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Curry innit?

Most people think curry was invented in India. But now a group of British chefs have flown to the subcontinent to teach Indians how to make curries.

india Updated: May 06, 2010 17:32 IST
Naomi Canton

Most people think curry was invented in India. But now a group of British chefs have flown to the subcontinent to teach Indians how to make curries. The three British chefs, together with one chef from Bangladesh, came to India to showcase the British versions of Indian curries at a 10-day Taste of Britain Curry Festival. Held in Kolkata’s Hotel Hindusthan International (HHI), the event aimed to showcase the curries that are passed off as Indian cuisine in the UK.

Says Utpal Mondal, corporate chef, at the HHI: “My friends who are chefs in London said they would like to do a festival in India of their food, and I said ‘Why not? Let’s do it at our hotel.’” The buffet festival was held in Mythh, the 24-hour coffee shop, in conjunction with Curry Life magazine. About 50 British Indian curries from the UK were displayed at the event with bizarre names such as Balti Prawn and Broccoli, Dhal a la Kent (referring to the county in the UK), and Water Chestnut Do Pyaza. “Curry belongs to India and yet it has gone to London to satisfy the Britishers. Now, the main food in the UK is curry,” Mondal explains.

“But variations have been invented there and what they have now is completely different to the curries here. They use local ingredients and herbs like thyme, oregano, and Parmesan cheese, which we don’t use. They don’t use khoya and they serve a lot of Balti as Indian food, which, in fact, comes from Pakistan,” he adds. When the British make Lamb Jardaloo, the lamb is roasted in the oven first. In India, raw mutton is used and cooked along with the stew, he continues.

But since the cuisine is so successful and has become a staple of the British diet, Mondal says he wanted to check what the ingredients were, how they were used and how the final dish tasted. Nearly 3,000 people attended the festival. “The Europeans loved this version of Indian food. They like Indian cuisine but usually find it too spicy,” he continues. “They come to India expecting to find these dishes here, and can’t find them. The locals also enjoyed it. They preferred the Baltis and the Shatkora dishes the most. So we have now added those to our menu.” He says the British-style ‘Indian’ curries have a thicker consistency of gravy than authentic Indian dishes, and use more meat and fish.

“All the British curries are lighter versions of the Indian ones,” he surmises. “Indian cuisine has lots of varieties, whereas there are just 60 so-called Indian dishes on menus in the UK. The variety there has completely disappeared. Many of the Indian curries in the UK don’t even exist in India.” Chicken Tikka Masala, a creamy mild curry, invented by a Bangladeshi chef in Britain, but served in Indian restaurants there, is known as the UK’s national dish.

British curries showcased at the Fest

Balti Fish Exotica
Courgette Balti
Cheddar Chilli Lamb
Kerala Balti
Cabbage Rolls with Mushrooms in Kashmiri Sauce
Oregano Chicken Kebab
Balti Chicken Tikka Do Pyaza
Fish in Fiery Lemon Coriander
Lamb and Mushroom Korma