Chinese Cuisine, Pakistani Style
This isn’t a review. If you want a review you should go here.
This is a salute to bravery, both on the side of restaurateur and restaurant goer.
This is a call to arms, in defense of that bravery.
This is a call to action for you to be brave yourself.
There are regional foods I have found around the Capital District that I have not experienced elsewhere. The foot-long fish fry sandwich. The miniature hot-dog with meat sauce. I did try a Neba from Mr. Subb but I really don’t think that counts.
Just about the last thing I expected to find in the Albany area was a traditional style of Pakistani food that had never even popped up on my radar.
And while on one level I’m not crazy about the cuisine, on another I find it very exciting.
Chinese cuisine Pakistani style is still a bastardization of Chinese dishes. Sweet and sour chicken, sesame chicken, and chicken with broccoli all as one might expect from any other Chinese restaurant in the Northeast. They are sweet and heavy and gloppy. Except in this case, there are the Pakistani seasonings thrown in as well, such as fenugreek.
So it makes me reflect on how I feel about other corrupted dishes with ethnic flair. There is the jerk burrito at Bombers, no thank you. Then there is the corned beef and cabbage quesadilla at Jose Malone’s, but I think I’ll pass.
But as misguided as it sounds, Pakistani-style Chinese food is not some mangled attempt at fusion. It is an entrenched style of cooking from the region. If you believe this random site, Chinese food is the “second most popular food” in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Presumably the first is Pakistani food, which, of course, they would just call food.
People who have left their native country and find themselves in Albany come here because they miss this style of cooking from their homeland. And that in itself warrants a visit to this restaurant.
But there is something more important going on here.
By putting this Pakistani-style Chinese food on the menu, this restaurant is doing something that I have found lacking at other ethnic restaurants in the region. They are cooking for themselves, and not just for the general population of Albany.
And you can see this in other ways.
For example, all of the meat on the menu is Halal. Your feelings may differ, but this is big for me. While it’s not quite the same as happy meat, as conventionally raised animals can still be considered Halal, it takes care of the issues raised for me regarding the processing of animal carcasses. Let’s just leave it at that.
The benefits of a restaurant that is cooking for itself is that one can experience brand new things. Like Kashmiri pink tea. Which is available in their complementary tea corner. And plenty of goat dishes on the more traditional side of the menu.
Who would ever suspect all of this located inside a nondescript, generically named restaurant, inside the building of what used to be a disgusting Thai restaurant at the southern end of Wolf Road?
I will be going back to try more Chinese dishes and the more traditional Pakistani ones as well. You should go too. Maybe you will not like it. Perhaps you find it difficult to actually bring yourself to utter the words “Broccoli Chicken” in a Pakistani restaurant. I did.
But be brave. Get a bit out of the comfort zone. Maybe you will like it. But either way, at least you will be able to tell your friends in Austin that your Pakistani-style Chinese food did not come from a chain.