Every Saturday morning, there is a culinary battle royale at a food truck in a parking lot adjacent to a gas station in the lush Lake Hills neighborhood of Bellevue. The truck is Lari Adda, run by friends Sheraz Malik and Saira Bano.
Brunch is served Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and while there are often specials, the two regular dishes on the menu are halwa puri and anday chollay ($12.95/each). They’re regional versions of the same dish — a chickpea curry served with bread. Halwa puri is the version from Bano’s native Karachi while anday chollay is from Malik’s Lahore.
“We used to compete as friends, this dish is better in Lahore and this dish is better in Karachi. There’s always debate over which city is better,” Malik said during a recent phone call with the pair.
Lahore and Karachi are two foodie cities in Pakistan — the latter more cosmopolitan, the former a historical city surrounded by farmland — and Malik says the friendly competition around regional dishes are like when people pit Chicago-style pizza against New York slices.
Am I overdramatizing this culinary battle? Probably, but I love it nonetheless. Even better, it’s impossible to crown a winner.
The anday chollay from Lahore features fiery, saucy chickpeas topped with half a boiled egg and served with a scoop of mixed pickle, slices of raw onion, a tiny chili pepper and a piece of naan. The crunchy onion gives a little sweetness while the pickle puckers in the most pleasing way to cut through all that heat. The chickpeas are plump and almost creamy.
Karachi’s halwa puri mixes in potato with the chickpeas, the sauce not quite as spicy. It’s served with a puddle of sweet semolina halwa, a scoop of mixed pickle and a light, fluffy puri bread. Bano says to eat everything — the chickpeas, halwa and pickle — all in one bite with the puri.
“It’s all about the combination of everything in one bite. Back home we do a sweet lassi with it and then you just want to knock out. You’re just dead after [eating it],” Bano said with a laugh.
Both dishes are knockouts, with chickpeas so luscious I feel as if I’ve never actually cooked a chickpea properly before.
“The only time people prefer vegetables in Pakistan is when they’re sick. If there’s anything with vegetables, we’ll shove meat into it — there’s always got to be meat accompanying a dish,” Bano said.
And while the Lahore version often is served with meat, Bano and Malik wanted to appeal to their vegetarian clientele.
Outside of Saturday mornings, Lari Adda is open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday serving up a mix of traditional Pakistani street food alongside a few fusion dishes that keep their Pakistan roots as the backbone: a sloppy joe-style chicken sandwich with Pakistani spices and an Indian-inspired paneer wrap with chutney.
The star of the dinner menu is called A Bihari Affair ($10.95), a spicy beef paratha roll that features an incredibly tender mass of beef studded with raw onion. It’s not overly large, but hefty in mass and delivers a massive amount of flavor and spice.
Because Bano and Malik work other jobs during the day, for now Lari Adda is only open for the evenings (except for Saturday brunch). However, if you’re in the neighborhood hunting for lunch, stop by the recently opened YGF MalaTang, located in the Lake Hills Village shopping complex.
Similar to the U-District location, the hot pot here is pay-by-weight ($14.95/pound). Large coolers situated just to your right as you enter the restaurant are stocked with any ingredient your heart desires to build your perfect bowl of soup.
For me that meant dried ramen-style noodles, Chinese sausage, fried tofu, mushrooms, cabbage and plenty of potato and taro. There’s another cooler for additional protein options — prawns, shaved beef, tendon, and fish. There’s also a separate cooler for skewers — short rib, chicken heart and gizzards.
After picking all toppings, bring your bowl to be weighed and check out. There are two broth options — a spicy beef and a vegetarian tomato-base. The spice level can be customized on both.
My bowl clocked in at 1.04 pounds, costing me $15.59 while my friends was .71, ringing up at $10.64.
We came in just before the rush, and our bowls were ready in under 10 minutes.
Clearly these bowls aren’t bubbling away for a while, as is customary with hot pot, but still the flavor delivered, permeating even the taro and potato slices. I got the less spicy version of the spicy beef, but it still had that wonderful nasal-clearing level of spice. I was full before my bowl was empty, making this $15 lunch incredibly satisfying.
Lari Adda: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; 1624 145th Place S.E., Bellevue; instagram.com/lariaddafoodtruck
YGF MalaTang: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 683 156th Ave. S.E., Bellevue; 425-362-6976