A sentiment shared, I am sure, by many of you is simple: “God I love Indian food”. There really is nothing like in our Mediterranean and Western diets, a fact that makes this food even more delicious and versatile. Let’s not forget that India’s a huge country with an incredibly dense and ancient culture steeped in local traditions whose cuisine goes beyond the traditional chicken korma and a pint. Slowly us Maltese are falling in love with some of the simplest and most basic Indian foods, with one in particular: Naan bread. It’s a fantastically stretchy, doughy, dense, chewy, refreshing, and delicious way to ladle rice and sauce into your mouth, but Tuk Tuk at Carob Tree has transformed the humble Naan from a tool to a whole meal in itself. Today I present to you the Tuk Tuk Naanwich!
The Tuk Tuk at Carob Tree Naanwich: what’s it like?
The Naanwich is definitely an interesting thing to behold. It’s larger and more cumbersome than a stuffed pita, but it’s open – unlike a burrito or a wrap. It’s essentially a giant Indian taco that’s split in two and served with a refreshing side of slaw and chips. However, as unusual as this may be it’s not really that much of a curveball. Naan is traditionally used as a sort of utensil to eat Indian food anyway, used to ladle food into one’s mouth then eaten whole.
And in practice, as a sandwich, it works. My initial thought while ordering this was that it would be a small, refreshing snack rather than a full meal however it’s genuinely filling. The Naanwich in question here is filled with fennel spiced crunchy pieces of boneless chicken breast, slaw, kachumber & mango raita. The combination is, at first bite, both quite filling and really refreshing. The chicken is wonderfully seasoned and cooked and, while it does have some crunch to it, isn’t overly crispy or dry. Its softness complements the crispy greens in the slaw well, and the mango raita offers just enough sweetness to be noticeable, but not so much to make you wonder if you’re eating a dessert.
Also notable with this meal is the location itself. I didn’t order the Naanwich from Tuk Tuk’s 174, Merchant Street restaurant in Valletta but from Carob Tree in Spinola Bay, St Julians. Carob Tree is an interesting development in the Maltese food scene, bringing food malls back from the dead in a big way.
You’d think to compare Carob Tree to Is-Suq Tal-Belt in Valletta, but while they’re both conceptually the same the experiences couldn’t be further apart. Where Is-Suq is a mass market, casual affair Carob Tree is higher class, more refined. Is-Suq (as the name implies) is taking the food market approach to food malls, whereas Carob Tree is more of a restaurant with multiple kitchens. On the night I went there was live jazz being played and the ambience was quiet, warm, and a little more refined than you’d expect from a food court.
I still, personally, prefer restaurants over food malls. A restaurant’s closed space means the experience is that much more intense – for better or for worse, and Tuk Tuk’s experience in Valletta is warm, cosy, and definitely a soon to be staple of my nights out in the city.
Disclaimer: this food was paid for in full by the writer and no commission or agreement was reached with the restaurant or locations featured in this article.