The Taj is an Indian specialty food store that has an impressive selection of spices, legumes, rice, flour, breads, mixes, snacks, etc. fairly near the heart of Makati. I love to eat Indian food but I have not attempted to cook any serious doses of it so far â€“ the array of spices is somewhat intimidating. Particularly when every Indian cook you speak to seems to have their own mix of spices that is â€œjust rightâ€ and the rumor of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves or chilli in a dish makes all the difference. While I do have a well used recipe for a relatively westernized version of shrimp curry, can throw together an oven baked chicken tandoori under duress and even have a bottle of homemade Batangas green indian mango chutney in the fridge, I had never really ventured into an Indian spice store until yesterday.
With just 6 or 7 very short aisles, the Taj carries an impressive array of imported spices that include cloves, cardamom, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, curry powders, bay leaves, cumin seeds, peppercorns, etc. They are all pre-packaged in plastic bags that are clearly labeled. I am not a spice expert, but some of these spices seemed wickedly cheap if not reasonably priced. A small pack of very aromatic bay leaves was just PHP4.00 (yes, no mistake on decimal point there). If you were looking to make a pomander for any reason (cloves stuck in an orange), the cloves were PHP35.00 for a fifty gram bag. A dozen small nutmeg seed kernels were just PHP55.00. Besides the spices, the store also carries an impressive array of dal or lentils. There were red, orange, brown and at least 4 other kinds of lentils. There was also a nice selection of other dried legumes or pulses including black eyed beans, white and red beans, etc. Indian rice, rice flour (hard to find in other food stores and perfect for those who are allergic to wheat), ready to cook pappadums and chiller fresh naan were just some of the carbohydrates that I recognized. I have to admit I hadnâ€™t the foggiest clue what 70% of the stuff was! Some of the more interesting finds included dried lotus root, dried lemons (which apparently are boiled and eaten as part of an appetizer or added to dishes or made into chutney), and dried tamarind (not in pulp form). There was a lot of stuff for purely vegetarian dishes as well.
The store also carries several brands of Indian condiments, snacks, prepared curries, etc. such as MTR, Haldirams, Ruchis, etc. There is a chiller section that has samosas and other cooked items that are ready to cook or eat. There is an assortment of pots and pans and other Indian novelty items. Oddly, they also carry personal care items like shampoo and deodorantâ€¦ They are located at #1 Guijo, Bagtikan Street, San Antonio Village, Makati. If you know where Santis Yakal is, this is the next street over and nearer to Makati Avenue. There is parking for a few cars out front. They are open from 9am to 830pm daily and can be reached at 7573992 if you need more detailed directions.