Incredibly Cheap Eats--Chapli Kebab
Madina Restaurant is on the Pakinstani stretch of Coney Island Avenue in Kensington (bordering Ditmas Park), Brooklyn. The sign on its awning is admirably inclusive (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food!), but it mainly focuses on hearty Punjabi-Pakistani dishes.
But my favorite item at Madina is actually a popular Pashtun dish that was brought to Pakistan by Afghans. That's the flat, spicy chapli kebab, which comes with a generous amount of salad and rings up at $4. And surprise, this is yet another dish that is named after a shoe or slipper! (See: huaraches, ciabatta--I wonder how many others we could find?)
The chapli looks a bit like a sandal, I guess, in that it's flat and oblong. The one at Madina is made from ground chicken, and although you might think that would make the kebab dry, it's actually very juicy. What I love about it, though, is the fact that its flat shape creates lots of surface area, which gets caramelized and crisp on the grill. Plus, the chicken mixture is wonderfully, assertively spiced--the kebab is liberally shot through with whole cumin and coriander seed, green chile, garlic and cilantro. Raw onions and a sprinkle of masala go on top.
Madina serves many other kinds of kebabs, and there's also a steam table loaded with the usual suspects (saag, lamb korma, mixed vegetable curry), made unusually well. Get an enormous plate of rice and three meat or veg dishes, which could serve two, for $5.99.
563 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn