retired to the table by the window where my father had installed himself and waited to eat. It didn’t take long before the man came along with lots of dishes to pepper our table.

A complimentary salad plate was first placed before us and I started tasting the yogurt based dressing on the side (what is that sauce called?). Despite its innocent looks and to my surprise, it was very very hot and spicy!

A Very Spicy Yoghurt and Salad

Dry Meat was less dry than I was expecting but still very moreish with lots of tender lamb.

Dry Meat

The Fish Masala was my favourite of the curries and I certainly ate more than my fair share of this. The light but highly spiced curry went well with the delicate white fish fillets.

Fish Masala

Karahi Chicken was pretty fiery and delicious but was a little let down by the use of chunks of chicken breast. It would have been ace with dark meat. I really enjoyed the different spice combinations used in the curries – it was clear that each had been cooked from scratch and they all didn’t start from the same curry base.

Chicken Karahi

The rice from the Akhni Pilao (we had two plates!) was still studded with lots of lamb and was richly flavoured and spiced. It was probably better eaten by itself than with the rest of the curries.

Akhni Pilao

Naans were fresh and hot and soft and crispy and perfect for mopping up the curries.

Naans

But that wasn’t all! The smiling man came along to our table with a gift – a “Special Salad” that he’d sprinkled with a spice mix – I think it must’ve been a chaat masala or something similar.

"Special Salad"

He then returned with another gift from the kitchen – a dish of the King Prawn Masala he’d mentioned before. The prawns were fantastic and in another highly spiced but slightly gelatinous sauce.

King Prawn Masala

It was a ridiculous amount of food and of course we didn’t finish it all. We were stuffed and it had all been excellent. I started guessing how much the total would be; my brother started with £18, I went with £22 and my father went in between with £20.

Dinner at Rahat in Leicester

(Yes, that’s an Instagram photo – you can find me there as sulineats).

So, the grand total (with two cans of soda)? A mind blowing £16. It turned out that the kind man behind the counter had judged portion sizes for us and had given us small portions rather than the medium (~£4-5) and large (~£7-8) portion sizes listed on the menu. How kind – they’re all truly friendly there! Anything more would have been too much for the three of us.

My brother tells me the naan wraps there are great for a quick lunch or they’ll serve you rice or naan and a curry for a song. It’s quite the little gem.

Rahat
1 Suffolk Street/437 St Saviours Road (it’s on the corner)
Leicester LE5 4JA/4HH

About a month ago, I met Slow Food Kitchen, sloLondon and Table for One in Tooting to explore the neighbourhood. Little did I know that what was going to be a stroll and then lunch in a Sri Lankan restaurant was going to turn into a full blown food crawl. Stomachs, on your marks, get set…. go.

With empty stomachs at 1pm and late arrivals, we early birds stared longingly at the Dosa n Chutny across from Tooting Broadway tube station. I’d heard very good things about the place from at least 3 other people and a decision was made to have “breakfast” there when everyone arrived. It would be light, really. First to arrive were Idly (2 pieces for £1.60), fluffy steamed rice and lentil pillows served with a couple of wonderfully spicy chutnys and a mild soothing sambar.

Idly

Two dosas were ordered too – we’d heard that this place sold the best dosas in London. I have no idea if that’s true but they were indeed excellent, all thin and crispy. A Mutton Masala Dosa (£4.50) was filled with a mixture of lamb, potato and onion.

Mutton Masala Dosa

The Mysore Masala Dosa (£3.50) was filled with a lurid mixture of spicy potatoes and onions. Again, both dosas came with the chutnys and sambars – one dosa would make a perfect lunch, making each quite a bargain.

Mysore Masala Dosa

Dosa n Chutny
68 Tooting High St
London SW17 0RN

Dosa n Chutney on Urbanspoon

After “breakfast”, we strolled up and down Tooting High Street and entered Tooting Market and the Broadway Market. There we found a Mauritian food stall filled with lots of things we couldn’t identify. Luckily for us, the men behind the counter were extremely friendly and helped identify most things.

Mauritian Xpress

Mauritian Snacks

Roti chaud was a lentil wrap filled with curried beans, a fresh tomato sauce and a fresh chilli sauce. The wrap has a characteristically dusty texture and I thought it was alright. I might have to go back to try it again.

Roti Chaud

I was less taken with the plateful of fritters we also bought. The bread fritters were the most amusing – slices of white bread dipped in pakora batter and then fried. Yeah, not my thing but I hear they’re quite popular in Mauritius.

Fritters

There was also a stop at Pepi’s Guyanese Food, another stall in the markets, where we tried an order of pholourie, quite moreish little lentil fritters, served with a fresh chilli sauce. They had lots of other great looking things in their display cabinet.

Guyanese Snacks

Back on the high street and further down at a street stand, we got excited over the last Alphonso mangoes of the season and also over fruit I’d not seen before. Jamuns are a dark purple fruit with a single pit and are really only edible when fully ripe and a dark purple inside. But even when ripe, they’re still quite astringent and I didn’t quite warm to them.

Jamuns

Inside a Jamun

There was also a short stop at Pooja Sweets for sweet and savoury snacks but my mind was already at our final destination – Jaffna House – for Sri Lankan cuisine. This is what we originally came here for! As it was late in the day, we managed to beat the lunch crowds but that there were still diners impressed me – people were dropping by all through the afternoon.

We started by splitting a couple of their short eats, their name for the snacks that are very popular in their country. The Mutton Roll (£1.10) was spiced meat and potato wrapped in a pancake, coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. The Cutlet (£1.10) was a mad of potatoes, fish, spices, onions and chillies rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried. They were both mildly spiced and I think would be popular with non-Sri-Lankans too (on the contrary, I once bought some short eats at a place in Wembley and while they were delicious, they almost blew my head off).

Mutton Roll and Cutlet

I was very keen to try at least one of their devilled dishes. Their Devilled Mutton (£4.50) was dry cooked, very tender mutton fried with lots of onions, green chillies and spices. Our forks were flying – I need to learn how to make this at home!

Devilled Mutton

String Hoppers were ordered with Sothy (5 pieces for £2.50). These steamed red rice flour strings were not unlike noodles and the sothy was a coconut milk gravy. I spooned the sothy all over my string hopper and then sprinkled on the lovely spicy coconut sambol. They were delicious.

String Hoppers

Sothy and Sambol

Fried String Hoppers with Mixed Vegetables (£4.00) could have been a Chinese-Sri Lankan fusion dish. Stir fried noodles!

Fried String Hopper with Mixed Vegetables

Chicken Kotthu (£4.50) was chopped up roti fried together with with chicken curry, egg, onions and green chillies. It was fantastic, so full of flavour and incredibly easy to just spoon into one’s mouth continuously.

Chicken Kotthu

I have no idea how the others found space for dessert but I tried a spoonful of their Watal Appam (£1.75). It was a palm sugar custard that wasn’t too sweet and it certainly tasted much better than it looked!

Watal Appam

Even with countless soft drinks ordered between us, our bill at Jaffna House was only £27 in total. And the short eats are even cheaper when you takeaway – I took home 3 of the cutlets for only a pound.

Jaffna House
90 Tooting High St
London SW17 0RN

Jaffna House on Urbanspoon

How in the world did we manage a whole afternoon of eating?! We only parted at 6pm and I certainly didn’t eat much else that day. Thank you, Tooting.

Goan food! Yet another cuisine that I was keen to get my teeth into – this small west Indian state is known for its cuisine that’s heavily influenced by the Portuguese and a large number of Goan Catholics means that pork features heavily. Pork? Oh yes. I do love pork curry. I joined Mr Noodles, Rahul (our Goan friend!), Kay, and Wen and family one night to try the Goan food on offer at Ma Goa in Putney. While we were there first there at 7pm, the place soon became packed – bookings are essential.

While we waited for everyone to arrive, a selection of most of the starters on the menu was ordered. The Balchao & Sanna (£5.55) were shrimps in a tomato based pickling sauce (the balchao) and a Goan steamed bread (the sanna). These were made with tiny shrimps as is usual but it seemed a bit odd to be eating this as a starter and sure enough, our Goan friend told us that this is normally a side dish. Still, it wasn’t bad but more sanna would have been nice to sop it all up.

Balchao & Sanna

Sorpotel (£5.65) was lambs liver, kidney and pork belly cooked in a spicy sauce. It was delicious and probably the only way I’m happy to eat liver and kidney – with lots of spices!

Sorpotel

I was very keen to try the Goa Chorizo (£6.50), a spicy pork chorizo served stir fried with potato and onion. It came in a thick curry-like paste (I’m not describing it very well) and was quite moreish. I can never turn down chorizo and certainly not a spicy Goan chorizo.

Goa Chorizo

Not Goan but still tasty was the Dahi Puri (£4.95). They’re big bursting bubbles of fried gram flour filled with potato, coriander, tamarind, yoghurt and green chlli and topped with fried sev, fried gram flour threads.

Dahi Puri

Is there any way of making photos of curry look good? We ordered a lot of them (among other things) for our mains and I’m presenting them in order from ok to fantastic.

Nariyal Gosht (£9.75) was described as lamb in a dry masala and I had hopes of finding something like a Goan rendang. Instead, it was a thick generic curry with much too much dessicated coconut mixed through which was unpleasant to chew.

Nariyal Gosht

Sabzi Amo-tik (£8.25) was going to be our vegtable dish – mixed vegetables in a traditional Goan hot and sour sauce. Again, there was nothing to distinguish this curry dish from any other curry house dish except for the fact that it was all vegetables. A little hot, a little sour, it was alright.

Sabzi Amo-tik

I was also excited to try a Porco Vindaloo (£9.75). I have no idea what constitutes a proper vindaloo but our Goan diner wasn’t convinced by this version. Still, it was fine if a little unexciting.

Porco Vindaloo

A Gallina Xhacutti (£8.95) was chicken on-the-bone (though I don’t remember any bones) in a curry flavoured with ground sesame seed, fresh ground coconut and peanuts. It was tasty though still not one that stood out.

Gallina Xhacutti

Best of the curries was the Goa Prawn Kodi (£11.95), a dish supposedly found in many beach hut restaurants in Goa. The tangy curry went well with the prawns though the prawns were a tad bit overcooked.

Goa Prawn Kodi

Surprisingly, the best two dishes were non-curries. The Seafood Biryani (£15.50) was excellent and filled with salmon, prawns, mussels, squid and crab. It was gently spiced (in a good way) and had lots of delicious fried onions.

Seafood Biryani

My favourite of all the dishes we ordered was the Gallina Cafrael (£11.95), a slowed cook quarter chicken with potatoes and a fresh green masala. It didn’t look like much but the chicken was exceptionally moist (even the breast) and yes, the masala did taste freshly made.

Gallina Cafrael

We had a few side dishes too. When I asked what their Daal of the Day (£4.25) was, all the waiter could reply was “Yellow.” Luckily for me, this yellow daal was absolutely gorgeous and so full of flavour thanks to use of a delicious tarka.

Daal of the Day

Okra was stir-fried with mustard seeds, green peppers and onions (£4.75) and was fine, similar to what you get at northern Indian restaurants.

Okra

A selection of Naans also went down well – plain (£2.45), garlic and chilli (£2.75) and sweet with coconut and chopped nuts (£3.25). Likewise, the rices were excellent – here we had a basmati rice with saffron and cashew nuts (£3.85) and a coconut and curry leaf rice that came with the Gallina Cafrael.

Naans Saffron Rice and Coconut and Curry Leaf Rice

We were pretty stuffed but as usual I’m never one to leave without having dessert, especially a dessert that’s particular to Goa. Their Bibique (£5.00) (also known as bebinca) was labelled on their menu as being made by their friend Mr Santos. Whoever Mr Santos is, he did a great job on this layered cake made with flour, sugar, egg yolks, ghee and coconut milk. It was fantastically delicious and fantastically rich. I wish the portion had been a bit bigger!

Bibique

It was a very good introduction to Goan food and it’s whetted my appetite for more. I do recommend their nimbu pani (spiced lemonade). Thanks for the great evening, everyone!

Ma Goa
242-244 Upper Richmond Road
Putney
London SW15 6TG

Ma Goa on Urbanspoon

Last Saturday, six excited eaters gathered for a relatively late lunch at the Chennai Dosa in Wembley. I had heard of a particularly large dosa, a family dosa, that one could order there to feed quite a large group. Being ridiculously excited about this kind of large format eating, I had organised a group to tackle one. Thank you, Jen, Nayan, Rahul, Wen, and Mr Noodles for coming along!

It being a late lunch, we were absolutely starving. To quieten our stomachs, we started with a few of the smaller dishes from the menu. Gobi Manchurian (dry) (£2.99) was battered cauliflower florets tossed in a spicy, thick, cornstarchy sauce with onions and peppers. It’s a good example of Indian-Chinese food and it was delicious!

Gobi Manchurian

The Chilli Paneer (£3.45) was luridly coloured chunks of paneer again tossed in a thick sauce with onions and peppers. We weren’t able to differentiate between this sauce and the previous but luckily it was tasty.

Chilli Paneer

A Babycorn Pepper fry (£2.99) again looked very similar but for some reason, the battered and fried babycorn were the best. I think it was something to do with the firm texture of the miniature corn with the batter.

Babycorn Pepper Fry

The 14 Mini Idly with Sambar (£2.60) were indeed miniature and the perfect way to try the steamed pillowy rice cakes without filling up too much. I thought they were pretty good and I loved the sambar (not too sweet, not too thin) they were served with.

14 Mini Idly with Sambar

And just when I was thinking of ordering more food, a frenzy of activity around our table distracted us all. Our main event was coming and our dishes were being cleared to make room for it. A platter of chutneys was set down. While normally I’m not particularly fussed with coconut chutneys, I was shoving this white one down – we all were and it was the only one we finished that afternoon.

Chutneys

And this was the Family Dosa, all six feet of it (£9.99).

Family Dosa

Six feet! Sadly, it had collapsed a bit on its journey from the kitchen to the far end of the restaurant where we were sitting. Still, that didn’t affect its flavour and crispness. I guess an uneven temperature under the cooking surface caused the uneven hue of the dosa; I like to think of it as ranging from rare to well-done – something for everyone! It was a very tasty dosa indeed with plenty of ghee and two dishes of potato masala to go along with it. The conversation went quiet a bit as we tucked it and somehow we managed to finish almost all of it. (If you want more views of the beast, they’re available here!)

Drinks made up the majority of the bill: a salty lassi, a couple of mango lassis and countless sweet lime drinks pushed the grand total to £47.73. Including service, that worked out to a little less than £9 a head – a serious bargain! Next time, perhaps we’ll tackle their family sized bhatura (a deep fried bread) with the family sized dish of channa (chickpeas)!

Chennai Dosa
3 Ealing Road
Wembley
Middlesex HA0 2AA

They have a few branches and while we visited a Pure Veg restaurant, they have others that do serve meat. One of them was right next door to the one at which we ate.

Chennai Dosa Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Last weekend, Mirna came over to London for a visit, her first since she and her husband cruelly left us all to move to Hong Kong and continuously show us photos of the amazing food they eat. Thanks a lot. Ha! Anyway, she has been sorely missed and something she had been missing from London was the easy access to Indian and Pakistani food. I stepped away from my laptop last Saturday night to take her and another mutual friend Rachel to Southall to feast. We had already chosen Gifto’s Lahore Karahi as our restaurant that night as we’d had a great lunch there a little over a year ago.

Now, I don’t proclaim to be any authority on Pakistani or Indian food but this Punjabi restaurant on the Uxbridge Road serves some pretty delicious grub. That night, it was also the most packed restaurant on the high street, full of families, couples, friends… and a queue at the door. Luckily, we got there just before the queue formed and got the last booth in the place.

We started with a few chaats. A papri chaat (£3.00) with crunchy wafers, chickpeas, potatoes, and the characteristic chaat combination of tamarind and yogurt went down a treat. A Dahi Puri (£3.00) was more of the same but stuffed in crispy hollow balls that we spooned directly into our mouths; any other attempt at eating them and they’d fall apart.

Papri Chaat

Dahi Puri

In hindsight though, we probably could have done without the chaats! Everything else we ordered arrived in close succession after, cluttering our table with hot pans and dangerously sizzling hotplates.

The paneer tikka (£4.90) was homemade, had been slathered in a delicious marinade and had been grilled but still was moist.

Paneer Tikka

Seekh kebabs (£2.90) were one of Gifto’s signature dishes and came two to an order and turned out to be the bargain of the century: these were some big kebabs! These minced lamb kebabs were well spiced and seriously tasty.

Seekh Kebab

Karahi chicken (£7.90) was another signature dish and was described as boneless chicken in a spicy masala sauce. Although this was made with breast meat, not exactly my favourite cut, the chicken was surprisingly moist and absolutely fabulous in the spicy tomato based sauce.

Karahi Chicken

Saag paneer (£5.90) was very light and was packed full of fried paneer cubes (again, another signature dish – I think we ordered most of them!).

Saag Paneer

Their tarka dal (£5.90) was one of our favourites and we cleaned the bowl of its delicious lentil mixture (yup, another signature dish). I would just be happy with a portion of this and some naan. OK, and maybe some paneer tikka.

Tarka Dal

A plain naan (£1.10), a peshwari naan (£2.00) and a basmati pilau rice (£3.00) were the sides to our meal. The peshwari naan in particular was sweet and nutty and a nice contrast to the spicy curries and grills.

Plain Naan Peshwari Naan

Basmati Pilau Rice

While eating, we noticed that we were the only table who had their naans sliced; all the other tables had their naans brought to them whole. Did they think we were “special”?

Anyway, this looks like a lot of food and I won’t lie, for three people, it was a lot of food. I took home the leftovers and they were enough to feed two of us for lunch the next day. With lassis and all the food above, the total came to about £50 – and really, there was enough food for four to five people. Service was efficient and food comes quite quickly but this isn’t really a surprise when you notice that the open kitchen takes up a whole side of the restaurant. Great food and it’s starting to be one of my favourite places in Southall. Gifto’s isn’t really a place at which you can linger after dinner though, what with the long queues at the door, and so for dessert (Gifto’s does do sweets too), we wandered down the street to Rita’s where we could shoot the breeze over masala teas and rasmalai and gulab jamun. One day, when it’s a little emptier, I’ll stick around for their desserts.

Gifto’s Lahore Karahi
162-164 The Broadway (along Uxbridge Road)
Southall
UB1 1NN

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