Pak Zam Zam brings a bit of Pakistan to Nordeast

Country's unique flavors offered in inexpensive, generous portions

Roasted meats are big at Pak Zam Zam (a sign on the front door advertises "so many varieties of grill"), and the cooking process imparts rich, smoky flavors to meats like the chicken boti kabab. While a lengthy marinade makes the meat tender, in this case I thought it took that texture too far, as the chicken seemed pasty and chalky, almost like the pieces of meat had been formed from mashed potato buds. I also didn't care much for the goat karahi, as even a spicy-sweet, ginger-tinged curry couldn't cover the meat's funky barnyard flavor or gumminess.

But the South Asian flatbread, paratha, should have more universal appeal. The discs look like the surface of the moon, dimpled with brown spots and dusted with a fine black charcoal. The bread is created by repeatedly stretching the dough, drizzling it with ghee, and folding it (creating the layers one finds in biscuits or croissants), and its flakiness rivals that of a blue-ribbon piecrust. The puri (or poori) breakfast breads are equally addictive. They're made from the same dough, but raised longer and deep-fried to become puffy and blistered. On weekend mornings, Pak Zam Zam serves the traditional halva puri, with sides of choley, potato aloo, and a dish known as halva. Uzma described the halva as being like grits, as it's something of a cross between cous cous and polenta, tiny clumps cooked to take on a buttery, slightly gelatinous consistency, then sweetened with sugar and dyed bright orange with food coloring, as per tradition.

So far, Pak Zam Zam has been drawing an even split of Pakistani and Indian customers, with a few Caucasians in the mix. The clientele includes young South Asians in designer blue jeans along with those from older generations, including conservative-looking businessmen and a woman swathed entirely in a burqa, which revealed nothing but her eyes. At Pak Zam Zam, Pakistanis and Indians eat side by side, despite the violence going on between their home countries. (Uzma says she can't understand the militant attacks in Pakistan and India and blames the trouble on bad politics. "Why are they doing this?" she asks. "Here in America, we don't even care about it. We like them and they like us.")

Don't confuse it with Indian: The Bihari kabab, paratha bread, and cucumber sauces
Alma Guzman
Don't confuse it with Indian: The Bihari kabab, paratha bread, and cucumber sauces

Location Info


Pak Zam Zam

1839 Central Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

Category: Restaurant > Pakistani

Region: Northeast Minneapolis


1839 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
appetizers $1; entrees $6-$10

Perhaps Pak Zam Zam's future success is already predestined, but I couldn't help wanting to play a part. Every time I left the restaurant, I took on the role of marketing manager, tipping Pak Zam Zam's flimsy sign back into place from its fallen position, facedown in the snow. 

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