Authentic Indian and South Asian food in the UK is on the up. Reflecting the authentic flavours, techniques and regional differences of India is something younger chefs and entrepreneurs excel at, and are going all out for. Not before time.
So much Indian food in Britain was junk, and outside our bigger cities, still is. And the widespread relationship to it was marked by a toxic disregard for the conventions of civil behaviour, frequently fuelled by excessive alcohol consumption and machismo, a situation brilliantly parodied by the Goodness, Gracious Me team in their 1990’s sketch show.
A 6,000-year history of diverse cultures and ethnicities interacting across the subcontinent has resulted in hugely mixed flavours, techniques, and ingredients to create dishes that mirrors the diversity of India. The so-called ‘Indian’ food available from restaurants and takeaways is not the extent of the cuisine, even less so the vile interpretations of it available as mainstream vegetarian options in cafes which dilute that heritage even further.
Would you eat daal the consistency of wallpaper paste?
London diners are leading the charge towards more authentic Indian food – hurrah! This change in tastes is happening concurrently with an increasingly hostile attitude towards immigration and immigrants; a double whammy for the ‘traditional’ British curry house. Indian food in the UK had to improve, if only as younger generations shrug off the biases and mis-appropriations of older generations who barely understood it.
What fresh hell is this?
The British love affair with a mangled version of Indian food has its roots in plunder and Imperial adventure – only that could explain the utter disregard for the real food that people ate.
Kedgeree, chutney, mulligatawny, and the abominable pish pash were the result of this mis-appropriation, along with a host of curry house staples that developed as a result of such abused palates.
The joy of the renaissance
The UK’s diverse Indian populations, drawn from Nepal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and elsewhere across that vast country, coming with the heritages of ‘family’ styles of cooking, castes, geographies, and regional flora and fauna, and many different ways of cooking are making their presence known. Once you know how and where to look, you’ll find gloriously diverse Indian flavours everywhere.