Out on my monthly book-trawl, reluctant Spouse in tow, we decided to step into a restaurant for a quick bite. I ordered a paapdi chaat. He ordered this:
At first glance, I thought it was pineapple, then I changed my mind, and decided it was a hedgehog. Now The Spouse and I have eaten some strange things, but hedgehog would have been a first. And served in a prime restaurant in namma Bengaluru, as opposed to ancient Egypt? Um, no, I Do.Not.Think.So.
Nevertheless, I was fascinated – in a morbid kind of way – when the waiter took the pair of scissors that had been buried in the creature’s innards and began to cut it open with cold efficiency and a manic grin. A large puff of steam clouded my view – but oh, what a fragrant aroma! When the mist cleared, I peered inside the split-open carcass to reveal… meat! Bones! Cartilage!
This was no pineapple; it used to be an animal! Was it:
a) a hedgehog?
b) an armadillo?
c) a hitherto undiscovered species?
My pulse quickened. Only to slow down again. Turned out to be none of the above. ‘Twas a plain ol’ chicken. It’s called an atta chicken. Atta, as in “wheat dough”. Chicken, as in “bird that lays eggs and goes cluck-cluck”.
It goes like this: a whole chicken is marinated in spices, wrapped in a banana leaf, and then encased in salted dough (in this case, shaped cleverly to resemble a pineapple/hedgehog/durian). It’s then slow-cooked in a tandoor.
This dish apparently originated somewhere in the plains of rural Punjab, and if made the traditional way (with the wheatflour baked to black) keeps for a couple of days, unrefrigerated in its hardened outer shell.
Sahib Sindh Sultan’s version, made on the assumption that you will consume it immediately rather than two days hence, is considerably more attractive in appearance. What does it taste like? A very succulent tandoori chicken, all juices, flavors, and aromas intact. It tastes really good, but I think that the pinnacle of this dish is experienced during its presentation.
And what of my paapdi chaat? It was great. Not too much of the sweet sauce, nor too much of the hot; fresh, crisp paapdis, bite-sized potato, creamy yogurt, just enough sev. Every element in perfect balance. Exquisite chaat moment. I’ve tried this before, and each time, it’s been consistently good.
I also keep coming back for their Leberiyan – a dry, slow-cooked lamb kebab that melts in the mouth.
The other interesting thing I tried at this restaurant was a sandalwood-flavored lemon-based sharbath. It really was fragrant with sandalwood – naanu Mysooru hudugi, so I know – and had bits of silver vark and strands of saffron floating in it. And it was very refreshing.
On prior occasions, I have sampled Sahib Sindh Sultan’s cocktails: you can taste the alcohol and the proportions are usually right. I also recommend their panna… it’s perfect.
For those who have never visited this restaurant, here are the essentials:
- It’s located in the Forum Mall at Koramangala
- It serves food inspired by the British Raj era
- Service is willing, courteous, and efficient
- Novelty factor: part of the restaurant is modeled after a Pullman-style train carriage (including corny platform announcements, a station bell you can ring, waiters dressed as ticket collectors, and other little touches that kids find delightful). The restaurant itself, is, of course, named after India’s first passenger train.
Sahib Sindh Sultan
Level 2, Forum Mall
Phone: 080 22067878