If I ever want a real taste of India, there is only one place to go in Edinburgh: Punjabi Junction.
FUN EDINBUG FACT: In a previous life I spent some time in India. It was quite a while ago now and the memories have faded somewhat, but it does mean that I can be quite picky when it comes to “Indian” food.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but honestly, Indian food that is served in your typical British curry house is just a very rough approximation of the real thing. I’m not saying that’s bad, UK curry is wonderful and delicious and I would quite happily stuff my face with it all day, every day if I could, but it just isn’t the same. Even the likes of the Mosque Kitchen, which is really, REALLY good, is just not the same as proper Indian home cooking.
It’s really hard to describe and put my finger on it, but British curries tend to be spicier (yes, seriously), creamier and/or oiler. However, go to Punjabi Junction, and you will get the real deal.
What I love about Punjabi Junction though, is not just that their food tastes amazing, but that it is a non-profit social enterprise. Any profits it makes goes straight back into the Leith community, supporting vulnerable people and providing activities and training to those who need it.
With that in mind, the prices are very reasonable, with a thali only putting you back around £7 (if you aren’t sure what a thali is – it’s a dish made of little tasters of different curries, normally served with rich and a chapati, a wholemeal flatbread – and it’s a fantastic way to eat).
The thali comes in three different varieties: vegetarian, chicken or fish. Reading the description on the menu, it might look a little daunting – daal, curry, yoghurt, poppadom, chapati, yoghurt, rice AND salad – but honestly the servings are just nice and perfect for a proper meal that won’t overfill you.
I mentioned earlier that I am very particular about my Indian food, but I can hand-on-heart say that this is the most authentic cooking that I have tried outside the subcontinent. Everything from the soft chapatis to the rich texture of the vegetarian curry is absolutely perfect.
Mr Bug took one for the meat eaters out there and tried the chicken thali. It was exactly the same, apart from it was served up with a chicken curry instead of vegetable. Its melt in the mouth quality meant that had been slowly cooking for a long time, perhaps overnight, and its rich sauce made it a good accompaniment to the daal and rice.
If you want proper Indian food in Edinburgh, then look no further than Punjabi Junction. It is a fantastic meal, but you can also chow down knowing that you are doing some good for the local community at the same time. Who can argue with that?!
Punjabi Junction (website) can be found at the foot of Leith Walk (number 122-124) EH6 5DT. You can get there on the 7, 10, 12, 16, 25 and 49. Get off before you get to the main junction at the bottom.