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Est. 1996

Issue 207

March 2014

TThe British Curry Scene

by Peter Grove

 

 

 

 

"What's your favourite restaurant?" I am regularly asked by media and interested parties as if the 'Indian' curry scene were an homogenous unit throughout Britain when actually nothing could be further from the truth.

In most British, French or Italian restaurants a named dish will probably be basically the same in taste no matter the restaurant with quality of ingredients and cooking being the criteria. Not so in Indian restaurants where no two chicken tikka masalas are likely to taste or even look the same.

There are several reasons for this but the basic one is that we do not have a basic set of rules for Indian cuisine in UK - no Escoffier or even Mrs Beaton. Indian cuisine is a very individualistic one where the vital ingredient, the masala, can vary from region to region, village to village even house to house.

Add to this the fact that over two thirds of our Indian restaurants are, in fact Bangladeshi and many of the others Pakistani plus smaller Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese sectors and obvious differences emerge.

 

In broad terms most of the 'Indian' cuisine in the home counties is Bangladeshi but not so throughout the country as we are often given to believe. Birmingham, the home of the balti, is largely Kashmiri and as you move north to Bradford or Manchester it is Pakistani and further north still to Scotland where you have a mix in Edinburgh and Punjabi in Glasgow.

According to the last Census 12.8% of the British population is non-white with Indian accounting for 2.3%, Pakistani, 1.9% and Bangladeshi 0.7% and growing.

The largest concentration of Bangleshis and hence Bangladeshi style restaurants are Tower Hamlets, Newham, London in general, Oldham and Luton whereas Indians are predominant in Leicester and Slough. Pakistanis main areas are Rochdale, Leeds, Oldham, Kirklees and Sheffield.

Given this variety it is not surprising that the taste and presentation of dishes we all know by name, varies from region to region and restaurant to restaurant and satisfaction is often down to the likes and dislikes of the customer.

If you are expecting a Pakistani /Indian influence try Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Rochdale, Preston, Sheffield, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale, Leeds, Coventry, Slough. If your preference is Bangladeshi/Indian try Greater London, Bristol, Oxford, Sandwell or Oldham. If its Punjabi you are looking for try Southall, Wembley or Glasgow and if it's vegetarian go for Tooting or Leicester.

It is probably this very difference and culinary anarchy that makes the cuisine of the Indian sub continent so popular in Britain and long may it continue.

 

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Mood Food is published by FSR, London, England © 2014

Editor:

Peter J. Grove

Editorial office: PO Box 416 Surbiton, Surrey, England, KT1 9BJ

Tel: 020 8399 4831

email: GroveInt@aol.com