THIS author is a London-based journalist working as correspondent for Anand Bazaar Patrika and The Telegraph and therefore begins by describing her experience at the restaurant Spice of India at Wembley Park, where she has her first curry abroad, surrounded by English families enjoying the dish. That is in 1987, when she discovers that curry is a hot favourite among the British.
Hobson Jobson, a dictionary of Anglo-Indian phrases says that the word ‘curry’ evolved from the Tamil word kari, meaning a sauce or a relish that accompanies rice. Whatever be its historical origin, curry has now come to mean any number of hot, spicy and gravy-based dishes from the Indian sub-continent. There is also a campaign on to have the word ‘curryholic’ included in the Oxford dictionary.
Today there are said to be more than 8,500 Indian restaurants in Britain and visited by over two million people each week. Indian restaurants are the fastest growing and have even survived the recession of the mid-nineties. Curry has become a leveller of sorts. What used to be a meal for the discerning middle-class in India has now become a common household name, transcending class divisions. Gone are the days when English landlandies would forbid their Indian tenants from cooking curries because it made the house smell. Today the British are cooking it for themselves, helped by an elaborate range of curry pastes available in supermarkets and popularised by celebrity chefs.
The author traces the history from the advent of curry in 1810 when an enterprising Indian named Sake Deen Mahomed opened the Hindostanee Coffee House in London, laying the foundation for a unique British institute – the Curry House. Over the years, the curry industry grew to spread all over Britain whose capital London city claims to be the curry capital of the world.
Indian restaurants have broken the Michelin barrier and made their mark among the other coveted London restaurants. The star Michelin chef, Vineet Bhatia, thinks that there is hope for more Michelin stars in the future as Indian restaurants push out the boat to get the coveted recognition from the Michelin man.
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