I went to India in November 2008 with one of my best-friends, Alexis. I’d only been overseas once before, and that was relaxing on a Fiji Island (Paul and I went for our 3rd anniversary), so India was a big step into the world. It was incredible. The sights, sounds, and smells were like nothing I’d ever experienced, and I want to go back to experience it all again! We ate vegetarian for most of the trip as we were travelling with my vegetarian friend for the first week, and it also let us avoid getting sick. We did eat delicious fish and prawns when we got to Goa though, where we stayed in a hut on stilts just a few metres from the beach for a measly AU$15 a night.
The Taj Mahal & I
Our favourite vegetarian dish from the trip was Paneer Butter Masala. Cubes of paneer cheese, served in a saucy ‘gravy’. It is rich, creamy, and we were in love with it. It was a while after we’d returned that we stumbled upon an Indian eatery that served this dish - Maya Tandoori in Surry Hills.
Paneer Butter Masala, top centre – Leopold Cafe, Mumbai, India
I’ve eaten at Maya Tandoori around 5 times now, and it’s always great. Recently it featured on Our Deal as ‘$70 of food for $29′ - a bargain that Paul and I used on a recent Date Night.
Maya Tandoori is located next to Maya Indian Sweets, which is part of the same company, and across the road from Maya Da Dhaba, of which there is no relation!
The decor is different this time, it looks fresh and modern; I liked the chandelier in the staircase, and contrast of dark and light throughout the interior. I ask the waitress about their redecorating and she tells me there was a fire on January 25 that caused extensive damage - but they were back up and running within 2 weeks.
We start with the papadums which are crunchy and studded with cumin seeds, and a cucumber raita sprinkled with garam masala. I love raita, and could (and do) eat it by spoonful; it’s lovely and cooling, which comes in handy when my mouth is burning from the hot spices in the curries.
Papadums, $2.90 for 4; Cucumber Raita, $2.90
Indian food makes me very full with the rich curries, rice, naan, and lassi, so we order 1 entree and 2 mains to share. The Murg Malai Kabab arrives hissing and steaming impressively. There are 4 thick pieces of chicken breast which are stuffed with cheese, marinated in yoghurt, then grilled in the tandoor. The cheese is oozing, and the chicken is juicy and not at all dry.
Murg Malai Kabab, $10.90 for 4 pieces
The first and only place I’ve had goat meat is at this restaurant, in the form of Goat Parda Biryani. It arrives in a ceramic pot, with a bright red dough ‘lid’. The waitress cuts it open to reveal saffron rice full of spices and pieces of goat with bones. The flavours are fantastic, though it is quite spicy so beware (the raita saves me), and I wish there were less bones.
Goat Parda Biryani, $16.90
Next is the Masala Butter Paneer. The paneer cheese is cubed and served in a tomato and cream based sauce, and is packed with flavour and Indian spices. It is perfect for eating with rice and naan, and it is, again, very rich but very delicious. It’s incredibly spicy though, so I need to sip my mango lassi between mouthfuls. My tolerance for spicy food is increasing, but I’m still a wuss at times!
Masala Butter Paneer, $12.90
Garlic Naan, $3.50
I love mango lassi; this mouth-cooling, yoghurt-based drink is very necessary when eating spicy food.
Mango Lassi, $4.50
Paul isn’t a fan of Indian sweets, but I love them. Especially Gulab Jamun. I ordered a serve of Gulab Jamun but the waitress brought us out a Mixed Dessert Platter, saying that it was better because you get to taste it all. I couldn’t argue with that! The dessert platter has: gulab jamun, fried milk balls soaked in cardamom syrup; rasmalai, cottage cheese dumplings in saffron-scented reduced milk; kulfi, cardamom and rosewater-scented reduced milk ice-cream; and jalebi, fried batter spirals soaked in syrup.
Despite Paul’s claims that he doesn’t like these desserts, he still helps me eat it. I don’t like jalebi though, it just tastes too oily; perhaps it is also a bit tainted by my experience of it in India. I remember watching it being made – batter dripped into huge pots of old-looking oil (or ghee), piles of it on display with flies circling… That’s not the case here of course, but food memories are strong, and since I don’t love jalebi anyway I’m happy to leave them behind for the other delicious sweets
Mixed Dessert Platter, $11.90
Making Jalebi, streetside in Pushkar, India…
472 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills
Phone: 61 2 8394 9799
Daily 5:30pm – 10pm