KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — When it comes to food, that which tastes just like home sticks in our hearts. And tummies. And at this well-hidden spot in the most unlikely place... Pearl Point Shopping Mall... you will find Punjabi Cha Wala serving up food which does both.
The stall which is inside the food court is run by Kuljit Kaur, 50. Previously a kindergarten teacher for 10 years, she only started running this stall when her husband set up the place for her about one and a half years ago.
Assisting in the kitchen is Amutha Valli, 47, or Avin, as she is better known. Kuljit tells us that Avin has a magic touch with the food. Avin tells us her trick is, “I treat everyone who dines here like my children and I don’t use any MSG.”
Previously Avin worked at the Women’s Aid Organisation, cooking food for the shelter for three to five years.
Make a beeline for their chapati made by Kuljit. In most Punjabi homes, their daily bread is this soft, wholemeal flatbread that is usually eaten for lunch and dinner.
Kuljit tells us that she mastered the art of making chapatis from the age of 11. The dough is prepared ahead — a mixture of atta flour with water, kneaded till it’s soft — kept covered with cling film.
We find out that her trick for a softer and more fragrant chapati is ghee. Once an order is placed, Kuljit will flatten the dough with a rolling pin and pan fry it on a hot flat round pan.
It’ll puff up a little with the heat and Kuljit will flatten it to allow it to cook evenly. Served piping hot, the slightly charred chapati is paired with a gorgeous-tasting dhal studded with green lentils and laced with ghee. That combination makes a perfect light, healthy tasting meal that will satisfy your soul.
In the menu, there are also parathas with all kinds of fillings like potato, cheese and even the fragrant methi or dried fenugreek leaves. The potato paratha is the crowd favourite.
Watch how Kuljit prepares it by sandwiching two chapatis with a filling of cooked potatoes, sliced onions, roughly torn fresh mint leaves and chopped green chillies. This is flattened and cooked on the hot pan.
From 10.30am onwards, Avin will be busy cooking the daily repertoire of dishes for their lunch spread. Some of the dishes are Punjabi ones that were taught to her by Kuljit.
Other items include dishes that she learnt from her father who used to run a restaurant in Cameron Highlands. If Avin finds a dish she likes in a restaurant, she never hesitates to ask for the recipe, testing it at home until she is happy with its taste.
On a daily basis, there’ll be five types of vegetables, curry, a fish and chicken dish. Their customers’ preference is for tenggiri fish which they usually coat with spices and deep fry.
They also prepare two types of dhals; the Punjabi green lentils for chapati and a mixed vegetable version with white radish, carrot, brinjal and potatoes that is the perfect side-kick for plain rice.
Every Saturday, they serve mutton, sourced from the kampung that is usually cooked peratal style. Occasionally, they also do fish head curry.
For dessert, order the rich, thick homemade yoghurt. Each spoonful is lovely with a creamy, mild taste. For a sweeter touch, sprinkle some brown sugar over it.
Kuljit explains to us that the yoghurt is made from fresh buffalo milk sourced from a farm in Serdang. She had chosen that supplier as their milk has a very thick texture. The milk is delivered to them on a daily basis.
Relish that fresh cow milk on its own, boiled and served with a frothy top or add it to your cup of tea. Kuljit brews up that soothing drink by boiling the milk with a handful of tea dust and mixture of spices.
If you prefer something cold, look for their mango lassi that is made from their homemade yoghurt. It’s also a perfect antidote for their spicy food to cool down the tongue.
Punjabi Cha Wala
Stall No. 2, Food Court, Second Floor, Pearl Point Shopping Mall, Old Klang Road, KL
Open: 11am to 9pm