As East Texas’ first exposure to the Indian cuisine, Shali’s Indian Kitchen on Wheels is the perfect starting place for someone who has never tried the fare.

At a recent event, I finally got to try Shali’s. Many of my friends had hailed it as the best food truck in town, and I’d been waiting to give it a try first-hand. I have to say that they vastly exceeded my expectations.

I ordered two Samosas for appetizers and a Mango Lassi for a drink. The Samosa was amazing. Meat, garbanzo beans, potato and more was fried inside a wanton-like exterior served with a sweet, dark sauce that made the spicy kick that much better.

The Mango Lassi was a surprisingly great addition to the whole meal. It is a thick, milkshake-like juice that is fabulously smooth. It helps curb any spice and acts as a palate-cleansing transition among different dishes.

I also ordered the Shrimp Curry, Pork Vindaloo, Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Garlic Naan.

The Butter Garlic Naan is a thin, dense bread meant to be a vehicle for the sauces of each dish. It had a nice, subtle garlic butter flavor that didn’t compete with the other tastes of the dishes it worked with.

The Shrimp Curry had a spice profile that rolls across your tongue like a wave, getting progressively spicier every bite. Curry is a dish that many cultures have adopted, and I believe it is a dish best eaten slowly to savor each flavor, especially Shali’s version.

The Pork Vindaloo is spicy and powerful. Vindaloo is known as a spicy staple of curry houses and Indian restaurant menus, usually made with pork. The initial bite has a lovely, warm flavor that eventually explodes into spice. What I highly appreciate about the spice of Indian cuisine is that it focuses more on flavor than pain, unlike its American counterparts. The pork was also extraordinarily tender.

The Chicken Tikka Masala had a bold, beautiful flavor. Made up of chunks of roasted, marinated chicken in a spicy curry sauce, Shali’s version of the Indian staple is bold up front with subtle after-flavors that kick in as you chew. Once again, the chicken is fabulously cooked, almost melty.

Overall, Shali’s is 100% something the self-professed food connoisseur must try. As someone who has tried authentic, hole-in-the-wall Indian cuisine, I can say this is a perfect introduction to Indian food. Nothing is too extraordinary or odd for an East Texan who loves food.

That being said, the menu is not explanatory. It has the names of the dishes and their prices but no description. However, the staff running the kitchen are very kind and will readily answer any questions you might have.

Shali’s Indian Kitchen is a food truck without normal operating hours. Check out their Facebook page or call them at 806-407-8706 for their daily location.

Olive Waldorf is a pseudonym for the food critic of The Lufkin Daily News. Her email is foodcritic@lufkindailynews.com.