Two Brown Girls

Two brown girls, two countries, and two kitchens in which to play!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Brown Food

Given our status as Brown Girls, I felt that it was about time we had a post about Brown Food. So when I went home to SF this weekend, I made sure to hit up Shalimar (otherwise known as The Best North Indian/Punjabi Food Dive In The Greater Bay Area).

Shalimar is located in the heart of the Tenderloin, in an area I like to call "The Curry Triangle." There are at least 6 different Indian restuarants and 2 halal butchers within this 3 block radius. However, Shalimar is considered by many to be the most tasty, and certainly the line during weekend dinners attests to this. The key is to ignore the restaurant's lack of frills -- it's an old joke that the authenticity is so great that when a major appliance is turned on the lights all flicker, just like in the old country (this is, unfortunately, true -- just remember, pre-war buildings are never known for the quality of their wiring, regardless of the type of cuisine served within them).

Now, this food, as a cuisine, is not known for its subtlety. These flavours hit you in the mouth with all the force of Mike Tyson (I assume. I've never been hit in the mouth by Mike Tyson. But after the job he did on that guy's ear, I'm sure that being hit in the face by him would be an intense experience). Shalimar is also not noted for their vegetable dishes -- in a land of many different groups, religions, and cultures, Punjabis have always stood out for the amount of meat and dairy they consume. This affinity with animal product shows itself in the sheer size of most Punjabis. However, this is an incidental fact that really has no point besides the recommendation of the author to order meat at Shalimar. A lot of meat. Not to say that the vegtable dishes on offer aren't outstanding in their own right -- my particular favorites include the Bhindi, an okra dish that is often a daily special, and the spicy chickpeas, known variously as Cholay or Channa. But the meat dishes are truly what Shalimar prides itself on.

On this visit, we (my brother, my Dad, and myself) ordered:
1. Chickpeas
2. Chicken Koftas (Chicken meatballs in a thin sauce)
3. Tandoori Lamb Chops (Lamb chops cooked slowly in a tandoor oven)
4. Seekh Kebabs (A spicy kebab made out of ground lamb and beef)
5. Beef Nihari (A slow cooked curry of beef, with a rich dark sauce)
6. Haleem
7. Rice
8. Naan (Bread cooked in a tandoor oven)

Instead of providing comprehensive reviews of all the dishes (they were ALL excellent by the way) I'm going to focus on describing #6. Haleem. Possibly my favourite food in the entire world. It's creamy and meaty and spicy all at once. It's great with rice. It's great with bread. It tastes good hot or cold and has so much protein that Dr. Atkins would proabably propose to it on the spot. It's the perfect food for when you're hungover and really don't feel like chewing much and it's an even better food when you're drunk and just want to put as much food into your mouth as quickly as possible. Essentially, to me Haleem is life.

All meals come with an Indian "salad" of chopped onions and chilis. While you must order at the counter, your dishes are brought to you as they are prepared, as are utensils and plates. Water is available free of charge from the large fridge against the side wall, and the masala tea (known also as chai) is always fresh and hot.

So go to Shalimar. And order the haleem.

532 Jones St (cross street O'Farrell)
San Francisco, CA


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as the littlest Punjabi I know - you should eat more, more meat...

Recco on haleem, I second wholeheartedly.


1:48 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

I love Shalimar. Such great food from such a little hole in the wall place. If you can brave the lack of parking and the long lines, it's worth it!

9:04 AM  

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