By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
What does the average non Indian person conjure up when thinking of Indian food? Curry and more curry eaten with Roti Canai or Chapati with some biryani rice thrown in for good measure.
The truth is there is as much diversity and variety in Indian cuisine as in any of the other great cuisines of the world like the French and Chinese. And like these two, often you need to be in that locality to taste the regional specialities. Similarly with Indian cuisine.
You’d have to traverse the whole of the sub continent from North to South, East to West to get a real feel for the subtleties of the different styles of cooking and the spices and ingredients used.
In Ipoh, we are fortunate to have one Indian restaurant where one sits in one spot and take a culinary tour of India and that is at the Maharaj Restaurant at the Shooting Club on Gopeng Road. All the while surrounded by Moghul splendor in the decor.
I had raved about the food at this restaurant in the August 1, 2014 issue of the Ipoh Echo when it was a new kid on the block. A meal here at Maharaj can be likened to a gourmet feast around India as they’re proud to be presenting dishes from the different states such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, the West Coast and Northern India. Now they have even added Sri Lanka to their geographical repertoire with a dish called Ceylon Mutton, marinated morsels of mutton deep fried with masala paste and topped with yoghurt; RM25.
Naturally for me, a visit to Maharaj is not complete unless I have their Tandoori Chicken, a whole chicken leg (as in almost a quarter chicken) marinated in yoghurt and delicate spices, dripped with lime or lemon and served with their coriander, mint chutney. Every mouthful is worth savouring, having in my mind, the most juicy, delectably tender texture and taste of any chicken tandoori I’ve had anywhere else including India itself; RM21 per leg.
The Fish Guntur Pomfret Masala from Andhra Pradesh had my friend Datin Grace Lee hankering for more and ordering a portion to take home. The pomfret was first deep fried and served smothered in a thick chilli paste gravy; RM35/40 (depending on market price of the fish).
Chettinad Nandu Masala is their specialty crab curry, local mud crabs cooked in the Chettinad style from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India, perhaps the most renowned fare in the Tamil Nadu repertoire. It uses a variety of spices and the dishes are made with fresh ground masalas; seasonal price.
Prawn Kadai Jinghha, cooked in a pounded dry masala, with typical Punjabi flavours, is certainly not for the weak-hearted. It provides a perfect blend of spices and prawns in a tangy yet spicy gravy with added capsicum, in an onion, garlic, cashew nut base; RM26.
Paneer Tikka Tandoori served in a masala sauce made with a cashew nut and onion base, had a pleasant smoky taste from the Paneer (homemade Indian cottage cheese) having been cooked in the Tandoor oven and overlaid with the sauce. Very rich and satisfying and definitely for sharing with a larger group; RM38.
With all the yummilicious dishes as described above, naturally we couldn’t have downed all these sauces and gravies without some carbs to mop them up. And carbs we got by the bushel.
Keema Naan, flatbread cooked in the tandoor and stuffed with a very tasty spiced minced mutton was delicious on its own and certainly accentuated with any of the foregoing gravies; RM9.90, as did the Mushroom Parata, a fluffier version of the Naan filled with mushrooms; RM9.
And then there was the rice, from a plain Vegetable biryani to the Garlic Rice at RM8 each. A total surfeit of carbs!
In conclusion, if a culinary trip around India is your fancy, call Murugan, the manager at Maharaj: MMM! And order yourself up a storm. He’ll be happy to adjust the heat for you according to your taste buds.
Also please remember that they serve high tea from 3pm offering some delectable street food of India not usually found in restaurants and rarely in Ipoh, which changes regularly. Go to our website: ipohecho.com.my and look up “High Tea at Maharaj” in the August 1, 2017 issue.Maharaj Restaurant (Pork Free)Perak Shooting Association36, Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (Gopeng Road), Ipoh.GPS: N 4° 35.285’ E 101° 5.84’Tel: 05 243 2515Business hours: 11am-3pm (breakfast); 3pm-6pm (Indian high tea); 6pm-10.30pm (dinner).Open 24/7