Monday, September 8, 2008

Indian food in Taipei

This post won't be complete for a few days as I round up addresses, but I wanted to put a rundown of the Indian food that's available in Taipei. Places to go for your real (not Japanese-style) curry fix...especially if you know what real Indian food should taste like.

This is not a complete list, but I think it comes pretty close.

Mayur Indian Kitchen

Update: 6 locations - #103 Sec. 3 Minsheng E. Road has a new Mayur branch!

Also check out MIK 4ever (their fourth location) at Tonghua St. Lane 171 #34
MIK-5 in Dazhi: Bei-an Road #630)

MIK-6/mik'sutras: Songjiang Road #1-1 (on the corner of Weishui Street)

They have idli-dosa (at most but not all locations - Keelung Road and mik'sutras don't), and other regional specialties! Most Indian restaurants (OK, all other ones) seem to go for the "three types of meat four ways, and some vegetables" style of Indian food. Mayur actually cooks regional recipes from various states in India. My current favorite. VERY highly recommended.

MIK-5 in Dazhi stands out because it's a bit fancier, more of an upmarket dining experience (the Tonghua Road location is also more upmarket), and MIK-6, also called mik'sutras, is more of a live bar/hookah lounge with Indian food, which we visited recently.

Balle Balle Indian Restaurant
#12 Guangfu N. Road, Songshan District

Balle Balle focuses on Punjabi cuisine (hence the name, which is an expression of happiness in the Punjabi language) and is quite good, with extremely accommodating and friendly service. I go to Mayur for regional foods that I like, but will go to Balle Balle for my Punjabi cravings. See my review here.

Fusion Asia
#34 Heping East Road Section 3 (MRT Technology Building/Liuzhangli)

See my review for details - it's convenient, and the appetizers are great (especially the samosas). The food is standard north Indian fare and curries can run on the mild side. Oh - they have desserts which is actually rare on the Taipei Indian restaurant scene and the gulab jamun is pretty good! They have a lot of space and are rarely full so they're a good option if you didn't make reservations anywhere.

Definitely get the samosas. Also, the lamb rahra, and order everything "India spicy" so they don't tone it down.

Out Of India
Shida - off Shida Road on the "foreign food street", turn left by Red House pub, on the left.

Update: Still open, offering good deals on food in a "save us from closing" effort. Even though I strongly advise against ordering their garlic naan, which is spread with nasty-fake garlic-butter spread rather than real garlic and real ghee/butter go eat there and thumb your nose at the Shi-da residents who are wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.

Update II: Either they moved, or they opened a new location where Bollywood Indian Pizza used to be, in the night market area rather than that lane of Pucheng Street where the original storefront is (was?) located.

Update III 1/2016: they haven't changed their garlic naan recipe but if you specifically ask for real garlic naan you can get it. 

Delicious butter chicken and good curries overall - the vindaloo is also especially good.
Kingfisher Beer? Check. Well, usually.
Gulab Jamun and other desserts generally come from a can; it's not profitable time-wise or ingredient-wise to make the real thing.
The naan leaves something to be desired, especially the garlic naan, which used to be fine but is now just naan with that cheap fake butter-garlic spread on top.
They used to have mango pickle but don't seem to offer it anymore. Damn!
Price: Kind of expensive, but OK considering how expensive it is to cook Indian food in Taipei
They do catering and carry-out.

Basically, their curries are quite good but if you want them to be as spice-heavy as real Indian curries, you need to ask them to make it "like you'd really eat in India". Sometimes the chef goes on vacation and the substitutes are never as good, and yeah, the garlic na'an is still a travesty but there are plenty of things to recommend this place. They haven't had homemade gulab jamun in awhile.

Exotic Masala House
Update: Closed (?) - while I am generally upset by what's going on in Shi-da, which is starting to spread to other parts of Taipei (so I hear on very unreliable Forumosa), I can't say I'm all that sorry. I really liked this place when they opened but they quality slid into the gutter pretty quickly and I'd stopped recommending it awhile ago.

As of 2015 Forumosa says they're still open (closed Wednesdays) but I was not that happy with the food the last few times I went several years ago that I haven't returned. 

Update: Since writing this post I did check them out - several times - and gave them a good initial review. The guy at Trinity Superstores (the Indian grocery near MRT City Hall Exit 4 - in a basic looking building on the 2nd floor next to Dante Coffee) agreed that when they opened they were good - though their idlis were not exactly like true south Indian idlis. In the past year, though, they've really gone downhill and while affordable, their dishes simply aren't as good anymore. I have it on good authority (OK - the guy at Trinity) that it's because the owner went back to India for awhile, the food slid into the gutter while she was gone, and never quite recovered after her return.

Calcutta Indian Food

Update: Moved. Go to the old place at #126 Kunming Street (follow Chengdu Rd. from MRT Ximen and turn right on Kunming),  then keep going to the first light. Turn right and across the street from Holiday KTV there is a building called "U2". The new location is in the basement food court, towards the back. The food is still the same great stuff. They have Kingfisher!

Update: terrible. They were still really good - and the mutton samosas are still great - after moving to the bottom of the U2 building in Ximen. We've been back recently, No. Every curry seemed like it was cooked in the same sauce, nothing was remotely spicy (even butter chicken needs a bit of warmth - nothing - it was weirdly sweet?), and the "aloo gobi" was made with broccoli, not cauliflower! Unacceptable! What's more, aloo gobi is a dry, brownish curry where the cauliflower (NOT BROCCOLI) is fried in spices, onion, garlic, and just a bit of sauce. This was served in a big gravy-full tureen of red, tomato-based curry sauce which is simply not what aloo gobi is meant to be. It was just...the wrong curry.

Sometimes restaurants make mistakes yet should not be written off completely. However, this was unforgivable. They didn't even respect their customers enough to make a curry with the correct ingredients, from the vegetable to the sauce. I will never return.


Ali Baba's Indian Kitchen
Nanjing E. Road by Jilin Road (you can walk from Zhongshan MRT or take a bus a few stops from there) across from poorly-named Silverfish Thai.
This place is actually run by Pakistanis and offers halal food - they are best at tandoori and other Punjabi treats (there is a dish that is basically butter chicken under a different name) as well as more Muslim-influenced fare such as seekh kebabs and other dry meat dishes. Great food though the spice level varies. We went once, ordered vindaloo, and nearly got our taste buds blasted off - OK in my book! - and yet another friend claimed that their spices were tame. Ask for spice and you'll get spice, don't and you'll get mild, I suppose. The veggie-covered papadam is fantastic, as is their masala chai. The kheer is good but the gulab jamun comes from a can. This is the only place in town that offers kheer. As they're Muslim, there's no beer available. Update: they allow BYO alcohol!

They have a parrot, though, and he's quite friendly. Prices are OK - cheaper than Out of India and more expensive than Calcutta Indian Food.
As a whole package I believe they are the best bet for good Indian in Taipei, as long as you specifically ask for Indian levels of spice. My standard line is "I lived in India - give me food the way Indians eat it. That means more spice". On the good side, if they spice up your food, you'll get more than just a lashing of chili - they'll really add spice to it, giving it more depth.

SaffronUpscale classy Indian place behind Shinkong Mitsukoshi/Miramar in Tianmu. Take buses 285, 685 or many others to Shinkong Mitsukoshi/Tianmu Sports Stadium and walk up the road between the two towering department stores. On your left.

Saffron is upscale and chi-chi looking, which is why I haven't eaten there yet. But they seem to have Indian cooks and the place smells nice, so give it a try for a nice date. Looks expensive.

Update: I still haven't eaten there, but my student has (a student who has been to India) and her review? "Meh". I know Hungry Girl recommends it, as does the Taipei Times, but my student's lackluster review plus the chi-chi decor has so far kept me away.

The Spice ShopNext to Saffron (above)

Expensive but very good Indian food with a 1950's funky wallpaper feel that brings to mind curryhouses of the UK. I've never had a curry I didn't like here, but I've always paid through the nose for them. No Indian beers though, and they don't seem to know the difference between mango chutney and mango pickle. Good thing I like both.

This place is one of my favorites, and we always choose it over Saffron because we know the food is good and the decor is more our style. We don't go often, though, because they're at the opposite end of Taipei.
Me and Brendan at The Spice Shop


#10 Lane 73 Hejiang Street, Taipei
Minsheng E. Road near Zhongshan Middle School MRT - take MRT and walk south to Minsheng E. Road (you can also take a bus from Shuanglian MRT heading east), turn right and after you pass Taipei University and a place called "Barber Shop", but before the SAAB office, take a right into the lane. Take your first left after 7-11 and you'll see it. It's kind of behind the Westin, sorta.
We finally ate here and I can give the place my stamp of approval. The food is solidly good and we enjoyed everything we ate, except for the very lackluster samosas. The only reason we don't eat here more often is that it is rather expensive compared to my twin faves of Ali Baba and Calcutta, and it's kind of out of the way for us.

As always, you need to specifically ask for truly spicy food.

Bollywood Indian Pizza

It's not really quite right to say that this is an "Indian restaurant" - they serve Indian curries (good, real ones, though a bit creamier than usual) with cheese on naan in a pizza-like way. But you know what? It's good. Really good. Go try them out! They have some interesting choices and I liked the unusual presentation.

Update: possibly closed?

Update: I think this place is closed. I can't find it, can't find any reference to it, can't find it on Google maps...I think it's been gone awhile. Good riddance.

In some lane or other near Zhongshan Junior High School MRT
Maybe they were just having a bad day, but I wasn't impressed with my meal here. The lamb rogan josh felt and tasted as though it had been microwaved, the sauce was watery and the samosas and naan thoroughly mediocre...yet it was an expensive meal. I saw some Indian expats eating there so maybe they are capable of something better.

I didn't bother putting up the address because it wasn't good enough to even rate on the would-go-back-o-meter. Seriously, this should be the last place you try. I'm sorry to say it, but I was truly not impressed.

Alla-Din Indian and Pakistani Kitchen
#101 Raohe Street, Songshan District (in Raohe Night Market)

Update: Now that I regularly teach a class across the street from Raohe Night Market I eat here fairly regularly (tip: take the train to Songshan Station, don't take the MRT to Houshanpi to get there. The Bade Road exit of Songshan Station is right across the street from the Matsu Temple at one end of Raohe Night Market).

You may have noticed a trend with the other restaurants in which one has to request a truly Indian level of spice to get food that is not dumbed down: not here. I recommend "medium spicy" because "very spicy" will set your intestines on fire - and that's big words coming from me. When I was in Punjab, I watched 1/3 of a cricket match eating naan with raw green chilis and onions with locals. I used to eat fiery sambar for breakfast every morning. I practically buy out Taipei's entire stock of Lao Gan Ma chili paste. I can handle spice, and *I* think "very spicy" at Alla-Din is too spicy.

The food is goooood. I usually get the mutton or chicken roll, wrapped in a chapati, but everything I've ever ordered at this place is fantastic. Definitely try the kebabs.

Update: We ate there again recently, sit-down, and it was good but not great. The spice was slathered on chili, with no depth or care.

Cafe India
Tianmu, somewhere a little north of Zhishan MRT and a little west of Zhongshan North Road

Good luck finding it, but it's there. I haven't tried this place yet so I'll let you know, but it looked unpretentious and reasonably-priced. The spice shop near Taipei City Hall MRT has business cards for it so it should be pretty good.

That said, we can't seem to eat there: every time we go, they're closed! (It was on our old MRT Mingde-to-Whose-Books-when-it-was-in-Tianmu walking route).

Indian Fans
Taipei 101 Food Court near Karen Teppanyaki and the Pho shop, and other department store food courts

My boyfriend vouches for their "pretty good" aloo gobi and lamb rogan josh, but says their butter chicken is dire. I've tried a curry there - can't remember what it was and it doesn't matter - and was resoundly not impressed. Also, um, soup? Really? Soup is not an Indian thing (sambar is like soup, but isn't soup, and mulligatawny soup was invented by the British). Update: appears to be closed, but I could be wrong.

Honestly, I just go to the Pho place next door. It's better. (Update: this is closed, too. How come my favorite places keep closing?) JS Doner Kebab was really good, but it closed.

Try at your own risk.

Taj Mahal
Breeze Taipei Main Station food court

It says it serves real Indian food, but it doesn't. We had "curry noodles", whatever that is supposed to be. Don't take this as biting criticism - for what it is (Japanese style curry) it's pretty good, but it's not really Indian. None of the "Indian food" in Breeze Taipei Main is really Indian, to be honest.

Update: been there, like it, very good butter chicken, fantastic naan, good mango lassi - a bit expensive but we were impressed. I know Hungry Girl thought that the portions were small and the naan was dense, but I'm not worried about the naan - cooking it to be dense and chewy is one perfectly legitimate way to make it, and I happen to prefer it that way. In Punjab you will generally get fluffy, lighter naan with grilled food from a tandoor, but with a heavy, oily curry like butter chicken you'll get a denser naan that can stand up to the thick gravy. There's more than one way to make naan.

We will eat here in time, and I'll come back and update when we do.

#26 Lane 81 Fuxing N. Road, Taipei

Yum yum yum yum yum. While this place has more than just Indian food, there are plenty of curries on the menu, not to mention samosas, really nice lassi (yoghurt) drinks and other tasty treats. I can't really place where the food is from - there are Southeast Asian dishes that you'd swear were Burmese, Indonesian or Thai, Indian food, Pakistani food, even Middle Eastern staples like hummus and I swear a few Chinese offerings. I've never had a bad meal here, though, and strongly recommend the lassi and samosas.

Halal Indian Restaurant
Wenzhou Street just inside Heping-Wenzhou intersection, next to the Halal Thai place

Well, they don't get any points for naming creativity but they've got pretty good stuff, very homemade taste, but not a lot of selection (you can get beef, chicken, lamb or vegetable curry or biriyani, that's about it). The lamb curry is a bit watery but it packs a punch and I quite liked the chicken and veg that we got, too. We skipped the beef because, honestly, I never ate beef in India, so eating it in a curry is weird to me although I know under halal guidelines it's fine. The chapatis are thick and soft - you only need one for a meal (chapatis in India are thinner and you usually eat multiple ones in one meal - these are more north Indian/Pakistani); I'd add a touch more salt to them but enjoyed them nonetheless. The veg curry is made with chick peas but is more reminiscent of chole bhatura than channa masala. All in all we had a very enjoyable meal there; it's a simple but good standard place to have within walking distance of home.

Tibet Kitchen

This restaurant specializes in Tibetan food (the way that Kunming specializes more in Burmese-Muslim fusion), but still serves up pretty decent Indian food. I'm including it here because it's a great restaurant that deserves your patronage, and does offer Indian dishes, but if you go I would recommend ordering Tibetan food.

Khana Khazana
#366 Section 1 Keelung Road (north of Xinyi and south of the original Mayur Indian Kitchen).

Update 1/2016: we've eaten here and I can confirm it's good. Pretty typical north Indian food with an emphasis on Halal (as with many Indian restaurants in Taipei the owners are Muslim). But still, good, a solid choice in Xinyi. Well-decorated with cushy velvet chairs.

"Indian Restaurant"
Lane 118 Sec. 2 Heping E Road, Taipei

This one is near where this lane (#118 off Heping, Section 2) meets Xinhai north of National Taiwan University, very close to where Fuxing S. Road ends. Update 1/2016: We ate there once - not even sure if it's still there - and it was pretty good. Very homey curry, not restaurant-ey at all. 

Sagar Indian
2nd floor #195 Sec. 2, Xinyi Road Taipei

We haven't eaten here, but the TripAdvisor reviews are good. However, a friend of mine did eat there along with her husband who is a chef, and they said "the curry was watery and my husband's tasted weirdly fermented. He felt sick after." So I'm not that excited about trying it...

3 Idiots Toast and Curry
Multiple locations - I haven't been here yet but will try it soon and let you know. 

Trinity Superstores (import store) Moved: MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing, 6F  #23 Lane 143 Renai Rd. 

Not a restaurant, but I wanted to let you know where the only Indian import store in Taipei is...or at least the only one I've found. They've got everything you need to make your own curries, or just to stock up on spices at home without paying Jason's or City Super prices.

New: I've found a place on Ren'ai Road near the Howard Hotel (south side between Jianguo and Fuxing). I'll try it soon and let you know how it is.

More reviews of Indian restaurants can be found here at Hungry Girl - I didn't include many of the ones in department store food courts because they invariably disappoint me, and I can't possibly hit every restaurant.

If you find a restaurant I haven't listed, add it to the comments and I'll put it on the list of places to try.


Prince Roy said...

sorry, I just have to disagree. Indian food in Taiwan just basically sucks. Especially if you know what Indian food 'should' taste like.

For one thing, it's practically all northern. Having lived in Tamil Nadu, I may be biased, but I find the most complex, most nuanced Indian cuisine hales from the south, be it the amazing curries of Kerala or the fiery palate of Andhra Pradesh.

And it seems like the majority of 'Indian' food on offer in Taipei at least is in fact Pakistani. Similar in appearance only.

I'm wondering if there are some undiscovered gems out in hthe Xinzhu Science Park area, b/c there are a lot of Indian expats out that way...

Prince Roy said...

oh, and for the beer lovers out there: be glad, be very glad if there is no Indian beer in these places. Unless you absolutely have to have that glycerine/formaldehyde aftertaste. Just think of Taiwan Beer back in the day.

Jenna said...

You'll find if you're nice to the owners and request that they make the food hot - "the way you would eat it, not the way a white or Taiwanese person would" - that you DO in fact get pretty authentic Indian food...north Indian anyway.

If you don't request or you're not nice, of course you're going to get something bland.

I have not tried the one place that has south Indian on the menu, but plan to this weekend.

By the way, I lived in Tamil Nadu as well (Madurai) and have been to India (all over) three times. I know what it should taste like by now, thank you very much.

Jenna said...

BTW, except for Ali Baba, which is run by Pakistanis (and openly advertises halal food and the like), the food isn't so much Pakistani as Punjabi. Sure, it's not the Telugu food you crave, but it's no less Indian for that.

And I like Kingfisher...but only with curry. Alone or with any other food it tastes like Sprite mixed with horse urine.

Prince Roy said...

sure, the menus are Punjabi style, that is true, but the majority of the owners are Pakistani-the smaller places especially. Regardless, northern Indian never did anything for me. What Taiwan direly needs good South Indian.

Honestly, my impression of Taiwan's Indian food is that it is comparable to overpriced long distance bus/train station restaurants in India.

I've heard of a Sri Lankan place or two, but Sri Lankan cuisine generally has the rep of a 'poor man's Tamil Nadu'. Although Athula in Xindian makes what I thought were the best rotis in Taiwan. Taiwanicized however.

Back to the beer, it's the one thing from India I do not miss under any circumstances. If I have to, I can go with a Kingfisher Superstrong or a Haywards, but only b/c they were 'fortified', allowing me to move beyond the awful glycerine/formaldehyde aftertaste and get to the happy place that much quicker.

Jenna said...

I prefer south Indian too - as my post notes, there is now a south Indian restaurant in the Shida area, across from Out of India.

I am going there tonight, so until then I can't say how good it is (or not).

The owners of Out of India and Calcutta Indian food are not Pakistani, they're definitely Indian. I have talked to the owner of Out of India and we're on a face-recognition basis, and there was a story in the Taipei Times about Calcutta Indian Food - they specifically mentioned that the owner is Taiwanese but has lived in India...or something to that effect.

But yes, Ali Baba and Alla-Din's owners are Pakistani.

I don't care - I'm cool with north Indian, especially butter chicken. If you ask nicely for extra spice they'll cook it "right", so as far as I'm concerned that's good enough.

It's no better, anyway, than Indian food in the USA, where you also have to request that it be cooked to their standards, not the standards of the usual American clientele, and where south Indian food is nonexistent outside areas with a large Dravidian expat population. And don't get me started on Indian food in Britain. It's an entirely separate cuisine.

I've tried the Sri Lankan food here and it's more Malayali than Tamil. Lots of fish and coconut. A Sri Lankan acquaintance agreed with my opinion.

It's not bad, but it's not as good as regular idli-dosa.

Ben Findlay said...

I no longer live in Taiwan but there's was a superb Pakistani place on a street off zhongxiao east rd on the north side between zhongxiao dunhua and sys memorial hall mrts. I think it's on the one immediately west of yanji st. It's bring your own alcohol. I highly recommend the the hot vegetable/potato dish.

Jenna said...

Huh. I work in 101 and at the Guotai building a few days a week and frequently walk up that way (Zhongxiao between SYS and Dunhua) afterwards...I've never seen that place. I'll have to redouble my efforts. Then again if it's off the main drag it could take forever to find without a full address.

At least Indian in Taipei is not as dire as Ethiopian, which is nonexistent outside my own kitchen.

Kerim Friedman said...

I'm still waiting for the first Indian-style Chinese food restaurant to open in Taiwan.

Jenna said...

Aren't we all, Kerim. Aren't we all!

I specifically promised Brendan an Indian Chinese meal when we fly into Bangalore early next year.

joanh said...

hi! thanks for the list.. i've still been wanting to try Saffron and few others on the list that i've heard are good. i am used to US Indian food and have never been to Indian, so my tastebuds might be adjusted for a milder flavor!

Robin said...

Prince Roy needs to understand that South Indian food is not as appreciated as North Indian food which calls for more effort & gastronomical skills. You would know it if you ever cooked Rotis & rich gravies, its not like steaming rice and dumping sambhar on it. Excuse me if I offended anyone.

Anonymous said...

I am completely agree with Mr. roy ....100 % correct

we really need a real and good indian food restaurants in taipei...mostly all sucks and damn expensive....!!!

few days before i had indian open in an shilin night market in taipei ...the food was ok and the guy was cooking food in front effect the was super hot and delicious and price was as same like india...excellent ..i am very surprised how they are managing to do in such price ?? check out

Anonymous said...

Calcutta Indian Food have a new website

They have moved to 西寧南路70號 (B1-2) (萬年大樓 美食街)

Indian food in Taipei said...

Thanks to the blogger- Lao Ren Cha - 老人茶
for such nice words, We are doing our best to
WoW our guests on each and every visit.

We will keep changing our menu and style but the theme will be same 'Traditional and Authentic' Indian cuisine from all corners of India. We believe in regional cuisine as India has countless options for Vegetarian and Non vegetarian.

We are a vastly growing chain of Indian restaurants in Taipei,Taiwan that serve authentic Indian curries, thali, set menus, breads, and Tandoori dishes. We serves 14 different cuisines of India as per people's choices, including Halal food, pure vegetarian Jain cuisine and many more. It also boasts well-equipped bar with many varieties of beer, whiskey and wine.We are also open for Indian food caterings, food deliveries, take away and organizing events in Taipei,Taiwan.



Balle Balle Taipei said...

Balle Balle Indian Restaurant & Bar
Thx for Recommending Blogger !!

We are newly opened Indian restaurant in Taipei Songhsan District.
Punjabi Indian Cuisine with a wide variety of Tandoori Snacks, Main Courses in Vegetarian & Non Vegetarians.

We offer tasty Indian food with friendly service.
Healthy Fresh Indian Cuisine using finest ingredients and freshest products.

Owner of Balle Balle Indian Restaurant & Bar opened the restaurant with the Intention of providing Ethnic Indian Punjabi Cuisine.

Mr. Kant has assembled a highly skilled team of chefs representing Punjabi Cuisine from India

This is an intimate restaurant extending over a ground floor and basement floor for inviting private room for parties and events.

Address:No. 12 Guāngfù North Road, Sōngshān District, Taipei地址:台北市松山區光復北路12號
Phone:(02) 2570-7265

Nearest MRT: Nánjīng Sanmin Station 南京三民站

Jenna Cody said...

I will check it out and review it when I get the chance, thanks!

Balle Balle Taipei said...

Thx allot Jenna Cody
Looking forward

Unknown said...

Puhleeze list those with buffets? Ali Baba's is OK for 500 (incl service charge) but I'd like an alternative...

Leila Pereira said...

Ever been to Sree Indian Palace? It's on the second floor of a building just outside Dongmen MRT station. They do more southern Indian cuisine and their food is amazing.

Jenna Cody said...

I haven't but I'll make a point to try it out!

Guy said...

It's not cheap, but Joseph Bistro (in an alley east of Songjiang Road, south of Songjiang Nanjing MRT Station) is ridiculously great. Owner/chef Joseph is from Goa, and his incredible food is unlike anything else in town.