Before Charleston’s Upper King Street food hall Workshop shuttered earlier this year, Maryam Ghaznavi and Raheel Gauba’s masala fries and chicken pakora drew impressive crowds eager to check out the city’s first Pakistani restaurant.
While the city has its share of Indian eateries, from casual lunch buffets to trendy, upscale offerings, Ma’am Saab’s residency at Workshop was the first time much of the Holy City became acquainted with Pakistani food. Most akin to Northern Indian regional cuisine, the food of Pakistan is more meat-focused (though you won’t often find pork, as the country is majority Muslim). Dishes also emphasize aromatic spices like turmeric and cardamom more heavily than their Indian counterparts. While many of the dishes, like butter chicken and tikka masala, are familiar to Indian food fans, the Pakistani versions have a more subtle and slightly sweeter flavor.
With a dedicated Ma’am Saab brick-and-mortar on the horizon downtown, the duo expanded their offerings with Malika, a new street food-centric spot in Mount Pleasant. One of the vibrant walls features a larger-than-life mural of a Pakistani movie star under the restaurant’s name, Malika, the Urdu word for “queen.” Another wall is adorned with portraits by a Pakistani photographer.
What to Eat and Drink at Malika
Likewise, the menu is all about honoring the street food of Pakistan. Fare ranges from a selection of naan wraps stuffed with chicken tikka or aloo tikki—soft, lightly fried potato patties packed with fragrant spices—and warming bowls topped with everything from chicken and beef to paneer, chickpeas, and eggplant. But before you fill up on fragrant basmati rice and masala curry sauce, start with the chaat papri. This cool combination of chickpeas and potatoes, yogurt, and tamarind and mint chutney, and fried crisps, is an explosion of flavor and texture in every bite.
Among the counter-service restaurant’s unique highlights, the focus on desi chai stands out. Chai is much more than a trendy fall coffee shop order in Pakistan—the combination of milk, chai tea, and spices like cardamom and ginger is a part of everyday life, often enjoyed at the beginning or end of a meal. At Malika, it’s offered hot, iced, or in a four-serving kettle to enjoy with your dining companions.
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Julia Miller