Gone are the days when anything and everything that was passed off as Indian food would be happily tucked in by Britons who didn’t know their daal from rasam. Tastes have become more discerning and increasing travel by Britons to India has led to better knowledge and appreciation of the variety of Indian cuisine.
"People these days do know the difference between genuine Indian food and westernised versions. Tastes are getting more sophisticated," says Manchester-based chef Mohammed Naeem, whose Michelin-rated Dilli restaurant in Altrincham promises authentic Indian cuisine.
Most ‘Indian’ restaurants in Britain are owned and run by people of Bangladesh-origin, whose tastes do not always find favour with connoisseurs. However, lovers of Indian food are well aware of the many pockets and towns where the real thing can be had, such as Wembley and Southall in London, Leicester, Birmingham and Bradford.
The growing popularity of the authentic taste of Indian food is also due to the expansion of well-known Indian restaurant chains such as Chennai Dosa, Sarvana Bhavan and Woodlands in various parts of Britain. It was six years ago that Dilli led a new wave of Indian restaurants that turned away from ‘fake’ Asian dishes. Others like Awadh India in Bradford, run by Chef Zahir Khan, a former Sheraton Hotels India, has only upped the craving for authentic Indian cuisine.
The Indian restaurant industry in Britain is worth £4.2 billion annually.
Popular ‘indian’ dishes that originated in Britain
A balti is a curry dish that originated in Birmingham. It’s cooked and served in a cast iron wok. Madhur Jaffrey once stated that it isn’t a ‘real’ Indian dish, but balti houses continue to flourish.
Chicken Tikka Masala is Britain’s national dish. It is made with roasted chicken chunks in a rich gravy, and is believed to have been created by a Bangladeshi chef in London in the 1960s.
You’ll be hardpressed to find Madras Masala curries in Chennai restaurants, but this is a very popular dish in Indian restaurants in the UK. It’s a hot curry made with lots of chilli powder.
The Real Mccoy
awadh restaurant & bar: Located in Bradford, this place proudly claims to be ‘the first restaurant in the UK bringing you regional Indian food’. It serves everything from Kashmiri and Rajasthani dishes to Bengali fare.
Dilli: Chef Mohammed Naeem’s Michelin-rated restaurant in Altrincham broke from tradition when it launched, offering ‘the real taste of India’ for discerning customers.
Woodlands: A chain of restaurants that started out by serving authentic South Indian vegetarian fare and has now branched out into North Indian cuisine, too.
Chennai Dosa: This south Indian restaurant launched in East London in 2003 and now boasts of five others in London. The vegetarian south Indian dishes here are said to be identical to what one gets in India.