Mehek Punjab de [Fresno]
Our favorite food and wine gal, Melanie Wong, was in town this weekend to judge the Clovis BBQ contest, and no, there were no public tastings at the event.
We did manage to hit this place Saturday evening around 7:30 for a tour of the menu. We planned on having beer with our dinner if it was available (not) and I failed to inquire if one might bring their own alcoholic beverage. Will find out and report back. Cuisine is vegetarian and the mango lassis we had went quite well with the spicy dishes.
Melanie has agreed that if I list the dishes and prices that she, LadyPB, and myself enjoyed, that she would follow up with a narrative. So here goes:
Samosa Chana Masala (2 Samosas & Chick Pea, Curry, Chutney & Garnish) 3.40
(2) Aloo Tikki (spiced potato patties) 0.75 ea
BHEL PURI (puffed rice crisps w/yogurt & potato) 3,49
Malai Kofta (veggie balls in tomato cream sauce) 7.99
Bhindyian (okra stir fry) 7.49
Saag (spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, whipped yogurt) 6.99
Makki Di Roti (corn meal flatbread) 1.79
Punjabi Metha Prantha (leavened whoe wheat bread w/fenugreek) 2.99
(2) Mango lassi 2.99 ea
Mixed sweets (at least 8 pieces) 5.45
Total pre tax/tip was $47, we left stuffed with plenty of left overs. Flavors and spicing was superb, will definitely be returning soon.
Thanks, PB. And, many thanks to “alanstotle” for bringing this place to our attention here, putting it at the top of my list to try.
I’d been salivating over the menu of Punjabi style chaat, vegetarian dishes, great list of flatbreads, and the traditional sweets. This turned out to be the perfect dinner venue after a meat-filled afternoon judging barbecue in Clovis.
A complimentary basket of papadams and a caddy of chutneys came out as soon as we were seated. Nice papadams, freshly crisped with toasty markings. The mint-cilantro chutney had a nice medium chile heat poking out from the vibrant herbaceousness. The sweet and sour tamarind chutney would have benefitted from a bit of red chile for contrast. I regret not giving PolarBear a little sterner warning on the green mango pickle as my eyes widened watching him pile it on a shard of papadam. Soon, he was hit with the full salty, sour, spicy, soapy green flavors. In the world of mango pickle, I’d rate this one above average.
Our server asked what level of heat we wanted, and pointed to the green chutney as medium-hot level. We asked for all our dishes “hot” though if I’d been thinking, I would have exempted the preps that I think taste better with less heat.
Samosa Chana Masala (2 Samosas & Chick Pea Curry, Chutney & Garnish) 3.40 – Lady PB was interested in trying the samosas here, so I suggested that we try the chaat combining it with chana masala. I didn’t taste it immediately, so the samosa had already softened under the sauces and sitting on the chana (chickpeas). I found it okay/not memorable, but it might have shown better earlier.
(2) Aloo Tikki (spiced potato patties) 0.75 ea – Pretty good version, especially the not completely mashed texture of the potatoes leaving some chunkier nubs. This didn’t seem to spend any time on the griddle before being fried, so missed that extra smokiness, but hit the moderate level of browned, still tender crust that I like. Heavily spiced with cumin and too much fresh ginger, these were tasty with the tamarind and the mint chutneys.
Bhel Puri (puffed rice crisps w/yogurt & potato) 3.49 – I had a hard time choosing from the line-up of crispy chaat offerings, and settled on this one as the least likely to be screwed up. The puffed rice, broken pieces of puri, and fried sev (vermicelli) were all fresh and very crispy. The diced red onions were freshly cut and not sulfurous, waxy peeled potato chunks had a toothsome firmness, and rich yogurt (dahi) tasted homemade. Again, the tamarind chutney needed a bit of spice, but the balance of green to red chutneys was fine. A little more seasoned salt wouldn’t have hurt.
Punjabi Metha Prantha (layered whole wheat bread w/fenugreek) 2.99 - As we negotiated our final order around the table, I made a decided effort to not give into the PBs’ naan request. With so many other types of flatbread on the menu, I wanted to take them on the road less traveled. Also, the dishes we’d chosen would be better accompanied with a non-leavened choice. Luckily, PolarBear’s interest in fresh fenugreek (methi leaves) swayed him toward the paratha. A very good version with flaky layers of whole wheat dough browned and nutty from the tava and filled with a generous amount of fresh fenugreek leaves. This seemed to be a low fat version with very little ghee. I liked dabbing it in the sauce for the kofta. I hope it made the PBs forget about naan for the night.
Malai Kofta (veggie balls in tomato cream sauce) 7.99 – The veggie balls were a little too soft for me, needing the firmness of more paneer cheese to potato for my taste, but well-seasoned. The creamy tomato sauce was quite luxurious, prodding Lady PB to comment that it was too rich to eat much. This dish would have been good with some rice or a plain roti to catch all the sauce. Also, it would have been better ordered low or medium spicy to highlight the comfort food aspect.
Bhindyian (okra stir fry) 7.49 – Okra sautéed with onions, tomatoes and masala spices was done very well here. The onions had just the right bit of bite yet enough softening to bring out their natural sweetness. I also liked that it was well-spiced but not gritty from rough powders. This is a dish that I prefer “hot”, and Mehek delivered.
Makki Di Roti (corn meal flatbread) 1.79 – This corn-based chapatti is what originally sparked my interest in Mehek Punjab de. Griddled and thick, it’s nearly identical to a gordita or sope made with a coarser corn flour. I was excited about it because it’s the classic accompaniment to sarson ka saag. In the SF Bay Area, this dish is hard to find and then usually a weekend special. Here it’s on the regular menu with a notation that it takes a little longer to prepare.
Saag (spinach, mustard greens, broccoli) 6.99 – The menu just says “saag”, so I asked our server if the mix included mustard greens (aka sarson). She said that the saag here was made with spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, and other greens. The slight amount of gram flour or corn flour used to thicken the pureed greens echoes the grain in the makki di roti creating a great pairing. This was a delicious version, whipped up until it was almost fluffy. At dinner it didn’t seem that “hot” but the leftovers I took home became too incendiary overnight to eat straight. This is a dish that I prefer at medium spiciness, as it was when first served in the restaurant. The saag with the maki ki roti was my favorite dish, here’s a picture of my serving.
(2) Mango lassi 2.99 ea – To put out the flames, we ordered mango lassis. Good level of natural tartness and not drowned out with too much sugar, tasted like kesari mango pulp rather than alphonso.
Mixed sweets (at least 8 pieces) 5.45 – We got a small box of assorted mithai (sweets) to go, rung up at $5.99/lb. Besides the typical Punjabi sweets, there was a small sign posted offering up chocolate chip cookies and Punjabi butter cookies. These two turned out to be very good and my favorites. Both rich with real butter giving them a nice crisp crumb too. The peanutty-tasting barfi was okay, the gulab jamun and chum-chum were too dry. I also liked the square of gajar halwa done quite artfully with the cooked-down carrots molded as a base topped with a compressed layer of curd cheese and finished with chopped pistachios. Mehek has homemade kulfi on the menu, and I regret not trying it.
At the cashier we helped ourselves from the brass pots of after dinner anise and other aromatic seeds and little bits of jaggery. All in all, a very worthwhile chowing expedition. Fresno ‘hounds are fortunate to have an authentic spot like this in town.
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Ninth Annual Chowing with the Hounds Picnic! October 3rd, 2009, details and registration info
Chowing with the Hounds Picnic, 2008 Report.
Recipes from the 2008 Chowing with the Hounds Picnic!
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks for pointing out alan's post back in July, totally missed that one. I've added a link on it to this thread.
Appreciate your guidance in exploring dishes that were new to us, and loved the spice levels. And yes, the saltiness of the tamarid chutney was unexpected, a beer would definitely have come in handy at that point. The paratha with fenugreek, saag, and okra stir fry (bhindyian) I thought were all outstanding. Liked the Makki Di Roti as well for sampling the variety of tasty goodies.