There has been an explosion in popularity of Indian food takeout in Philadelphia in recent years, and all routes trace back to one catalyst: Munish Narula. The Wharton MBA carrying Narula has extensive experience in the food industry, which he harnessed to open Tiffin, a mostly delivery and takeout based restaurant in Northern Liberties. The concept of Tiffin is affordable yet extremely flavorful Indian cooking, delivered to your door quickly, and with love. Tiffin, which now has two locations, on Girard Avenue, and in Mt. Airy, has added an entirely new concept to its ever expanding empire.
With the help of chef and partner Hari Nayak, Narula has developed Tiffin Etc. an Indian pizza and sandwich shop. Drawing from street foods found in several parts of India, Tiffin Etc. continues the tradition of serving fresh and exciting new flavors at a great price. Narula and Nayak both pride themselves on the innovation they have accomplished with the menu at Tiffin Etc., these foods have typically not been done before in the U.S., and especially not Philadelphia. The pizzas are all based on traditional Indian dishes, but everything had to be reformulated and tested until the right balance of sauce, cheese and toppings was achieved. Favorites like the Murg Makhani and Lal Mirch (think chicken tikka masala) and the Paneer Tikka and Hari Mirch (mint-based pesto sauce with fried cottage cheese) are perfectly executed, and baked in a traditional pizza oven on a naan-like thin crust.
As beautiful and delicious as the pizzas are, it is the kati rolls that we were interested in. These wrapped sandwiches from the streets of Calcutta have grown in popularity in cities like New York and San Francisco. Chef Nayak however, has been displeased with the versions he has found elsewhere, and worked to perfect the flavors of the fillings and the denseness of the flat bread. The Seekh Kebab is a skewer of lamb, with a crunchy skin and juicy, spiced inside while the Murg Tikka contains a chicken kebab and a sweet, aromatic chutney. A vegetarian option, Masala Aloo boasts tender, marinated potatoes and fresh herbs. All of of the kati rolls are served with pickled onion and a mint chutney inside, both which play off the flavors of the meat or vegetable filling, never overpowering them. The brilliance of Nayak’s kati rolls lies in the egg-coated flat bread, which is cooked in the tandoori oven, giving it a flaky consistency that is strong enough to hold together until the last bite.
The inventive sandwich and pizza creations at Tiffin Etc. are a welcome addition to the Philadelphia food scene. Inexpensive, quick eats are growing in popularity at a rapid rate, and with these slow-cooked Indian flavors you are getting more than you pay for. Focusing now on the opening of his third Tiffin location in Elkins Park and another in Cherry Hill, Munish Narula is looking ahead to the future, where he’d like to see several of his Indian infused pizza shops on more corners in the area. Chef Nayak is persistent about serving high end Indian street food, made from scratch with fresh ingredients and consistent quality. This winning formula could very well, spur a trend, and with Munish Narula at the helm, we wouldn’t be surprised at all.