My mouth is burning. My eyes are watering. The kebabs on the table in front of me are glaring with their chilli soaked heat, and the curry is burning in its dish, begging me to take in just one more delicious bite. Welcome to Salateen Kebab shop on Sydney Road, northern Melbourne, serving up reliably spicy and authentic Pakistani and Afghan food to adoring locals.
Pakistan’s cuisine is generally agreed to be similar to that of India, although often spicier and overall more aromatic. Being only 66 years old, the concept of Pakistani culture is still being formed. The biggest struggle for proponents of Pakistani culture has been to differentiate it from Indian culture. For Pakistani gourmands, the nation’s roots in Islam have provided a palate of kebabs and Central Asian and Middle Eastern flavours from which to draw inspiration. Indeed, since independence in 1947 Pakistan has increasingly identified with its western and northern neighbours more than with its eastern and southern ones. Add to this the large numbers of ethnic Pathans in Pakistan, and the cuisine takes on a tantalisingly Afghan-flavoured, Arab-inspired feel, while still staying true to its rich and spicy subcontinental heritage.
Salateen Kebab is an example of the emerging pride which Pakistan takes in its cuisine. Red-hot Kashmiri chillies are added to already tangy chicken curries to create a fire-breathing delight which will knock your socks off. The pulao (vegetables and fluffy rice tossed together) is outstanding – fresh and tasty but never heavy. But the star of the show are the kebabs – chunks of spicy, zesty marinated chicken grilled to perfection. The succulent, tender lamb kebab is also worthwhile, but still comes second to the seekh kebab – minced lamb meat mixed with spices and grilled on a skewer. There’s plenty of naan to be had, and salad provides some refreshing (but fleeting) respite from the spice overload. All dishes are served on quaint, ornate plates in an informal setting.
While the main dining area is at the front of the shop, a family seating area exists at the back for some of the restaurant’s more conservative clientele. The whole place is very casual, and the friendly staff will gesture towards one of the plastic-covered tables to sit down. After finishing the meal, with your tastebuds still recovering, you pay at the counter and pick up an extra serviette or two to wipe your brow. Simply put, this is a spicefest extraordinaire, and we absolutely love it.
Cost: Mains are $15 – $25
366 Sydney Road, Coburg
Friday – Monday: 11:30am – 11:30pm