Cheap eats

Samosas and more

(Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe)
By Bella English
Globe Staff / July 28, 2010

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Seema’s isn’t exactly on the beaten trail. It’s located in a small strip mall on Route 1 in Norwood. The sign doesn’t mention that it’s Pakistani food; the only reason we sought it out is that the consul general to Pakistan for New England told us it’s his favorite place.

It’s easy to see why, from the savory samosas that start us off to the sweet rus malai that concludes a wonderfully tasty and aromatic dinner. The 40-seat halal restaurant was opened in March by Muhaiminah Mobeen, who comes from Lahore in the Punjab region of Pakistan, on the Indian border. Mobeen came to the US when her husband, a doctor, took a high-tech job here. Though you might think that Pakistani food is the same as Indian — and there are similarities — it’s closer to Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, says Mobeen.

“We eat more meat than they do in India, and our food is hotter,’’ she says. And there aren’t as many sauces. Spinach pakora ($3.99) is a plate full of delicious deep-fried spinach leaves, dipped in the lightest split pea flour batter. The dish has great crunch and the scatter of red pepper flakes is offset by cooling cilantro and mint chutney. A nice contrast to the crispy appetizer are vegetable samosas ($4.50), flaky pastry pockets stuffed with a mash of potatoes and onions. They come with a zingy tamarind chutney.

Nan ($2.50) is baked in a clay oven, the bread puffy and great for soaking up the various chutneys that appear at our table, particularly the mango. We also enjoy qeema nan ($7.50), stuffed with ground meat.

A popular Punjab specialty is biryani chicken ($10.99, pictured), a colorful rice dish with whole cardamom pods and cloves amid the grains and tender pieces of poultry. Another winner is boneless chicken breast ($10.99), a bland name for a flavorful dish in which chicken is marinated in yogurt and masala spices such as thyme and coriander, then baked in the tandoor.

Several kebabs are offered here. We like the chicken ($9); but beef bihari kebabs ($11.99) are salty and tough.

Dessert is an adventure. Gajar ka halwa ($3.50) is a bright pink, sweet dish of shredded carrots cooked with sugar, cardamom, and milk. Rus malai ($3.99) is a refreshing dessert of ricotta “islands’’ floating in a cold, cardamom-infused milk. You could prolong dessert by ordering a lassi, or shake, but Mobeen also makes all sorts of interesting teas.

There’s a lonely looking sitar propped up in a corner. Mobeen notes that there’s a sitar player every weekend, but a string is broken and on order from Pakistan. We’d like to come back for that — and another round of spinach pakoras.

SEEMA’S 1275 Boston Providence Highway (Route 1), Norwood, 781-688-0165. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Appetizers $3.50-$6.95. Entrees $8.99-$11.99. Dessert $2.50-$3.99. Lunch buffet $9.99.

Hours Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Sat noon-10 p.m. Sun 3:30-10 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Samosas, spinach pakora, nan bread, biryani chicken, boneless chicken breasts, chicken kebabs, rus malai, gajar ka halwa.