In the last of Blog Preston’s series on eateries for vegans, my daughter Ground Zero and I visited RK Dining in Plungington Road.Advertisement
The premises are divided into two halves. The left side is given to the booming takeaway business and the right side has seating for customers who would prefer to eat in, so we found a table and sat down to look at the menu.
The first thing of note is how extensive the menu is, especially as everything is vegetarian or vegan. Dishes are divided into groups such as Street Food, Indo-Chinese, and Traditional Dishes.
Ground Zero ordered her favourite, Pani Puri at £4. Puri is a street snack that consists of a fragile, hollow pastry shell, in this case about the size and shape of a squashed ping pong ball. It’s fried until crispy, then stuffed with a combination or variation of tamarind chutney, chaat masala, potatoes, onions, chillies, and chickpeas. It’s served with a bowl of cold, spiced water, so when you’re ready to eat one you dip it in the Pani water so that it fills up like a tiny pond.
There’s a knack to eating Pani Puri. I’m going to digress with a story of mild, comparable peril, but I get back to the food four paragraphs further down so feel free to meet me there.
My daughter went to a Catholic primary school, and we had to make something called a Christingle. I’d never heard of or seen one before, and this was before Google, so I asked one of the more competent mothers.
She told me that it’s an orange stuck with four toothpicks with sweets skewered on them around the middle. It also has a candle on the top.
I didn’t have any sweets or toothpicks, but I did have a tin of Cadbury Heroes and some skewers so I improvised, stabbed a birthday candle on top and sent it off to school.
Some weeks later it was returned to me at a Christingle service. The teacher put it into my hand with a look of weary disappointment and lit the candle, which started dripping hot wax onto my hand. Fortunately, I wasn’t burned because the mouldy, rotten orange innards and outards had already covered my hand and arm in a stinky hazmat glove. An hour, I had to sit like that.
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If you leave a Pani Puri too long post-submersion it will turn into an Armageddon of mush and juice dripping off your elbow that can only be equalled by an hour with a rotten orange. Your chickpeas will plop into your Pani water which will immediately go for your eyes and really give you something to cry about. Once you’ve dipped it, do not hesitate or all will be lost.
Not ordering them isn’t an option – the sweet, sour, salt, and spice flavours combined with the different textures and temperatures is too shockingly good. Just… roll your sleeves up and be careful.
On the flip side, if you’re eating with a talker you will have a decent interval of blessed silence because the only way to eat them without disaster is to put the whole thing in your mouth at once and work out how to chew it after.
I had a less threatening Thali, which consisted of two curries of my choice, a starter, rice, three rotis and Gujarati Dahl at £7. We also ordered a portion of masala chips to share.
For my starter I went for a coriander petish, which is a round ball of potato and coriander, rolled in flour and deep fried. It was tasty but heavy, so if you’re not a big eater you might be better going for something like a spring roll.
For the mains I had aubergine and chickpea curry, Ringan Aloo, and Gobi Manchurian (with a £1 supplement), which is an Indo-Chinese dish of balls formed from spiced carrot, cabbage and cauliflower, fried and served in a soy-based sauce. I visit RK Dining every time I’m in the area, and have tried most of the curries. My two favourites are Chilli Paneer, which is cubes of cheese in a tangy sauce, and the Gobi Manchurian.
If you’re feeding a die-hard meat eater who turns into a toddler when faced with a vegetable but who loves spicy food, this is the one to sneak on to their plate. After checking for allergies. I fed it in takeaway form to a particularly sulky one and he ate it all because he had no idea it was made entirely of vegetables. That doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in flavour, just that the big hitters of soy sauce, garlic, chilli and vinegar turn the veggie flavours into sad little ghosts.
The Ringan Aloo didn’t have as much heat as the other curry so I ate it first before the Manchurian kicked my tongue’s teeth in. It was delicious, although I felt some guilt eating it as this dish contained a lot of oil. It isn’t the best one for calorie counters.
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The rotis and pilau rice were effortlessly perfect, and the little bowl of Gujarati Dahl was perfect to dip into with both. The masala chips were string fries covered in a sweet and sour type sauce and could be addictive, although we ended up leaving some of them because we were both full. In fact, we asked for cartons to take home what we couldn’t eat and got another big meal out of it.
This leads me to the second wonderful thing about Plungington’s RK Dining. Each member of staff is polite, helpful, friendly and will happily give customers and diners advice or information about the food. During my visit the waiter came to the table four times to cheerfully ask if we were ready to order, despite how frustrating it must have been. It took me a lot longer than usual because I was trying to figure out the best selection of dishes to give the most comprehensive review, and the choice was massive.
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There was a couple at a table behind us who were clearly out of their comfort zone and hadn’t eaten Indian food before. The waiter talked them through the menu and recommended everything he thought might give them the best introduction, returning for their feedback between dishes. Nothing was too much trouble and he was unflappably happy. As I’ve been to RK Dining many times over the years, I can say that this is a constant from the staff, resulting in a permanently upbeat and welcoming atmosphere inside.
The third reason why RK Dining is in my personal top ten places to eat in Preston is that everything can be bought to takeaway. Whenever I go there I restock my freezer with fabulous, authentic food that, despite being a moderately decent cook, I could never replicate myself. They now also deliver, so anyone wanting an authentic feast, be they vegan, vegetarian or carnivore should give RK Dining a try.
(I ate the Cadbury Heroes, but they were still in their wrappers so I could mostly not taste the mouldy orange.)
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