New Taste of India Vs. The Real Taste of India

Date: December 11, 2007
Times Visited: 3 each

On the 5th street lunch carts there’s always been a debate – Is the New Taste of India better – or is the Real Taste of India better?
After plenty of taste tests I have come to the conclusion that the Real Taste of India is the better cart for my taste buds, though many of my co-workers disagree.

Both carts offer a $5, 5 course lunch specials – meat or vegetarian. This includes Rice, Naan and three items. They are both handed to you piping hot in a plastic clam-shell containers and packed into a plastic bag with a napkin or two and a plastic fork.

So what’s the deal? Both carts call out which items have dairy. They are both at about the same mild spice level (but higher spice than The India Chaat House, whose lunch special seems to have no spiciness) and both about the same food. I separate the two when it comes the variety of the three items and the naan.

The Real Taste of India has naan that is larger, thinner and flakier, and often more manipulable. Often the edges are charred like it was cooked over flame. I feel the three dishes they offer are of a wider variety and you can taste the difference from the three. AND, they have the words “vegan” on their menu, showing if you ask for an item to be vegan, they say they know what it means. BUT, you don’t have to because it’s called out on their menu. If you’re down with tofu, they even have some tofu dishes.

The New Taste of India has a denser naan which is pre-wrapped in foil. This means you get your food faster, but it never tastes as fresh as the naan I am used to. The naan tastes like cooked flour and water, there’s not much flavor there. I was once told this naan is somewhat similar to Kenyan bread, but I have nothing to back that up on. Besides the naan, there are the three dishes. They are all good, but they all taste the same. It’s like you could get three servings of the same thing. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, there are slight differences, but you have to look for them.

In the end it doesn’t really matter, you’ll be getting a lot of good Indian food with either cart. But if it’s raining – remember The Real Taste of India has a picnic table and a little covered area so when you order you’re not standing out on the sidewalk, in the rain. Enjoy!

New Taste of India Lunch Special:
New Taste of India - Lunch Special

Real Taste Of India Lunch Special:
Real Taste of India - Lunch Special

New Taste of India Rating: 4/5
Real Taste of India Rating: 4.5/5
Locations: 5th Ave. between SW Stark and SW Oak
Hours: M-F 11am-6pm


12 responses to “New Taste of India Vs. The Real Taste of India

  1. I haven’t been to either (I work on 12th so the ICH is much closer to me) but I’m surprised to here that RTI has tofu! Yum! I haven’t tried to order it in a long time at ICH because they were out of it the few times I did try 😦

    Oh, and FYI, at ICH you have to ask for hot sauce with the lunch specials – they do them so fast that it’s easier to just give people a container of hot sauce on the side. But all the regular dishes are mild, medium, spicy.

    I love Indian food!

  2. You know, perhaps I should give Real Taste another try. I think part of it is that I am a New Taste Loyalist (specifically the cart near PSU). Those guys kept one poor ass student well fed through grad school.

    Regardless, how lucky we are in Portland that A) we have 4 Indian carts downtown to chose from (or is it 5?), and B) That we can eat such good food in copious amounts for under six bucks.

    I’m just waiting for an Indian cart on the Eastside and one that is open past 6PM.

  3. I am firmly in the Real Taste camp. Even though the owners have always been slightly gruff, and they’re a bit friendlier at (the 5th Street location of) New Taste, the food is just heads above. And as lovely as the people are at Chaat House, I have to say I find myself walking the extra ten blocks or so to go to Real Taste because. . . well, it just tastes better to me.

    I especially recommend ordering off the menu, rather than just the combo. The combo is great–but they do a few things on the menu that are worth trying. The tofu-saag is actually a lot tastier than one would think (I’m told paneer and tofu are quite similar). The real winner for me is the *vegan* (you gotta say it explicitly) Veggie Khorma, a dish usually made with heavy cream so I’d never had it. But they use coconut milk and—damn, it’s not healthy, but on the occasion you want rich and flavorful, it can’t be beat. Several unusual kinds of green veggies/legumes, creamy sauce. . . and it reheats perfectly since there’s no way to finish a whole batch at once.

    CBF–I must’ve hit up the PSU location of New Taste on a bad day, because the mixed vegetables we got there last summer honestly seemed awfully similar to those torturously bad “mixed veggies in a can” (peas, green beans, cubed carots, diced potatoes, corn) I was made to eat in public elementary school cafeterias as a kid. What do you recommend there?

  4. Honestly, it’s been a couple of years. I need to hit both again. I always enjoyed their specials and their biriyanis. I don’t remember the canned veggies, but time has a way of clouding one’s memory. Appreciate your report.

    I’ll need to hit both NTI and RTI soon.

    I’m telling you though when I started I had no idea how many new and emerging carts there were in town. I can’t keep up!

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  6. Nicely done–hope that discussion gets picked up. New Taste does try some unusual/interesting things in their combo sometimes–eggplant dishes, once had a zuchinni-tofu-curry that was. . . interesting, at least. So I certainly give them credit for trying.

    I think half the women that I see eating at that Japanese cart on Alder are not there for the food. . .

  7. ok, so, can you assume the dish is vegan if the menus at these two carts don’t specify any obvious dairy in the descriptions? or do you specify “vegan” each time you order? and is the vegetarian lunch special usually vegan? thanks for your help!

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