Mixed-grill platter: Punjabi style Image Credit: XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma

Dubai: Not many would know the difference between an authentic Amritsari Kulcha (stuffed Indian bread) and a stuffed naan or paratha. But blindfold a true-blood Punjabi (resident from North Indian state of Punjab, of which Amritsar is a city) and serve him the three and he will separate the wheat from the chaff – the Amritsari Kulcha stands apart.

Here in Dubai, the yearning for the genuine Amritsari Kulcha and other dishes from this region has led A.J. Singh, a native of the area, to launch Pure Punjabi, a no-frills restaurant in International City.

The idea to start a restaurant struck Singh when he arrived in Dubai about six years ago. As a bachelor on a limited budget he had a tough time finding food that was close to what he was used to back home. That’s when he made up his mind that he would start a place for his community and treat them pure Punjabi fare. And that too dirt cheap.

An Amritsari Kulcha served with a bowl of chole (chick peas) and chutney will set you back only about Dh7 and one kulcha is more than enough to leave you full and satisfied. The other dishes too are evenly priced averaging Dh15 each. And keeping in mind the great weather, the place will soon introduce al fresco dhaba-type outdoor seating.

It was drizzling a bit when I visited Pure Punjabi. In India, it is common practice to eat hot pakoras (crispy veggie fritters) with pungent green chutney during the wet weather and it came as no surprise to find a placard outside Pure Punjabi inviting people for pakoras. And that’s exactly what we started our meal with.

Next we had a variety of Amritsari Kulchas. They were stuffed with different types of veggies such as potato, cauliflower, paneer (cottage cheese) etc. Served with chole (chick peas), chutneys, pickled onion and a dollop of butter, the kulchas were the best I’ve tasted, and my dining companion, a Punjabi, stamped it “100 per cent original”.

Following this, we were served Sarson Da Saag – a traditional Punjabi dish made of mustard leaves – accompanied by Makki Di Roti (maize bread). I was impressed. The dish was creamy and delicately spiced, with mustard and spinach leaves combined to perfection.

After this we ordered a mixed grill platter. The variety included Chicken Peshwari Tikka, Stuffed Chicken Tangdi (drumstick), Chicken Seekh and Malai Tikka. The Stuffed Tangdi and Peshawari Tikka were the outstanding picks as both meats were well grilled, succulent and had a smoky, tandoori flavour.

It is said the real test of any Punjabi kitchen lies in how it prepares Butter Chicken Tikka Masala and Maa Di Dal (or Dal Makhani). Though all North Indian joints serve these staple dishes, very few get them right. But Pure Punjabi passed the test with flying colours. The Butter Chicken Tikka Masala was rich, buttery, creamy and the chicken was succulent and had a barbeque flavour. The Dal Makhani too had a creamy texture from the black gram and a subtle nutty flavour from the Bengal gram. Have these dishes with oven-fresh, hot tandoori rotis and a knob of butter and it’s the most satiating experience you could ever ask for.

Finally we went for some hot Gulab Jamuns (dessert), bringing our Punjabi fare to a sweet ending the traditional way.