Calgary has a wealth of South Asian restaurants that are often overlooked in spite of their diverse offerings. From region to region, city to city, South Asian food expands beyond homogenized Western notions of “Indian food,” and the differences in these cuisines lend to their unique tastes. The key to navigating most of these restaurants is a desire to try something out of your comfort zone, and a guide from a South Asian perspective couldn’t make it any easier. Here are a few restaurants that span wide across a variety of South Asian cultures and cuisines, providing a true taste of “home” without traversing continents.
This cozy, family-run restaurant offers a mix of typical Pakistani household meals as well as items that are popular takeout foods in Pakistan. You can order at the counter and be served at your table or phone ahead and pick your order up.
Signature dish: Chillies’ Beef Haleem ticks all the boxes of a great haleem. Its texture is neither too thick or thin, it’s spicy but not overly so, and it comes with all the fixin’s you’d have at home including fresh-cut ginger, crispy fried onions, green chillies and lemon to drizzle over top.
What else you should order: The Desi Bun Kebab with Egg is a popular Pakistani street food — a South Asian take on the Western burger.
5020 17 Ave. S.E., 403-454-7200, chilliescalgary.com
This restaurant is popular with the Pakistani community in Calgary, and for good reason. It is known for its variety of kebabs, each cooked and spiced so well you can’t go wrong with any of them. Normally, there is plenty of seating in the two-floor restaurant and table service is offered, but currently it’s best to order ahead via phone and pick-up.
Signature dish: Faisal Kabab Hut’s Beef Seekh Kabab is reminiscent of what you’d get at local kebab shops in Pakistan. They are smoky, spicy and pair perfectly with naan for a generously sized first course.
What else you should order: The Afghani Tikka offers juicy chicken pieces marinated with yogurt and is a milder alternative for the spice-shy.
4120 47 St. N.E., 403-590-7101, faisalkababhut.com
While Iran is technically in West Asia, House of Kabob is too good to leave off this list. This restaurant disguised as a house on Edmonton Trail is distinguished by its Farsi and English sign on the exterior and a wall of photos featuring the owner with celebrities inside. It offers appetizing Irani meat and rice dishes that are generously portioned and hard to come by in Calgary. Usually, it is best to order at the counter and choose a table but House of Kabob is currently only offering takeout at the rear of the restaurant.
Signature dish: House of Kabob’s Bakhteyari has two skewers of saffron-infused grilled meat, one chicken breast and one beef tenderloin, and is served with fluffy basmati rice. The dish encapsulates how much care goes into the cooking here.
What else you should order: The Mirza Ghasemi is a roasted eggplant dip with a smoky and tangy flavour that’s so delicious it should be ordered twice.
1115 Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-277-7151, houseofkabob.ca
A hidden gem that offers both a sweet shop and a restaurant, La Jawab serves Indian and Hakka cuisines and an extensive array of Indian sweets and curries. There is limited dine-in, and orders can be made over the phone for takeout. If you’ve never had Indian sweets before, research is recommended for the sweet shop as there are lots to choose from.
Signature dish: La Jawab’s Kashmiri Rogan Josh Goat Curry has a rich, savoury masala with tender pieces of goat. It is slightly spicy and best enjoyed with Tandoori Roti.
What else you should order: The Pahadi Fish is flaky, flavourful and comes with a side of raita. At the sweet shop, the Pistachio Barfi is the ideal one-bite dessert without being sickly sweet.
900, 5075 Falconridge Blvd. N.E., 403-264-3544, trylajawab.com
Rasoi is a contemporary restaurant that serves pan-Indian and Hakka cuisine with a lengthy menu of offerings. Its dishes are best enjoyed as a group to get the full experience of all the meats, spices and breads served here. Rasoi offers full table service, online and phone ordering, and pick-up and delivery.
Signature dish: Rasoi’s Chicken Madras boasts a very flavourful, relatively spicy masala with chicken that is best served with extra chillies for a true South Indian experience. Alternatively, with the Pudina Lacha Parantha, a layered mint bread.
What else you should order: The Gobhi Manchurian is a unique cauliflower dish served with a sweet and spicy gravy, ideal for those that have never tried Hakka cuisine before.
7171 80 Ave. N.E., 403-452-7765, apnerasoi.ca
This eatery is a go-to favourite for any samosa lover and, as the name suggests, offers them in high quantities without compromising quality. This family business serves large, Punjabi-style samosas that are crispy on the outside with soft fillings in the middle. It offers takeout and phone orders, and the Beacon Hill location has dine-in.
Signature dish: The Vegetable Samosas at Samosa Factory are worthy even of a carnivore’s attention; the potatoes are well seasoned and the pastry is filling without being heavy.
What else you should order: The Papri Chaat is a street food classic, offered here with chickpea curry, yogurt, tamarind and mint to create a sweet, tangy and spiced dish on a bed of crispy wafers.
135, 55 Westwinds Cres. N.E. and 105, 11652 Sarcee Tr. N.W., 403-568-1447, samosafactory.ca
Located in an unassuming strip mall, if you blink, you might miss Zaika Biryani House’s pink and yellow sign. Zaika is a friendly mom-and-pop shop that serves a variety of homemade Pakistani family favourites. It’s best to order ahead and pick-up or order at the till and pick a spot to sit as Zaika is offering limited seating at this time.
Signature dish: The Chicken Biryani at Zaika is particularly distinctive due to its soft, on-the-bone chicken with perfectly cooked long-grain rice — crucial features of biryani that are often hard to achieve.
What else you should order: The Mutton Karhai offers a tasty, spicy masala and tender mutton pieces, best served with fresh naan.
15, 3220 5 Ave. N.E., 403-457-2525, zaikabiryanihouse.com