Eating naan like nachos, biryani at Taj and peanuts that take you back in time
Curry Trail: Having been to five stadiums in the United Kingdom now, I can safely say they don’t one specialty on their menu. It’s an endless parade of chicken roulades or baked chicken thighs, baked fish with tomato sauce, different types of breads, some roasted veggies and heaps of greensUpdated: Jun 20, 2019 10:38 IST
Food transcends borders. It hits you every time you see a Brit dig into his chicken tikka masala or a Pakistani line up in front of an Indian food truck. A Bangladeshi still can’t shake off the memory of his first glimpse of the Taj Mahal in all its splendour almost fifty years ago. When it was time to name his restaurant in faraway Southampton, he couldn’t find a better name than Taj Mahal. Food is memories. Food is love.
Press box lunches in India can spoil you. All major Test centres have at least one specialty on their menu: the fish orly and Nakur’s sandesh at Eden, rogan josh at Mohali and Kotla, or the chettinad fish fry at Chennai. Having been to five stadiums in the United Kingdom now, I can safely say they don’t do the same. It’s an endless parade of chicken roulades or baked chicken thighs, baked fish with tomato sauce, different types of breads, some roasted veggies and heaps of greens. Oh and Indian as well! It’s almost always chicken in a gravy with naan bread (they always call it naan bread, not naan). Locals love to smear the sauce on the bread and eat it like a nacho while slicing the chicken with their fork and knife. There is a bright spot—dessert. Pies, tiramisu, cheesecake and all sorts of sinful delights that make waiting in the queue worth it. I adore that little candy shelf at the corner of the Oval dining lounge that brims with caramel fudge, mint pops, gummy bears, rock candy, marshmallows and taffy. Who says grown-ups can’t have fun?
Australia is under the pump due to some fine bowling from Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz at Taunton, perfect time for me to go to the stands and soak in the atmosphere. But I’m stalled in my tracks in front of an Indian food truck parked behind one of the stands. In front of it, and this was quite the sight, was a long queue of Pakistani supporters patiently waiting for their turn to order. There is a Mexican stall selling burritos and enchiladas, a pretty decent burger place as well. But the Indian food truck is the neighbours’ envy. “You know it’s good grub man!” said a Pakistani fan. Fair point.
I head back to Southampton, determined on ending the day with some Indian food. Taj Mahal, established 1962, is perhaps one of the oldest Asian restaurants in Southampton. It’s run by a Bangladeshi family where the parents cook and Mohammed, the eldest of five children, who is also an HR at the British Army, takes and serves the orders. They have a fixed weekend clientele that comes for dinner before catching a show at the Mayflower theatre on the other side of the road. The orders rarely go beyond balti, korma, dopiyaza, but today the owner says, “try the biryani. My son is brilliant with biryanis,” as his son looked on sheepishly. Sure. Turned out to be one of the finest meals of my stay so far.
Thanks for the memories
Dear Five Guys,
You have been a godsend on occasions restaurants shut down before I return from the stadium after match duty. That double patty cheeseburger with extra bacon will fetch you many blessings. Also the bottomless drinks and hand cut fries. But you moved me with that box of peanuts in shells kept for waiting customers. It brought back memories of evenings spent at the Kolkata Maidan watching East Bengal train while squashing the shells and nibbling on peanuts.