Curry is so popular in England and the rest of the UK that it is easy to assume a number of the most popular curries sold and enjoyed throughout the country are genuine, authentic recipes from the home of the curry – India. In actuality, a number of popular “Indian” dishes in the UK aren’t Indian at all, but have in fact been made up by English curry houses to please the palate of the British public.
The term “curry” in India is very vague and can refer to hundreds of dishes from different regions and cultures. In fact, the word “curry” actually means sauce, and not the whole dish as we in the UK tend to believe. The tradition of swapping each sauce for a different meat , for example being able to order chicken, lamb or prawn saag, is not followed in India – there, each sauce is specially made for each meat, complementing it perfectly.
Generally speaking, traditional Indian curries are sourer and less thick than their English counterparts. Tomatoes are used extensively, particularly in Northern Indian cuisine, which adds to the traditional sour taste. Indian curries tend to start with a base of garlic, onion and ginger, with spices added to make a thicker sauce, finally followed by the remaining ingredients – meat, potato, vegetables, rice etc. In the UK, the word curry has come to mean any kind of dish which is inspired by Indian cuisine and consists of a meat-and-sauce based formula.
It may surprise curry lovers to know that the UK’s favourite Indian dish – the chicken tikka masala – isn’t in fact an authentic Indian curry. The dish is based on butter chicken, a very popular and tasty dish eaten in a number of Indian states. Some claim the dish was invented in the last 50 years by a Pakistani chef in Glasgow. The British version of this dish is far sweeter than the traditional Indian butter chicken recipe.
The first recorded mention of curry in English cuisine is in 1747, when only coriander seeds and black pepper were used to impart some extra flavour. Nowadays, Punjabi cooking in India is the closest counterpart to the cooking methods of Indian food in the UK, as it uses a lot of potatoes, lentils spinach and paneer. In fact, a number of the original curry houses founded in the twentieth century were run by Bengali migrants, so the food from this region has also heavily influenced the British perceptions of what a curry should be, including the traditional method of using a single base for a number of different curries – the garlic, onion and ginger combination already mentioned.
In the UK as well, chillies are often used to mask the taste of a dish and become the selling point itself – given a heat ranking of mild, medium, hot and fiery, for those feeling adventurous. In India, the heat of a meal is rarely commented on and it is the flavour that is the key focus of any dish.
To taste some authentic Indian curries in the UK, safe in the knowledge they are genuine, authentic recipes, visit one of the best fine-dining Indian restaurants in London.
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