Anna Purna: A Little Taste of India in Hiroshima-ken
Anna Purna curry and naan set (photo by Sarah Hiscock)
by Sarah Hiscock
As you rock up to Bingo Akasaka station, a five-minute train ride from central Fukuyama on the JR Sanyô line, walk up to the main road and glance down in both directions, I would forgive you for thinking that it is not a very exciting place.
But wait, what’s that smell!? Your nostrils, led by the tantalizing, spicy aromas meandering towards you from a nearby restaurant, guide you across the main road and uphill slightly for 300 metres. And there, on your left, is the beautifully lit and pillared “Anna Purna.”
Anna Purna is a top-notch, Nepalese-run Indian restaurant with a well-deserved reputation. Most JETs who live in the Fukuyama area are more than familiar with its delightful ambience, flavorful curries, and consistent quality. Instead, I am writing this article mainly for the benefit of others who visit the area, and might fancy a fantastic Indian meal to round off their day or kick-start their night.
As you enter the restaurant and walk through the ambient Indian sounds and tasteful décor, you begin to realise that a lot of thought went into creating an enjoyable experience alongside the food. You are greeted by a radiant lady; her subtly elegant sari glows gently in the light as she leads you to your seats. She presents the menus. For those lacking confidence in their nihongo skills, it is reassuring to see English menus close at hand. Anna Purna makes even the gaijin feel comfortable and welcome.
Anna Purna English menu
The menu has a large and varied selection: mutton, chicken, pork, and vegetable curries, naans, main and side salads, as well as an array of traditional Indian side dishes. For a curry meal, there are three combination options: you can choose between a curry and full-size rice, a curry and full-size naan, or a curry, half-size rice, and half-size naan. And for those who want something more, there are several dinner sets, suitable for either individuals or for people sharing. A coloured photo sits alongside the detailed description of each dish, so you know exactly what to expect when you order. Finally, as is common in many Indian restaurants in Japan, you can select your spice level from a scale of 1 to 10. The scale ranges from the sweetly mild to the very hot!
But above all, Anna Purna remains popular because of the quality of their food. The restaurant opened way back in April 1996, and is still going strong. The two current chefs both had ten years experience as professionals in India, before starting at Anna Purna three and four years ago. The experience behind these chefs shows in the flavours of the food. They use ingredients picked for their quality and taste, and it’s clear that the food was not compromised for cheap ingredients. Anna Purna buys only fresh and local vegetables for their dishes.
Hailing from England – where one of our national dishes is Chicken Tikka Masala – I am prone to the odd Indian curry here and there. When I came to Japan, one of my worries was, “Will I be able to find a good Indian anywhere in Japan?” As both a foreigner and a vegetarian here, it is a great relief to see English menus and a wide array of food available to me. Of course, I always expect a variety of options when I go to Indian restaurants, but Anna Purna went far beyond my expectations. There are approximately seven different vegetable dishes; of the seven, around half are suitable for vegetarians. Ana Purna has relieved me of any worries I may have had.
Anna Purna restaurant and staff
My personal recommendation, albeit a vegetarian one, is the following course:
Begin with the Vegetable Samosa. The pastry-to-filling ratio is perfect; as you bite into it, your teeth meet a nice, thick but soft outside, followed by a melt in the mouth centre of flavoursome vegetables. The samosa is also accompanied by the most delicious chutney.
For the main, a curry dish, I tend to sacrifice the rice and go for the set with a large naan. The garlic and spinach naans are a must, but the butter, plain, and cheese naans are all mouthwateringly divine too.
My favorite curry is the “Aloo Baingan Dry.” It is a non-sauced curry with succulent aubergine and potatoes cooked to perfection, mixed with fresh ginger, onion, tomato and spices. The idea of a dry curry never previously appealed to me, but after tasting this dish, I have been converted. The texture of the perfectly cooked vegetables, mixed with the amazingly matched spices, make for a fantastic curry that you won’t want to end.
If you are looking for something richer, the ‘Paneer Makhanwala’ has a rich cream and butter sauce. It is mixed with egg, and pieces of gorgeous Indian cottage cheese.
To finish, you can choose from one of their many desserts, or simply a coffee, chai, tea, soft drink, or one of the alcoholic beverages they offer. And if you are more of a meat fan, there are many, many dishes to choose from – all bound to tickle your taste buds! Never have I had a meat-eating friend complain about their dish in Anna Purna.
There’s more I could write about the deliciousness of the food on offer here, but to really understand how I feel about this restaurant you really need to take a visit and experience it for yourselves!