Taj Palace

By Krabi Magazine Feb 19, 2014
To say that Indians love food is an understatement. I mean, they looooove it, and even the drawn out o’s doesn’t quite articulate the culture of cuisine that resounds in India. Food is interwoven into the fabric of life: it’s the spotlight at most festivals, even reasons for festivals; certain foods being auspicious while others taboo on certain occasions. Never has a cuisine absorbed so many outside influences yet retained it’s own identity throughout thousands of years.

Some would say we are spoiled for choice in Ao Nang as there seems to be an Indian restaurant every few meters, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I eat at least one Thai meal a day, but a little variety doesn’t hurt, and in the past year I’ve done my own sampling all around town. While many are good, most are incomparable to Taj Palace. The authenticity and ambience is enough to inspire your next adventure to the subcontinent, and godspeed.

The initial allure of course is the perfume of mouth-watering dishes spilling from the boisterous kitchen busier than rush hour in Mumbai; a lifetime of culture veiled in fragrant dishes. Innately, we are tantalized first by the smell of food, so it’s always a good sign when the aroma lures you in, all other options be damned.

Mr. Umesh Chandra is a long-time Ao Nang resident, and part owner and manager of the Taj Palace, with over 15 years of experience in the hotel and hospitality industry. Almost everyday you can find him hard at work, ensuring the quality of the food and the satisfaction of his guests with attention to every detail and more importantly, everyone at a table. Even if some time passes, he always remembers me, and more importantly, what dishes I usually order. In fact, they all remember you. And since we dine out not just for the food but also for the experience, it’s what keeps people coming back and writing rave reviews on travel websites. Over the soundtrack of the kitchen and the clamor of utensils on plates, you can hear the cadence of content exasperations and blissful praise of how good the food is.

Indian food can be mystifying. Hours of preparation – six hours alone everyday to prep and marinate the barbecued meats – and the delicate balance of spices and flavors that go into each dish can seem daunting even to the most adventurous cook. But these people know Indian food, validated by nationals themselves. One bite of the Chicken Mumtaj will have you packing your bags for India. Intricately poised as sweet and savory, the white curry is made with cashews, raisins and milk. The sauce is perfect for dipping a Chapati in – a savory pancake of unleavened, whole-wheat bread- or spooning over Pulao Rice…or any of the rice dishes on their extensive menu, for that matter. The Lamb Jalfrezi is also a personal favorite if you’re in the mood for a spicy kick.

Start your meal off with the variety of Papardums, Bhajis, Pakodas or Samosas. Don’t worry if you haven’t a clue as to what those are. Just order, insert into stomach, and thank the thousands of deities for whoever came up with these. The restaurant specializes in Tawa platters, a dazzling mix of vegetables and a rich sauce made of Indian herbs, served sizzling and either with chicken, mutton, or as a vegetarian dish.

Of course, not to be ignored are the dishes made in the kitchen’s tandoor, a large cylindrical clay oven unique to Indian cuisine. Barbecued meats and a wide array of breads, including several types of Naan (who doesn’t love Naan?) are cooked and served piping hot from the oven.

In addition to chicken, there are pages upon pages of specialty dishes served with mutton, lamb, prawn and fish but vegetarians need not shy away, as there’s quite a selection of options on the menu. Many traditional foods of India are vegetarian, and incorporate fresh vegetables and legumes. Aloo Ghobi – potatoes and cauliflower cooked in a thick red curry – and Palak Paneer – an Indian “cottage cheese” made in a spinach sauce with herbs are popular at Taj Palace for a reason: utter deliciousness.

If there’s room for dessert (isn’t there always?), the Masala Chai is worth the time it takes to make, because its prepared fresh – spices boiled with tea and milk -the traditional way. Galub Jamun is the perfect amount of a rich, opulent Indian dessert. Milk is cooked until it is dense, rolled into balls with an assortment of pungent spices, and covered in a sweet syrup. It’s fascinatingly light yet decadent and certainly a dish for sharing as you only need one to be satisfied. Or if you’re in the mood for other authentic desserts, try the Pudding Kheer, a rice pudding made with coconut milk, raisins and nuts.

They take great pride in serving authentic Indian food. It’s a stockpile of spices and specialty items imported from the Indian subcontinent, cooked by Indian nationals, and served with Indian hospitality. There is an entire Thai menu as after all, we are in Thailand and you may need reminding of that after you’ve eaten here.

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Cooking and sharing a meal is the epitome of love in India, so of course it transfers effortlessly here in Thailand. If your palate is in search of variety, Taj Palace is open everyday from 11 AM – 11:30 PM. Tell them Krabi Magazine sent you, and you won’t regret it.

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