In Malacca, you must try the tandoori chicken at Pak Putra, an Indian tandoori and curry house set in a residential neighborhood not far from the tourist center. It is a pleasant little walk, especially as the sun starts to go down: you will be joined by others.
Pak Putra is a small place where you can sit outside and drink watermelon juice: swarthy, rather handsome tandoori men slapping bread and chicken onto the walls of incendiary hot ovens, which resemble large clay jars.
I paid a princely 7 Malaysian Ringgit for my chicken, which is roughly $2.30. It was delicious: mint and chili chutney, lots of spices, very tender. (I might even chance white meat here—usually an unpardonable sin).
I sat in a little blue plastic chair and watched Malay people roll up to sample the wares: the owners walked through the crowd slowly waving menus. They walked up from the side-streets near the restaurant and emerged from gleaming cars: some tourists had also got in on the act, slurping down lime juice and watching the men ceaselessly roll out lumps of naan dough.
Like much of Malacca, Pak Putra is perhaps best defined by its geniality: this slow-moving tourist town appears to have retained quite a lot of its old charm, in tandem with the glitzy mega-malls and theme park developments. People here are happy to talk, to hang out, to shoot the breeze: perhaps most importantly, Malaccans are deadly serious about properly feeding you if you take the time to visit.
The garlic naan held up to the expectations one might develop while watching it cook in the great glowing clay jars outside the seating area. It tasted rather like the best garlic bread I’d ever had, simultaneously smoky, buttery, and infused with a sharp, aromatic flavor. It was served with a spicy, electric-orange daal, which was silently refilled whenever I ate more than one or two bites.
I ordered the veggie tawa as well—usually something of an afterthought—and it was quite nice. A bit sweeter than I might anticipate, but a pleasingly light flavor, not laden with butter.
When I got up to photograph the tandoori ovens, the tandoori men swiftly moved into show-man mood, posing for me, slapping out naan dough with exceptional force, and flashing winning smiles for the lens. It is mesmerizing to watch a tandoor oven being worked: it must be a lot harder to do it all day, when you are losing pounds and pounds of sweat on the job.
Pak Putra also has a delightfully aggressive take away policy.
To illustrate: I couldn’t finish my naan, and the concerned looking owner came over when I asked for the bill, and said “Oh, you don’t like the bread?”
I made the universal I’m-Full sign. “It was delicious, but I couldn’t finish it,” I replied. I felt distinctly bad about this. The naan truly deserved to be eaten. Would I be guilted over this? Would I lie in bed feeling terrible about my inability to consume a massive portion of naan, therefore insulting both the chef and legions of starving children everywhere?
“We will wrap it up,” he said. “No problem!”
A boy was deployed to wrap the naan up, and unsurprisingly, it was accompanied by a small bag of that electric orange daal.
I stuck it in my backpack and promptly forgot about it until I got back to my hotel room hours later, when I pulled it out and immediately assaulted my small hotel room with the delightful scent freshly made garlic naan.
I have snacked on it a bit: I am not a bread-eater, really, but for some things one makes an exception.