Life on the Veg: Noorani Halal Tandoori in Garden Grove

Noorani's Halal Tandoori Restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall type establishment that is pretty easy to overlook, particularly amid the clusterfuck that is Little Saigon's urban design. If you do notice, chances are you'll experience a moment of severe disorientation when you realize you're looking at a Pakistani restaurant in… well, Little Saigon.
It may look like a fish out of water, but since it has been located on the same block for about 20 years, it's most likely that the outgrowth of Garden Grove's Little Saigon from its nucleus on Bolsa Avenue was built up around it. Regardless, if you're looking for a filling and flavorful meal this place is worth definitely worth a shot.

Featured above we have the dal urad, in which yellow lentils are the main component. Noorani's style of cooking this particular dish leaves the lentils just hard enough so that they won't disintegrate into a shapeless paste. This is nice aesthetically, but I personally prefer my dal to be a bit pasty because a thicker consistency makes it easier to eat by hand. Dal urad is generously seasoned with a medley of savory spices and tastes best that way. If you're not big on spicy foods, it's probably best if you order another dish (possibly the aaloo palak) because the mild version just isn't as good. At $5.99, this dish is large in size, so if you're dining in a party of two or more, it's recommended to go splitsies on this and order second entree for variation.

Noorani's raita is an appetizer made of plain yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, tomato, and seasoned with ground cumin. The raita perfectly accompanies any spicy dish by buffering the impact of a spice explosion with its creaminess and cool temperature. Because of the thick consistency of this particular version, you don't have to order rice to properly enjoy this dish. It can be eaten alone or spooned on top of whatever entre you've ordered. Another plus is that raita aids digestion… something that can definitely come in handy after a night of South Asian cuisine.

At $2 an order, the tandoori paratha was definitely the prize of this meal. Cooked on the spot in a tandoor (clay oven), the paratha comes out fresh in all its hot, buttery glory. The inside is soft and flaky and the outside has a pleasant crunch that can only be achieved with quick exposure to extremely high temperatures. This unleavened flat bread is made with whole wheat and thus has a richer flavor and texture than naan (which typically ends up being the default bread order). If you haven't tried it yet, the tandoori paratha is definitely worth experiencing and Noorani's is especially good.

No matter how stuffed you are, there's always room for a cup of chai. Some people may be disappointed by the fact that you'll actually have to pay for your tea, but Noorani's chai makes the prospect a little more digestible. Each cup is made to order by boiling assam tea leaves for a long time in a mixture of milk and water. This creates a bolder and more aromatic flavor that works well to cleanse the palate and stave off that post-meal lethargy (AKA food coma). This kind of quality is often sacrificed with self-service tea stations, so shelling out the extra dollar really isn't such a bad deal.

As implied by their name, Noorani is especially known for its halal tandoor-cooked meats and kabobs. But with en entire section of its menu dedicated to vegetarian entrees, sides, and appetizers, this restaurant makes for a pleasant outing with non-veg company; especially if you're jonesing for the spicy deliciousness of South Asian Cooking.

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