Friday, February 27, 2009

The New Joint: Indian

The other night I had another food induced dream: saffron colored curries rolled like rivers around pakora boats and feather-weight rice rained from the sky. It happened again. I ate way to damn much Indian food before bed.

My stomach becomes a bottomless pit in the face of a good curry and naan and I am no match for the charms of Mehek Punjab de. Alas, I went to bed, slumbering with an overfilled belly and hallucinating sleep.

Mehek Punjab de is a gorgeous little spot nestled in a strip mall (what isn’t in Fresno?) offering up quaint yellow walls, north Indian handicrafts, substantial tables and a gleaming case of sweets that spans the length of the joint. It’s usually packed with old ladies in saris and doe-eyed Sikh kids with hair bundled atop their heads. Dishes are served on traditional stainless steel plates and in little metal bowls, providing all the glitz I need for a night on the town.

And then there’s the food. To start, try the paneer pakora: little sandwiches of fresh, firm cheese spread with a green spice paste, deep fried. I’m also a fan of masala mago chips which are basically Indian nachos served up with chickpeas, yogurt, and a rim of fresh vegetables to garnish. If you are brave, dive into the pickles on table which will blast your tongue with a salty prick through the snap of crazy veggies.

The breads are divine. Throughout your meal you can watch generations of ladies spinning and tossing varieties of elastic dough down a hot tandoori oven. Try the makki di roti, a thick corn tortilla, traditionally served with spinach as a breakfast food. Fall in love with the sweet naan stuffed with cherries and nuts or go for the ultimate, aloo paratha, flat bread stuffed with mashed potatoes and onions.

Out came the masala dosa, a giant sourdough-like crêpe filled with spicy spuds, served with a dab of poppy seed studded soup and two incredible sauces: roasted red pepper and creamy coconut. In your mouth, crispy and smooth, hot and soothing all come together to create a far-east flavor boogie.

Out marched the excitement of sholey blaock: black garbanzo beans smacked with raw green chilies. Then onto hahi paneer which held light chunks of cheese suspended in rich orange colored curry. All these flavors are flowing through the medium of homemade yogurt and sweet ghee washed down with impeccable chai and a banana milkshake (seriously).

Finally, onto the sweets! Black chum chum, mitti seerni, ladoo, neatly stacked on silver platters like rows of lace on a petticoat. Orange and white, pink and green, they are concocted from carrots, sweet potatoes, coconut, cheese, pistachios, rosewater, honey. Get on board with the jalebi, a dayglow orange funnel cake soaked in syrup.

Alas you see my predicament of overfilled belly and turmeric educed sleep. Sweet dreams, Fresno. Enjoy.

Mehek Punjab de
3173 W. Shaw Ave.
Fresno, CA 93711

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