By Liesel Schmidt
In a quick trip to their website, one could easily be enticed for a visit to Taste of India by promises of a journey to “the land of enchanted,” a transportation for the senses with fragrances and flavors inherent to the rich culture of India. And anyone who’s ever eaten truly authentic Indian food knows that the massive sub-continent has a cuisine undeniably distinct, with richly spiced, deeply developed dishes that are robust in a way that can only be achieved through a balance of herbs, spices, aromatics, and exotic ingredients that bring a sense of time-honored tradition to the table. Here, one knows from the very first bite that these are recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, far outlasting trends and paying little attention to technology as they make hands and hearts the most valued tools in the kitchen.
The restaurant itself is a family business, owned and operated by the Kapurs, who took on the venture in hopes of highlighting the wonderful food of their homeland and creating something their family could share and build together. But more than simply offering food, they hoped to provide a true representation of what makes Indian food so unique, so vibrant, and such a sensory experience.
“There’s a misconception in America associating the word ‘spicy’ with heat level, but in Indian food, ‘spicy’ relates to the warm spices being used—coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, bay leaves—and these spices are what provide the flavor so inherent to Indian cuisine,” explains matriarch Alpana, who considers herself to be “the unofficial Indian ambassador.”
Topping their embassy of eats are appetizers like samosas, each triangular-shaped fried pastry packed with a savory stuffing of made spiced potatoes and peas served with a sweet and tangy Tamarind jaggery sauce that’ll transport your senses straight to the bustling streets of India. Admittedly, no Indian menu would be complete without naan, and Taste of India stays true to its heritage by baking their traditional flatbreads on the walls of the tandoor—a cylindrical metal or clay oven that has been used in India for centuries—offering both the classic version as well as a variety of naan breads made with herbs, spices, and other savory ingredients that bring a bit of modern flare. “They’re to die for,” Alpana says.
And guests would certainly agree, as their naan is easily among their top sellers, perfectly pairing up with other popular items like chicken tikka masala, a flavorful blend of creaminess and spice served over a bed of fluffy Basmati rice. For something even more exotic, make goat your meat of choice in one of their curries or a biryna. “Goat isn’t something that most people in America are that familiar with, but it’s actually one of the most popular items we serve,” says Alpana’s son Rudy, who serves as the face of the restaurant.
The desire for sharing India is clearly what the Kapur family hungers most for, a deep hunger that translates into creating a connection with the food they serve—from the more familiar plates to dishes that might need explanation. It’s their passion and their pride, in fact, to guide their guests along in their journey; and for anyone who may never have tasted authentic Indian cuisine, they’ll take the time to make suggestions and help you find your way to the perfect dining experience. “It’s wonderful to see our guests try the foods that have always been so much a part of our family—for our family, it’s an honor,” Alpana offers.
Everything, from the hammered copper dinnerware used for dinner service to the spices and ingredients they use to create their dishes, is imported from India. “We’re dedicated to being authentic in everything we do, and that’s something you’ll find in even the smallest details here. That’s one thing that makes us different,” says Alpana.
The smallest details are what make dining here a rich and robust experience, and so they make everything fresh from scratch, using only the finest quality ingredients and sourcing the freshest meats and vegetables available locally. “When our guests dine with us, they can expect truly authentic food that they would find in India, and we’re proud of being such a strong representation of our culture and providing people with an unforgettable experience.”
It’s unforgettable, indeed; and with flavors so bright and complex, you’ll find yourself captivated by the “land of the enchanted,” where food is an adventure, and each taste is a new journey to savor.
Taste of India is located at 810 East Gregory Street, Pensacola, Florida 32501. Open daily for a lunch buffet from 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. A la carte dinner served daily from 5:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. For more information, call (850) 439-3005 or visit www.newtasteofindia.com.
Garam Masala Lamb Chops
6 lamb chops
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. plain yogurt
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. garlic paste
1/2 tsp. red chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. mustard oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine all wet ingredients and spices to make a thick paste. Add both salts to desired level of seasoning. Place lamb chops in a large Dutch oven and cover with yogurt mixture, simmering together until lamb chops are cooked and tender. Serve over basmati rice or with an accompaniment of mint chutney and naan.
*Recipe courtesy of Taste of India.