As a Taiwan food blogger, one of the things I get asked about the most is for a recommendation for a good Indian restaurant. Many people (especially in the international community) crave a good, authentic Indian curry. In recent years, more Indian owned and run establishments are opening but I am yet to find something that is so truly authentic and amazing that I want to become a repeat customer (atlhough there are a few that come close).
Embarrassingly, while I have eaten at several Indian restaurants (and posted photos on Facebook to prove it), I am yet to blog about a single Indian restaurant on Taiwanxifu. I suspect it is because I secretly worry that I am not enough of an expert to write about what makes a good curry (or tandoori). But that is about to change, thanks to guest blogger I-Chun Liu, who has written a second blog post about another secret find.
“For the longest time, the only Indian restaurant we went to was Saffron, located all the way in Tienmu. I have been looking for other comparable Indian restaurants for several years, but always came back disappointed.
Imagine my excitement when I read about Balle Balle Indian Restaurant & Bar in a Taipei Times review with a line that said: “it was packed with patrons many of whom were Indian”. Wow, the food there must be authentic, I thought.
Indeed it is! Specialising in Punjabi cuisine from Northern India, the food at Balle Balle was tasty without taxing the taste buds with copious amounts of salt, grease and cream. I also liked the fact that the food was prepared with care – the complimentary papad (with mint and chilli chutney) did not come burnt.
My favourite was the Murg Malai Kebab (NT$380), a tandoori dish of succulent, boneless chicken marinated with cashew paste, yoghurt and spices. Adding a squeeze of lime juice to the chicken, and having it with the grilled tomato and onion added further piquancy. The chicken was so tender that knives were not needed at all.
The Paneer Tikka Hariyali (NT$410), a vegetarian tandoori dish of Indian cottage cheese drizzled with yoghurt, cashew, mint and spinach paste was a winner, too. As a tofu-lover, I’ve always enjoyed paneer, which is like firm tofu with more bite and a light zestiness from the lime juice.
Balle Balle’s Yellow Dal Tadka (NT$260) was wholesome, without the use of excessive oil or ghee. I could taste various ingredients that made up the curry: lentil, tomato, garlic, cumin, chilli, etc. I always appreciate it when the chef lets the natural flavours of the ingredients come through rather than overwhelming my palate with sodium.
My husband and I also ordered a plain Nann (NT$65) and the Amritsari Gobi Paratha (NT$120) – whole wheat bread stuffed with spiced, minced cauliflower which tasted like chapatti, another whole wheat bread. . Not bad, but we would have preferred basmati rice (which was still being cooked when we arrived just as they opened for business) to go with the dishes in case we might feel stuffed by the breads.
To our surprise, we left Balle Balle without experiencing the usual bloatedness or heartburn that ensue many an Indian meal. We were also pleased with the attentive service rendered by co-owner, GV, a Sikh who is fluent in English and Mandarin. He is ready to customise flavours according to customer preferences, unlike some other restaurants whose local wait staff can get defensive when we give feedback about their food, assuming that all non-Indian customers are clueless about how Indian food should taste like.
After a positive first impression at Balle Balle, we were keen to try more dishes on their extensive menu, so we promptly returned the following week. Recognising us, GV offered us two drinks on the house: the salty and spicy Pudhina Nimbu Soda which “aids digestion,” according to GV and a sweet Mango Lassi. This time, we ordered the Vegetable Kofta/vegetable dumplings in creamy cashew and tomato curry (NT$290), Chana Masala/chickpea curry (NT$260), Murg Saag Wala/tandoori chicken and spinach curry (NT$380) with basmati rice (NT$85 per bowl). We liked the latter two dishes more as the Kofta was a bit too rich. Three curries with generous portion sizes for two moderate eaters proved too much, I guess. The chickpea curry had a lovely tomato spice blend while the chicken and spinach curry was flavourful and contained real spinach, as opposed to some other places using artificial colouring for the dish with no detectable spinach pulp.
Happy with the consistent quality and delightful service, I foresee ourselves becoming regulars at Balle Balle (which means happy, by the way).
Address: 12, Guangfu N Rd, Taipei City 台北市光復北路12號
Tel: (02) 2570-7265
Open: Daily from 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 10pm
Note: 10% service charge; credit cards accepted”