It’s been more than six years since I moved to southern California and it’s been almost as long since I first heard of Noorani and bookmarked it for a visit. So when my friend asked me to come along to lunch with her and some other friends for Pakistani food, I asked where (Noorani was the only place I knew) and when she said Noorani, I was eager and excited to finally pay them a visit.
I am glad I didn’t embark on this adventure on my own because I wouldn’t have known what to order. I’ve never had Pakistani cuisine before and although Indian food is similar, there are definitely huge differences when you are from the area as opposed to someone like me who is observing from the outside.
First of all, most Pakistanis are Muslim so no pork is used here. Unlike Indian cuisine, you will find beef on the menu, but everything is ‘halal‘ (a method of slaughtering similar to how Jews slaughter their meat — ‘kosher‘). Proteins such as lamb, goat, beef and chicken dominate the menu, there is also fish and shrimp and various vegetarian options as well.
We left the ordering to the expert, a new-found friend and fellow food lover. She deftly went through the menu and picked out a variety of things for us to try. Before the food arrived a plate of conndiments is given with sliced onions, jalapenos and lettuce. There is also a jar of yogurt sauce.
Tandoori Mix Plate ($13.95) consists of tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, seekh kabob (ground beef made into a log), bihiri kabob (spiced tender beef), all cooked in the tandoor, or a clay oven, and served on a sizzling platter topped with onions, red and green peppers and chopped jalapenos with lemon wedges.
I really enjoyed the Chicken Qurma ($6.99) — bone in chicken pieces (white meat available) bathed in a mild tomato based curry sauce. What I love about it is that there is no cream at all, making it less heavy and not as harsh on my lactose-intolerant stomach.
If you are a fan of biryani, the one here is rather flavorful. Lamb Biryani ($9.99) is an aromatic dish of basmati rice flavored with spices and steamed with lamb pieces. If you don’t want lamb, there are many varieties to choose from including chicken, fish, beef or even, vegetable.
I absolutely loved the Bhindi ($6.99), sliced okra cooked with onions, chili, tomatoes and spices. In fact, I could have eaten this with some rice and called it a day it was THAT delicious.
Fish Karahi ($9.99) wasn’t my favorite. I’m not sure what sort of fish was used but it had a muddy, fishy taste. The accompanying sauce was on the mild side which wasn’t enough to balance out the fish’s pungent aromas.
The same goes for Haleem ($7.99) which I googled and the explanation was a stew of beef, lentils and wheat pounded into a paste. It was on the bland side and wasn’t texturally pleasing to me.
Besides rice, breads are also traditionally eaten with the meal. Plain Naan ($1) or Paratha ($2) accompany without overpowering. I prefer the latter even though it is on the greasy side, but it is flaky and crispy.
If you like Indian cuisine you will like Noorani, the flavors are similar but without the usual creamy richness of northern Indian cuisine which is typically served in restaurants in southern California.
Noorani Halal Restaurant
14178 Brookhurst Street
Garden Grove, CA 92843