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Taste of India serves delectable, vegan-friendly food while still finding its footing

The Veg Michiana group visited Taste of India restaurant, which recently opened on Main Street in Mishawaka.

With a 30 to 40 percent vegetarian population in India, it is easy to make vegan Indian food. In fact, I think that all vegans should become familiar with making Indian cuisine. However, I have been to many Indian restaurants around the country where all of the food has the same blend of strong spices without nuance, is to varying extents greasy and the dishes have not seemed particularly fresh.

I am glad to say none of this is true of our new restaurant. Despite its rather predictable name, Taste of India does serve up some fresh tasting food with varying flavors.

At the same time, it also appeared the restaurant was having some difficulty keeping up with our orders. As a group of 12-14 people, we were a large party with individual patrons arriving and ordering at different times. The service was extremely friendly and courteous but the restaurant was having difficulty preparing and serving the food in the right order.

Specifically, our Indian group said the dhals and vegetables were served with rice and the breads took longer to appear. It would be customary to start eating the meal with the rotis and finishing up with rice. So some of us were kept waiting. We were assured that the restaurant, having just opened, was finding its feet and establishing optimal workflow practices.

Both the pakoras and samosas were good appetizers and the table agreed the pakoras were particularly flavorful. I personally felt the samosas could have been spicier, but the others did not agree. It is possible the chef was being reticent with the heat.

The tamarind and cilantro chutneys were freshly made with quality ingredients. I kind of think the experience of the meal usually peaks right about here as fried foods are just so indulgent. Nevertheless, the eggplant curry (masala baingan) with little eggplants was another hit among our Indian guests and the rice was also excellent.

When the rotis arrived, they had slick of oil on them so I suspected it could have been ghee (clarified butter). The server assured me it was just oil and sure enough, I did not taste ghee or butter. It is quite appropriate to eat unoiled rotis so if you are particular, I would suggest specifying no oil.

The paratha is another bread that is also vegan, but the naan has some milk in it. Since our visit, the chef has experimented with omitting the egg from the naan while retaining the flavor, but they are still continuing to experiment with omitting other dairy from this type of bread. 

The décor at this restaurant is restrained or even minimalist for an ethnic restaurant, with just enough touches of wall art to signify its Indian theme. Table settings are quite sumptuous and easily appropriate for a higher-end restaurant.

I plan to go back and eat the street chaat (without raita, the yogurt) and maybe the market vegetable korma with cashew cream sauce and the parathas. I spoke to the Rameeth about offering tofu as instead of paneer (for example, in kadai paneer or saag paneer) to give vegans more options and perhaps also include soy yogurt or other plant-based yogurts, because that cool creaminess is an essential counterpoint for spicy food.

I also told them Earth Balance is a vegan butter they can possibly use in some vegan dishes. They seem very open to these suggestions and took careful note of them and indicated they might prepare a separate vegan menu. So I suggest we watch this space for exciting developments in vegan eating around the Bend!

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Rama Ganesan and her fellow meatless maven Crystal Hallwood, sign up for the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.

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