I’ve lived in Los Angeles for most of my life and I can count the number of times that I have eaten really good South Asian food on only one hand. By really good South Asian cuisine, I mean food with which one does not associate the words: oily, grease ball, naan. This is not to say that I don’t occasionally enjoy Americanized South Asian food, but Los Angeles lacks the modern, high-end, authentic Desi cuisine that is abundantly available in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, and most other parts of the world. So, when I stumbled upon Paratta, a South Asian food truck, I jumped at the chance to support a business that utilized high-end ingredients and modernized Indian cuisine.
When I received my order from Paratta, a high-end halal (a way of killing animals for meat that adheres to Islamic law) South Asian restaurant, I was shocked. As I opened the bag that my food had been delivered in, I pulled out boxes decorated with bright colors and beautiful patterns. Everything about the packaging was thoughtful and colorful. Even the napkins were spectacular, with a minimalist peacock preening at the bottom. “Everything that we do is environmentally friendly, so that gave us the opportunity to customize all of the packaging,” said Asim Bharwani, the man who founded Paratta with his wife, Zara Ahsan.
Once I calmed down about the packaging, I opened the boxes and my gasps of delight grew louder. Rolls lay serenely in their perfectly sized boxes. A scrumptious samosa sat in its container. A mango lassi glistened in its jar. From all of the delectable items, I tried the Paro Roll first. One bite revealed tender pieces of chicken enveloped in traditional Desi spices, rolled in a flaky, light paratha. Accompanying the spectacular chicken was the “Paratta slaw”: red cabbage, cucumber, sweet pepper, watermelon radish, mint, and cilantro. Alongside the Paro Roll were two different chutneys, and raita, a refreshing yogurt sauce. The Paro Roll was a smashing success. The flavors blended together in perfect harmony, yet each was distinguishable from the others. After the Paro Roll, I sampled the Chandni Roll. Like the paro, the Chandni was wrapped in a 9” paratha, but the Chandni was filled with thick pieces of paneer, an Indian cheese, that had been smoked and marinated in scrumptious spices and yogurt. All of the Rolls come with the Paratta slaw, and the texture of the paneer along with the slaw made for a fun and exciting eating experience. I personally preferred the Paro because the chicken was so well cooked, but the Chandni was a delicious vegetarian offering, as well.
Next, I tried the Cheesy Jalapeño Chicken Tikka Samosa. This, I was sure, would be unbelievably greasy and cheesy. But once again, Paratta surpassed my expectations. The cheese was barely noticeable, but that was for the best, as the chicken tikka paired beautifully with the jalapeno and signature Desi spices. The samosa was one of the first that I’ve eaten in Los Angeles that was not drowning in its own oil, but had a beautiful crispy texture and warmth. Another thing I adored was the mango lassi. With so many flavors and so much heat, the mango lassi was the perfect addition to the meal; it cooled down my mouth, while also having a beautiful creamy texture and luscious mango flavor.
All in all, this meal was a much needed escape from the super-fried world that is South Asian cuisine in Los Angeles. I would highly encourage you to order from Paratta. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry, so it is important to support restaurants that are bringing something new to the table. While biting into a roll from Paratta is an other-worldly experience, the financial burden of the pandemic has pulled the restaurant back down to Earth. Bharwani says, “We’ve lost about 35% of our revenue compared to the same periods last year. And to make the wound hurt, even more, we had opened our third kitchen just before the pandemic, but had to close it very soon after, so those potential numbers aren’t even included. The pandemic really did change our business!”