Piquant flavours on the palate

Aromatic Offerings

Eating out comes with a flip side — added preservatives, best-avoided ingredients and the perennial problem of food colouring, something which many of Bangalore’s eateries take to in liberal doses.

It was exactly this problem that Nandakumar — an engineer by profession, with a passion for food — decided to address when he started up Panja, a restaurant located in Koramangala.

His eatery, he decided, would specialise in restaurant food, cooked with the same, safe ingredients used in household kitchens. And given the fact that Panja has rarely been empty since it was first opened, his selling-point has worked.

The eatery boasts of a fairly inclusive menu — tandoori, Indian-Chinese and typical Punjabi cuisine all find place on the menu.

Nandakumar explains, “Since most of the people who live in Koramangala are professionals from the North, we decided to go for that sort of food. The emphasis, of course, is on healthy ingredients. For instance, we buy unpolished dal — which has a higher fibre content — and make rotis with wholegrain wheat that we dry in the sunlight.

I purchase most of the ingredients myself — that’s something I’m very particular about.”
This attitude extends to the spices used in the kitchen. Nandakumar explains that he avoids common, coloured masalas and sources his from Kerala instead.

 “We grind it ourself at the eatery, so it stays fresh and flavourful,” he adds. These simple ingredients, though, are skillfully used to prepare an array of tempting dishes. Along with tandoori staples like kebabs, fish tikka and chicken platters, the eatery also offers interesting starters like ‘Chicken Pepper Dry’, ‘Prawns Fry’, ‘Lemon Chicken’ and ‘Mutton Pepper Roast’. “We take feedback from the customers and improve the menu accordingly — for example, we recently started to serve neer dosa, since several of our regulars were asking for it,” says Nandakumar, adding that two of the best-selling dishes on his menu are the chicken biryani and what he calls the sangam kebab.

“The sangam kebab is made with minced mutton, which is spiced and then wrapped in chicken skin before it goes into the tandoor. It’s something that’s unique to our restaurant. The biryani is cooked for around four hours on firewood, which gives it a powerful flavour. And of course, our paneer dishes are quite popular too,” he explains.

The eatery, which is open throughout the day, also has a breakfast menu — a blessing for professionals in the area looking for a quick bite before work. “We serve poha, samosas, sandwiches and neer dosa in the morning. We want this to be the sort of place where people come to eat more than once a day,” says Nandakumar.

The Chinese portion of the menu includes some classics like gobi manchurian and chilli paneer; the eatery also offers a selection of soups — including favourites like sweet corn as well as interesting options like a manchaw soup and a clear chicken broth — which are perfect accompaniments to the meal.

For details, call 9886156717.

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