Tuesday 19 January 2010

Mirch Masala - When You're Too Hungry To Queue

Every so often (say, once a week) I'll have an intense craving for Indian or Pakistani food. The spices, the smokiness, the grilled meat leaves me watering at the mouth and I can't think of anything else. I want those stained red fingers, the mouth smeared with ghee. At times like this I head off to Tayyabs to get my fix.

One Friday evening, myself and two friends found ourselves with this spice lust. Knowing we had a better chance of standing around outside drinking cans of lager all night than getting into Tayyabs at prime time, we tried Needoo Grill - set up by an ex manager of Tayyabs, even the menu is the same. Alas, they had a party of 20 in and wouldn't tell us either way whether we could have a table. They tried to convince us to eat and be out in half an hour; speaking from past experience, I knew this would only lead to regret. So we headed round the corner to Mirch Masala.

I've been here once before, on my 22nd birthday. The place is enormous, with a canteen-like atmosphere both upstairs and down. They treated us well though, and even turned all the lights down to sing happy birthday when my cake was brought out.

The best part of the mixed grill were the little chicken drumsticks. They were spiced lightly but were full of flavour. Sadly, lamb chops held no comparison to their neighbour's efforts. Seekh kebabs were juicy and moreish but by and large, we could have done without this dish.

We ordered a couple of main curries, and were talked into more dishes by our waiter. Along with some beautifully puffy plain rotis, the boys decided they also want a keema naan (top picture) "for the lads". It was meaty, filling and dripping with ghee. I left them to it.

Karahi keema corn was a nice change; I was surprised to see the addition of fresh corn, but my Pakistani friend I was dining with told me it's very homestyle to do so.

Karahi chilli chicken had dangerous long green chillis for my spoon to dance around. A mistaken nibble proved to be painful, though the chicken was tender and the sauce well spiced and flavoursome. We had been asked whether we wanted our dishes 'mild, medium or spicy' - given the level of spicing in here, and across the dishes, I was very glad we went for medium. My cheeks flamed.

Being the aubergine fiend that I am, it was no surprise that the karahi baigan was my favourite. Silky aubergines were deceptively spicy and not overly greasy. The roti scooped the aubergine flesh up a dream. I hogged the dish.

We left, £15 out of pocket each and stuffed to the gills. Mirch Masala is a great alternative to the more popular places - it's far quieter, you don't leave smelling of smoke, and it has far more menu options, especially for vegetarians. Just don't let the waiters talk you into extra dishes - we had more than enough, but being the gluttons we are, managed it.

Mirch Masala (other locations too)

111-113 Commercial Road

London E1 1RD

Tel: 0207 377 0155

Note - it's BYO. Hooray!

Mirch Masala on Urbanspoon


Chris Pople said...

They're all good, basically, aren't they, these Pakistani Whitechapel grills. Why are they all in one place? It's just cruel. If any of them opened a branch in Battersea they'd clean up.

Fig and Cherry said...

I love your description 'my cheeks flamed' - beware of those green chilli's - even for chilli lovers! Will def have to check this place out on my return to London (whenever that is!).

Mr Noodles said...

I've never understood the appeal of keema naan especially if you order a meaty curry. It's also good that they ask you about the spicing - much better than those Sichuan places that 'profile'.

eatmynels said...

I miss Whitechapel....

Unknown said...

Thanks for this - a good alternative. I agree with Chris - please Pakistani curry houses spread your wings around London.

Sharmila said...

As others have said, it's good to know of an alternative in the area. The crazy busyness of Tayyabs has meant that I've ended up at Needoo past few times I've had the urge for Pakistani grilled food. However, that is also so busy now that Mirch Masala sounds an easier option. I wonder how it stacks up against Lahore round the corner?

Obviously the best solution would be for one of the Tayyabs family to open a restaurant next door to my flat in Peckham.

Su-Lin said...

It's places like these that make me wonder why Tayyabs gets most of the publicity. Their onion bhajis are really lovely!

There are a few Mirch Masalas around though, not just in Whitechapel, but looking at their website, they're all in the burbs.

S said...

that whole meal looks really beautiful, Lizzie. and of course theyre going to treat you well and sing happy birthday for you- have you seen your pretty self?! re the keema though, i have never seen anyone in pakistan put corn in keema, i think they made that one up. we add veggies like peas, potatoes, even cauliflower, (which you know) but not corn- it is a very tough variety in pakistan, it has to be boiled right off the cob and canned corn is only for the rich, so it is not a part of our traditional rustic cuisine. the keema naan looks gorgeous, even if greasy. x shayma

gastrogeek said...

My other local! I do love a bit of Mirch every now and again, just to mix things up a bit. Must try the baigun dish, sounds like a winner.

Hollow Legs said...

Chris - I think you'll find they'd do better in Peckham or New Cross ;)

Christie - Thanks!

Mr Noodles - I've never understood it either. Plain all the way for me.

eatmynels - Aww. You're not that far though!

GC - no problem :)

Sharmila - Yes, Peckham would work for me too! I haven't been to Lahore, but I've heard the phrase "better lamb chops than tayyabs" bandied around.

Su Lin - Well I guess it's the lamb chops - Tayyabs are better. I've added the link now - didn't realise there was one in Croydon, handy for me!

Shayma - Aww, thanks :) Ah, perhaps my friend was referring to his family (who live in East London) specifically. I had no idea tinned corn was expensive!

Gastrogeek - I wish they were my locals!

Helen said...

I haven't been here yet. So many curries, so little time! That bread looks rather spectacular. I had no idea there was more than one branch.

LexEat! said...

Food looks brilliant!
I head to this area about once a month as my partner's band has a gig in the area - so might have to convince some friends to have an early dinner here before hand!

Kurdistan said...

wow i love all this dishes and i wanna try it

S said...

dear lizzie-anything which is processed, is dear in Pakistan. i dont even recall seeing tinned goods in Pakistan when I was a child. which is a good thing :) have a lovely weekend, Lizzie.