Northern Indian cuisine is the subcontinent’s posh nosh: it’s luxuriant and – for all but the most hardened of ascetics – can be painfully deceptive. It’s one of those cuisines that is so delicious that gorging is the only viable consumption strategy. The flip side, of course, is that its deliciousness obscures the unwelcome reality that ghee always takes a little time to yield its miasmatic effect. You know when it does, for any position other than supine becomes a feat.
The Punjab is, in my view, the diamond in the crown of northern Indian food. It is a region known for its wheat and dairy production (think naan, paratha, and paneer – all good), and its reliance on the tandoor for cooking and baking. Combined, this is the recipe for some serious culinary magic. I mean, serious culinary magic.
I have been patronising Jaggi’s for nearly two years now. It’s a solid Punjabi performer, although the taste of the dishes is liable to change between visits, and the acoustics are notoriously bad. The pricing is also frustratingly opaque – you choose what you want, and then the server will conjure up a figure that you pay. Said figure always seems fair (everything below cost SGD 25.20), but seems a little subjective nonetheless.
On the upside, Jaggi’s always boasts a good selection of vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) dishes, it sells booze (beer, and some Indian wines!), and the server bears an uncanny resemblance to Freddie Mercury (same mouth, same teeth, no ‘tache). It’s a good place to drag los amigos along to. Just try not to knock your beer off the table and enforce the yobbish ang mo stereotype (speaking from experience here).
Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine
34-36 Race Course Road
Open 11:30-15:00 & 17:30-22:30 Monday-Thursday; 11:30-15:30 & 17:30-22:45 Friday; 11:00-16:00 & 17:30-22:45 Saturday-Sunday (and Public Holidays… Seriously!)
Two helpings of this stuff were needed – it was that good. Compared to the other, rather desultory starch options, the jeera rice shone like a rice-shaped star. The ingredients were few and simple – cumin (jeera means “cumin” in Hindi), green peas, onion, and some chopped coriander – but effective. Sweet and fragrant and delicious.
Rather disappointing. The naan was a good shape, but the flavours were flat (read: non-existent). It was also too thin, and the upper layer lacked crispiness. A bit like chewing on cardboard, if y’know what I mean.
Funnily enough, this was my first time trying aloo kulcha (aloo is “potato”, kulcha is a type of leavened bread), and I was very much looking forward to it. It smelt delicious when it was brought out – rich and buttery, with little smears of ghee on top. It also had a nicely charred colour, and was suitably dense. Unfortunately the taste was, like the naan, very disappointing. Whilst it was visibly stuffed with potato, chopped coriander and coriander seeds, the flavours lacked depth and seemed to have been diluted by the heavy use of ghee. Whilst the coriander added some orangey notes, overall it was flat and lifeless.
Visually appealing, with large chunks of paneer and green peppers in a rich red curry sauce (makhani means “with butter”, and usually refers to a creamy curry sauce). The flavours were strong and peppery – the use of green peppers, black peppers, and chilli peppers was noticeable – but nicely balanced by the sourness of the tomato base. Whilst the chunks of paneer were of a good size, they were quite dry and crumbly, and almost fibrous to the bite.
I’m a a big fan of palak paneer, but this one paled in comparison to that at M.B.S. on Rowell Road. It was bitter to the taste, and I felt that the palak (“spinach”) would have benefitted from being cooked for a little longer. Rather than providing a fragrant lift to the dish, the coriander made everything taste a little soapy and rancid. The chemistry behind this taste association is interesting, and can, amongst other things, be a function of genetic predisposition (read this article for more info). I get this association quite often with coriander-infused curries, but never when coriander is used as garnish. Fascinating, I know.
A Punjabi staple, this, along with the jeera rice, was one of the highlights of the meal. Dhal makhani uses black lentils (urad) instead of the more common red lentils (masoor), which, I think, gives it a deeper and more savoury taste. This one was of a good thickness, and was also nicely spiced. In hindsight, just this and the jeera rice alone would have made a very satisfying meal.
The picture does not lie – this was a mushy, coagulated mess of a channa masala. It was also served cold. The flavours were bold and punchy, but it turned out to be quite difficult to swallow (literally). A classic example of how erratic Jaggi’s can be – the last time I had this (March 2014), it was in a spicy curry sauce that, if I remember correctly, was borderline oily. Talk about polar opposites!
The laddu was of a generous size, and had a nicely subtle sweetness to it. The use of almond was judicious, and created a marzipan-like flavour. After the disappointments that preceded it, this provided a welcome lift at the end of the meal.
Kala jamun are basically deep-fried gulab jamun with a dairy-flavoured filling. Like an Indian eclair, just a bit more oily! They are usually painfully delicious, and this one was no exception. The khoya (an Indian dairy product – the whitish filling in the picture) added a subtle sourness that helped moderate the sweetness a little. It was very tasty, but lacked cardamon flavour, which is, in my mind, the secret to a jolly good jam’.
A good six months or so have elapsed since my last visit to Jaggi’s, and I fear that the quality of their food may be slipping. It certainly isn’t what it was when I first started eating here. Nonetheless, it’s reasonably priced (especially compared to most of the other restaurants along Race Course Road), and has a nice vibe to it. If for nothing else, go for dessert.