When Taj Indian Sweets opened in early 2003, it was one of the only food retailers on a street full of residential buildings. The rest of Harris Park was much the same, a far cry from the vibrant Indian community there today. “People used to laugh at us. ‘This street is so dark and it’s risky to be here at seven at night, why are you opening this place?’ But it changed in no time,” Taj’s owner, Ramesh Sharma, says. “From day one I just wished to have a bit of time to buy some things. People were sitting on the floor.”

One of the reasons it was, and still is, so fiercely popular is it offers something that didn’t exist in the area – exceptional vegetarian Indian food. There’s everything from street snacks to thalis, and even Chinese-Indian food. But one of the best things Taj offers is Indian breakfasts. Despite not opening until 10am, every weekend the restaurant is inundated with orders for Indian breads, crepes, tea and masala coffee. The most popular is the chana bathura, a deep-fried sphere of north-Indian bread with soupy dhal and pickled mango. The bread is made with extremely fine maida flour, yoghurt and ghee. When fried it puffs up until it’s crisp, elastic and resembling something between a calzone and a whoopee cushion. “In India people only eat chana bathura in the morning, but here, people come and ask for that at 10 at night,” Sharma says.

Sharma is from a town near New Dehli in northern India; he says breakfast there has changed a lot in the past decade – more people are eating Western-style breakfasts such as cereal and toast. “But the main authentic Indian breakfast in the north is paratha, wholemeal bread stuffed and served with yoghurt.” It’s a soft-layered, naan-like flatbread found all over northern India. It can be stuffed and served with almost anything. At Taj it comes with either aloo (spiced potato) or gobi (cauliflower) and arrives at your table sitting under a melting glob of butter with a side plate of yoghurt.

Taj also sells a few southern-Indian breakfast staples. The most popular are idli, bready rice cakes made with fermented black lentils and dosa, crispy fermented Indian crepes made with rice and lentils. Don’t expect the monstrous one-metre dosa in the images accompanying this article; that’s a bit of showboating from Sharma. The regular versions, still generous, max out at about 30 centimetres.

Don’t leave without having a good look at the sweet selection; it’s one of the best in Sydney. For those unacquainted or bewildered by the incredible range of colours, shapes and textures, ask Sharma’s staff for tips. It can guide you through the difference between a motichoor ladoo and a kaju katli.

For Wednesday and Thursday this week Taj Indian Sweets will serve an extended range of sweets as part of the festival of Diwali.

Taj Indian Sweets
91 Wigram Street, Harris Park
(02) 9633 2118

Hours:
Mon to Sun 10am–10pm

tajindianrestaurant.com.au

Local Knowledge is a weekly Broadsheet series shining a light on the unassuming, authentic Sydney restaurants that are worthy of appreciation beyond the neighbourhoods they serve.

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