There are a few things people can’t live without. Oxygen, water, the latest copy of your favourite mag… You know, the things that keep us going. For me it’s a good Scotch and a great paneer palak with garlic naan. Because of that, I can, with all confidence, tell you where to find the best North Indian food in Joburg.
In the heart of Linden sits the jewel of Taj Mahal country. For the past five years I have obsessed over Bikaner. Indian cuisine reflects a 5 000-year history of various groups and cultures interacting with a wide variety of herbs and spices. This all boils down to what Bikaner is about: the best of the Far East. Personally I’ve never ventured further than their vegetarian mains selection simply because it’s just that good. The curries on offer are rich, creamy and filled to the brim with paneer made in-house – paneer is an Indian cheese made from separating the curds of whole milk from the whey by adding a food acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to the boiling pot… pretty much compressed ricotta cheese.
My favourite dish on offer would be the paneer makhani, which is a gravy made from puréed tomato, ginger and green chilli, topped with paneer. This is served with fine grain basmati rice. As is tradition, I always order butter naan bread to dip into the gravy. Trust me, you have not lived until you’ve experienced Bikaner’s curries. Another winner on the menu would be paneer palak, a dish consisting of spinach, tomato gravy sauce and paneer in a thick paste made from puréed spinach and seasoned with garlic, garam masala and other spices.
The best way to visit Bikaner would be to go in a big group and order four or five different curries with garlic and butter naan for everyone to share. Crack open a couple of beers, have some good curry and thank me in the morning.
The list of good food goes on and on, and for those of you who do eat meat, don’t worry – the kitchen has you covered. All dishes can be prepared to whichever level of heat you prefer; I enjoy my food to be quite spicy and the hot option has always left me satisfied.
Bikaner does takeaways as well, which is good for an evening of Call of Duty with the guys, or a Netflix session with the girls.
By Shawn Greyling