Pakwan’s Chicken Tikka Masala (San Francisco, Ca)

Where do I begin? Hamanahamanahamana……….mouth salivating…..my last meal on earth! My boyfriend’s friend Russell, lived in a flat above this “hole in the wall” restaurant. Little did I know that I would eat one of the best tasting plates EVER! Now Pakwan on 16th and Guerrero has a fresh coat of paint, a nicer bathroom and a little more space. If you live in San Francisco, you have to give Pakwan a try. It is a Pakistani restaurant in the Mission district. You can take the Bart or the Muni to get there. Get off on 16th street. It is a chain in San Francisco and I feel that the one one 16th and Guerrero is in a nicer location and much safer than the one on O’Farrell. Here is the website for those who would like to peruse the menu. PAKWAN

Budget: Great food should always be affordable and this place is great for the starving student, the tourist who needs to experience culture, and the person who loves to experience flavors popping in their mouth! I believe….and it’s been awhile that I have been there, but my boyfriend and I usually spend about $25.00 for two chicken tikka masalas, two naans, one plate of basmati rice that we share and two fountain drinks. We always grab a small plate and pile it up with sliced onions to accompany our chicken tikka masala.

Food: You may want to go to the ATM before you go here. It may be a CASH ONLY spot. You pre-pay for your food and tipping is optional. The menu is pretty simple. They have vegetarian options and of course there is meat. If you are familiar with Indian or Pakistani food, they have the usuals like: chawal (rice dishes), biryani (rice dishes made with different spices), fragrant tender meat curries (lamb, chicken), meetha (desserts) and an array of other exotic dishes that are flavorful and packed with punch. I have tried Chicken Tikka Masala in various parts of the world. Unfortunately I have not been to Pakistan or India, but I will be honest when I say that I haven’t found a chicken tikka masala that tastes as good as Pakwan. When I go anywhere now, I try a chicken tikka masala dish and try to compare it to Pakwan and it never comes close. I just realized that this may be the best that I will ever try. I even had chicken tikka masala in England at Brick Lane and was terribly disappointed. This restaurant allows for you to be able to bring in your own alcohol. So you bring your alcohol in a brown bag and you can pour your own beer. This may have changed since I have been there, but it is a cool feature.

Service: You get all your own plates at a side bar area. You can get sliced onions and a plum sauce chutney in a squeeze bottle. There is also a green chutney sauce in a squeeze bottle. I prefer the plum sauce chutney. There are glass cups for you to service your own drinks from the soda fountain, so free refills. Utensils as well as napkins are also available.

Quick History: Chicken Tikka Masala is actually a British made concoction. I’m sure that it has its roots with the sad part of history regarding Imperialism AKA Colonization in parts of India. Apparently it is said to be one of Britain’s “national dishes” because it is so loved by the British. I don’t blame them. People say that England has bland food (I disagree) which may be the reason as to why it is so loved in England. The texture of Chicken Tikka Masala is usually in the form of a curry. It is a creamy reddish/orange curry. The color of the curry varies depending on how the restaurant or cook prepares it. I have seen bright red chicken tikka and I have seen many orange chicken tikka masalas (which I prefer) The flavors that dance in the curry are a combination of spices such as cumin, pepper, lemon, tomatoes, yogurt, ginger, paprika, butter or ghee. There are so many variations on it! I tried to cook this and it was disastrous. I ended up having to go to a taco shop for dinner. Indian food takes skill and patience. Also, when cooking Indian food, you usually cook large amounts of it because spices are expensive and sometimes hard to come by. Hence, Indian buffets are what you tend to see all the time because the preparation and cooking takes such a long time!

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