Five dishes worth the drive to Schaumburg's Pepper & Salt | Bleader

Five dishes worth the drive to Schaumburg's Pepper & Salt

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Franky Roll, Pepper & Salt
Earlier this month Friend of the Food chain Rob Lopata decreed that the finest haleem in the land was to be had not on Devon but out among the strip malls and big boxes of Schaumburg at the Pakistani restaurant Pepper & Salt. Haleem, as he testified in the Trib, is the spicy, meaty grain porridge especially popular at Ramadan, though available year-round in some places. But Pepper & Salt is about more than just gruel: it's another piece of evidence in the case that the west and northwest suburbs are home to outlets for subcontinental eats that rival or even best anything in the city. (And the burbs are like that for all kinds of expats.)

Pepper & Salt sits in a parking lot hard against busy Schaumburg Road, a convenient location that allows it to have a busy takeout and catering business (in the same way Sam's Rasoi and Royal Malabar Catering operate). But you can eat in too, in a mirrored dining room that assures you a view of whatever anyone else is eating. That means six different biryanis, a dozen vegetable curries, 13 meat curries, kebabs, breads (including the uncommon saffron-spiced sheermal), and snackier things like samosas, chat, and the pictured Franky Roll. The last is often compared to the "Bombay burrito," aka the kati (or kathi) roll—though this blogger begs to differ. It's basically a warm roti wrapping some kind of filling (though it doesn't have the allegedly de rigueur egg wash). At Pepper & Salt, it's beef, chicken, or a tangy tamarind-slicked, chiled potato filling—more than enough for one reasonable eater's lunch. But did I stop there? Read on:

kurri, aka kadhi, Pepper & Salt

Pepper & Salt also makes this unusual curry called kurri, but more often known as kadhi. Food Chain Subcontinental Correspondent Nab Uddin calls it a comfort-food classic in his home. It contains soft, spiced chickpea-flour (besan) dumplings floating in a mild yogurt and besan-based curry. Heavy, homey stuff that'll put you right to sleep on the Kennedy if you're not careful.

haleem, Pepper & Salt

The famous haleem is unusual in that it's not an emulsified mass but a tasty mush of lentil, wheat, barley, and beef, with tiny bits of meat adding texture. It comes with the typical garnishes—ginger, cilantro, lime, and jalapeños.

qeema, Pepper and Salt

Qeema is a spiced ground-meat dish that would make an excellent sub on gringo taco night. Padma has a recipe, but so does Nigella. Pepper & Salt's will give you a hot case of gingerpuss.

nihari, Pepper & Salt

Nihari is Pakistani pot roast, as far as I'm concerned. Rich, spicy, and tender, this is a pretty standard effort. I later made nihari meatballs with the leftover gravy.

Pepper & Salt

Pepper & Salt, 2263 W. Schaumburg Rd., Schaumburg, 847-524-1401

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