Butter chicken, tandoori and naan. Three of the most common dishes you’ll find ordered and served in Indian restaurants in the Western world. Back home, we have been to numerous Indian restaurants and inevitably we, and those we are with, revert to the same familiar foods with perhaps some kind of masala thrown in to feel adventurous. During our travels, our culinary knowledge has broadened and our palates have become more refined. While in Thailand, we were able to try some authentic Japanese in Koh Samui at Kobori Restaurant, some Canadian and Western fare in Koh Phangan at Crave and some Thai-fusion in Bangkok at Rock Restaurant, but we never truly explored the depths of flavours and spices available within Indian cuisine. That is, until we made our way to Malaysia.
With the Indian population comprising the third largest in the country, Indian culture and cuisine is a large part of Malaysia. Not only can you find traditional dishes from India, there are various versions that are only found in Malaysia. Malay-style Indian food is quite common incorporating the roti, chippatis and meat dishes representative of North Indian food and the fish, veggies and rice that are more prominent in the South. We had the chance to try some of the Malaysian style Indian food while we ate our way through Penang in 48 hours and we were actively looking for a chance to try out some authentic dishes.
Being exposed to some new Malay-Indian dishes was a great experience and the type of culinary exploration we are always looking for but we still did not know enough about Indian food, be it traditional or Malay style. So, when we had the opportunity to visit Bite N Eat, a restaurant in Penang, Malaysia that prides itself on providing traditional Indian food, we were very excited to see what we could learn and explore the flavours and foods we had yet to discover. We ended up learning a lot and tasting traditional dishes we never would have known to order before.
An Education in Indian Cuisine in Penang
As we walked up to the restaurant, the bright sign signaled we had found Bite N Eat Dindigal Biryani Restaurant and the outdoor grill with fresh roti being made was a wonderful welcoming sight. Seated indoors on the main floor of this UNESCO certified building we were presented with a rather extensive menu. Quite innovatively, Bite N Eat offers its patrons a centralized television and individual tablets with photos of their various dishes to help those who are new to the cuisine determine what to order.
Opened just seven months ago, in May, 2014, the main goal of the restaurant is to bring the exact taste of India to Penang where often times, Malay-Indian style dishes dominate the culinary stage. Bringing in a chef, as well as a large majority of the serving staff, straight from India, the menu offers traditional dishes from both the North and South of India and hopes to bring true Indian cuisine, not only to those who are familiar with it, but also to those who are unfamiliar, with the food.
We started with two drinks made in-house: Mint Julipe & Ginger Delight. The Mint Julipe had a strong flavor of fresh mint with a refreshing burst of lime balanced with sweetness from the sugar encrusted rim of the glass. The ginger delight was balanced in its own way between the sharp bite of cinnamon and the softer, creamier ginger flavor.
The first round of food was ordered and we were excited to try the variety of Southern and Northern Indian dishes. When the plates of food and bowls of sauces came we had amassed a plethora of spice infused experiences our palates were anxiously awaiting. Onion pakkoda, chicken 555, fish curry, jolly gosht, set dosai, Chicken 65, prawn biryani, and paneer butter masala arrived in two waves and left us incredibly satisfied and had us advancing our knowledge of Indian cuisine and spices.
The entire feast was delicious and while we were quite full, we were still excited to have the opportunity to try some more of the homemade drinks and traditional desserts. Our nutmeg juice drink was a great after-meal drink and complemented the desserts: fragrant coconut and carrot halwa both of which were warm, fragrant and rich in flavor.
By the end of the meal, we had tasted quite a variety of different types of food with many different spices and flavor combinations and were thoroughly thrilled with the exploration into Indian cuisine from first bite to last. Bite N Eat is definitely the place to go to learn about traditional Indian cuisine and venture into the world of spices and flavours these dishes have to offer.
There were so many dishes to choose from and we were unable to try it all. Have we missed something that you would consider a key dish in Indian cuisine? Comment below and let us know!