Roopa Gulati finds Punjabi street food, spicy tandoori meats and pitchers of lassi out west.
At Moti Mahal  (94 The Broadway) on Southall’s main drag, I secure a ringside view of the halwai-wallah (sweet-maker) as he presides over jalebis cooking on an outdoor stove. After being fried in hot oil, these whirls of batter are dunked in rose-scented syrup and served straight from the pan. Other gems include explosive golgappas - hollow pastry spheres filled with chickpea - and tamarind water seasoned with black salt and mint. Bring your own bib.
For milk-based sweetmeats, head across the road to Ambala  (156 The Broadway) - it’s the go-to shop for my favourite fudge-like pistachio burfi. The samosas are also first-class, and made with thick buttery pastry stuffed with ginger-spiced potato.
Although The Broadway attracts the lion’s share of tourists, I prefer to stroll to the New Asian Tandoori Centre  (114-118 The Green) for my serious eating. Don’t let the functional appearance put you off - the cooking here is top-drawer. Expect crunchy snacks dressed with mint chutney, garlicky curries and meaty grills, all washed down with pitchers of frothy lassi.
If the street scene is proving too hot to handle, family-run Madhu's  (39 South Rd) provides an oasis of calm with its stylish granite interior and upmarket menu of Indo-Kenyan dishes. The heat of nyhama choma (tandoori lamb ribs in lime juice) makes a great match for an icy beer.
I buy Indian fruit and vegetables from outdoor stalls owned by the Quality Foods  (47- 61 South Rd) supermarket - there’s a splendid selection of spices and groceries.
Noisy, brash and beautiful, Southall feels more like a village fete than a shopping centre. This corner of Greater London remains true to its colours - a fascinating outpost of Punjabi culture.
Top tip: Some dishes at Brilliant  (72-76 Western Rd) have put the brakes on all things ghee-laden. Great for health-conscious curry fans.
Get the train to Southall from Paddington: it takes 15 minutes.
Take a look at London's best Indian restaurants.
Illustration: Matthew Hams