Sichuan peppers meet za’atar herbs at Panampilly Nagar’s Khalli Walli
A wall congested with hand-drawn art and an Arabic phrase ‘Ahlan Wa Sahlan’ greets patrons as soon as they walk into Khalli Walli. Owner Arshad Mahmood tells us the words mean ‘Welcome’. This 42-cover restaurant on Panampilly Nagar’s 5th Cross Road—which previously housed a diner called Lil’ America—is now a multi-cuisine spot that leans heavily on Indo-Chinese, North Indian, Persian, and Malabari fare.
Within minutes of our arrival, it becomes clear that this hospitable West-Asian mindset is also reflected in the service staff’s behaviour as they patiently guide us through the specials on their menu. Everything from mutton liver fry and kallummakkaya porichathu to dumplings in hot garlic sauce and pazham nirachath, finds a place on the list here.
Silk Route delights
While gnawing on a succulent piece of chicken drumstick slathered in their housemade sweet ‘n’ sour sauce, I enquire about the recent restaurant openings in the aforementioned residential area—despite a crackdown by authorities on the number of cafes opening up here. I’m told that, the culinary scene seems to have found a foothold here once again.
“I have worked in various Ali Baba outlets in Kerala for about five years and gained insight into how this industry functions. So when I came upon this vacant 2,000 sq ft spot in such a prime location—I pounced on the opportunity,” explains 27-year-old Arshad, urging us to try their cinnamon-heavy Moon Pan fried rice covered with fluffy scrambled eggs along with spoonfuls of a piquant braised fish.
Sizing it up
After a few sips of freshly whipped pineapple juice, we try their delectable cheddar-topped chicken kebab and beef packet; a popular Northern Kerala snack in which white bread is stuffed with tawa-grilled meat and dipped in an egg wash. Our favourites are the melt-in-your-mouth mutton bheja fry (no pun intended), and the chilli oil-infused Kung-po beef which goes well with the triple Schezwan fried rice, even though some pieces of the meat are a bit on the chewy side.
Served as a portion large enough for at least two people, the rice dish features a layer of soft hakka noodles capped with a massive omelette, crisp noodles, and intensely aromatic long-grain basmati. The varied textures and flavour profiles in a single mouthful of the triple Schezwan fried rice make this a must-try. After this bonafide feast, we’re certain of one thing. This establishment’s name ‘Khalli Walli’ might literally translate to ‘Who cares?’ in Arabic, however, it’s obvious from the nourishment we were served—they do care, deeply.
Open from noon to midnight.