We’ve all been there. You’re out and about and planning to grab a quick bite of lunch between activities and errands. Because of detours and dallying, the number of ‘quick bite’ options dwindles as the lunch window closes and suddenly you’re in a dining no man’s land. Cafes have shut, sold out or are not offering food, your hunger is increasing and you’re nowhere near home. Have I got a place for you…
Mirchh Masala Chaat Court is a cafe specialising in Indian vegetarian street food or chaat. It sits above an Indian grocers of the same name and is open every day from 9am to 9pm except Wednesdays. Perfect for anyone wanting a meal outside the usual 12 – 2pm window. Typically served from street stalls or carts, in the Gabba the carts have been replaced by a simple cafeteria style set up with plain laminex tables and some snazzy chairs they obviously got a good deal on. Head towards the counter, order from the picture menu on the wall and you’ll be given a buzzer to collect your meal when it’s ready. The server was very friendly and asked if we’d visited before. When we said no, he helpfully pointed out the popular dishes and specialities they were known for. I had read about the panipuri in a couple of reviews so we ordered half a dozen of the Chutney Panipuri ($6.99) and a Thali plate ($15.99). After a very short wait, we collected our tray with a good looking assortment of dishes.
I’ve always been intrigued by panipuri, which are small rounds of dough cooked in hot oil so they puff up. The light airy balls are then filled with a mixture of chutney, onion, potato and other delicious goodies and strewn with sev (crunchy fried chickpea noodles). What intrigues me is the concept of something crisp being filled with a something moist. Doesn’t the filling make the crisp pastry, soft? Yes and no. Because these are cooked and filled fresh, they still retain plenty of crispness, particularly in the upper half on the pastry puff. Stuffed with a spicy, tangy filling, the best way to eat a panipuri is to pop the whole thing into your mouth and crunch down on the delicious morsel. Lip smacking!
I had read that the dishes were spiced for Indian palates and was a little concerned about just how spicy that may be. When we ordered, we were asked if we wanted the dishes mild or spicy so we opted for mild. Mild was still spicy enough to put a tingle on the lips and clear the sinuses without blowing our heads off. The thali plate consisted of three curries (chole masala, dahl, paneer). With the accompanying rice, yoghurt, pickle and roti, this was more than enough for the two of us for a late lunch. The chole (chickpea) masala had also been recommended by a number of reviewers are well as our server so I was glad to see it included on the plate. The lonely gulab jamon that came with the thali plate and a shared mango lassi ($4) rounded out the meal on a sweet note. This is no frills dining. The panipuris come on a paper plate and the thali plate is made of plastic. At the end of your meal, it is appreciated if you take your tray to the collection area and place your rubbish in the bin.
Whilst we were enjoying our meal, there was a stream of visitors popping up from the grocery shop for takeaway as well as taxi drivers dropping in at the end of their shift. The largely Indian clientele is an indication that the food served at Mirch Masala is authentic and enjoyed by the local community. Once again I have read reviews of people complaining that the meals are too expensive so once again I feel compelled to ask when they actually last enjoyed a meal for two for less than $25? This is not 1994, it’s 2014. $16 for a curry and accompaniments is good value and much more enjoyable to eat than a burger and chips in a shopping centre food court.
You can readily fit in a visit to Mirch Masala when you go to forage in the Balaclava St delis. Make your purchases of exotic ingredients and then head on over for tiffin. Mirch Masala is 100% vegetarian and is also vegan friendly. Cash only. Namaste.
Mirchh Masala Chaat Court
3/110 Logan Rd (cnr Lotus St)
Woolloongabba Qld 4102