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The Indian Restaurant Taste

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16 replies to this topic

#1 merrybaker

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 10:20 AM

Anyone looking to duplicate the taste of Indian food as its served in British Indian restaurants, this site’s for you:

http://www.realcurryrecipes.co.uk/

Real chefs are sharing their recipes for every Indian restaurant dish you ever heard of, and then some. The site’s not very old, but already it’s causing somewhat of a sensation in England. This is not some gimmicky thing. They’re not trying to sell anything. If a brand is mentioned (and that’s only rarely), it’s to help members duplicate a dish exactly.

The site has an eGullet mentality -- members cook, post photos, ask questions, experiment, and debate. They're very dedicated curry makers, LOL.

And the food? OMG! Start with the Chicken Ceylon and Saag Gosht. I bet you won’t be sorry.

#2 merrybaker

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 07:53 AM

No responses? I take that as a sign you were all waiting for the weekend to make your sauces and curries. I expect to smell the spices very soon, lol. BTW, I forgot to mention a couple things. :blink:

When you try the recipes:

Measure accurately, using leveled measuring spoons. The ratio of spices is very critical, and the recipes were written with level measurements in mind. I've had my best results with accurate measuring.

Don’t skimp on the oil, as much as you may want to. A certain critical mass is needed to “fuse” the spices. Excess oil can be spooned off the top just before serving.

Start by making a base sauce, and use it as a base for the curries. Surprisingly, all the dishes have distinct tastes. (Same method as The Curry Secret, but, unlike those recipes, these are good!)

Be sure to read the section on fusing the spices and oil. Very important!

That’s all for now.

#3 waaza

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 11:45 AM

I think you are under a misapprehension; many of us prefer to cook the real thing, takes the same time, and the results are much superior (IMHO). The real advantage of the real thing is that each dish uses just one kind of meat, which is married perfectly with flavours to produce a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts, rather than your 'any meat with any sauce' type, which always tastes the same (from the same restaurant, but different from any other restaurant, a sorry state of affairs, IMHO). So if you like 'restaurant curries' why not give your taste buds a real treat and make some pukka stuff? :smile:

cheers
Waaza

#4 v. gautam

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 04:55 PM

Hi merrybaker,

I sincerely appreciate the kindness, the labor of love involved, the fellowship and all the positives on the site you have indicated; in fact, there is nothing negative there, so far as i am concerned.

However, please engage me in the same spirit: of the BIR genre, sometimes I think there is the danger of becoming a bit perfervid, a bit unbalanced. In the beginning, there was the British Indian Restaurant Vinadaloo, and the BIR Balti Meat, Chicken etc. OK, so far, so good.

But now we have Balti Vindaloo as well? What on earth? And Why? What is the difference anyway? Since we are using cauliflower in the vindaloo base, and kewra water in the finish, with nary a hint of the vinegar tang that indicates vindaloo, what does balti even mean here?

No criticism whatsoever, just amazement! Delight too, at the Englishman's revenge at the torment meted out to supposed "English" food by generations of cooks in India!!!!

Returning to balti: a friend who had spent his college days in Peshawar describes the Ur-Balti thus--

Freshly slaughtered carcasses of fat-tailed sheep and goat, not yet into rigor, hanging by the butcher; you choose your meat, along with some fat, which is expertly sliced: (this is very important if you have ever seen subcontinental Muslim Butchers and how deeply they understand the lay of the musculature, as it were)

This is thrown into a hot wok along with some fat from a previous order.
Chopped garlic follows, sliced onions, julienned gingerroot, sliced green chillies.
Slices of firm tart tomatoes.
Pinch of simple garam masala.
(Stirring and frying is going on all the while in no small amount of fat; the level of heat and maintaining tenderness, adjusting salt so that the meat does not become tough nor the vegetables turn to mush is the essential art and experience here)
Crushed dry kasuri methi leaf. I forget if cilantro leaf is also included.
A dollop of pure desi ghee [yoghurt churned], at the very end, to preserve its aroma, and you are done.

That is balti, eaten with fresh naan or tandoori roti. A squeeze of lime if the tomatoes were not tart enough, as they are not in the West.

This is the single dish, there is none other, and it is not complex.
Requires practice and attention.
You should be able to taste each component, as well as savor the whole.
The ginger, tomatoes, etc. must not become mush, the meat definitely remains quite chewy, and fatty. The tail fat of the dumba sheep is especially relished.

My question is: why the huge complication?

I have read assiduously the book " 100 Best Balti Curries" and can see why the restaurants would like to create a meat curry, separate meat and gravy, and on demand fry up the meat with aromatics and add back the gravy. But why make the distinction between balti and non-balti? Anyway, it is all too much for the uninitiated. Long live the Bangladeshi geniuses who compile the take-away menus as well as the recipes, and i mean that without any sarcasm!

g

#5 merrybaker

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 09:12 AM

Waaza, I have eaten many authentic Indian dishes, both in homes and in restaurants, and they were, as you said, distinctive and delicious. But I have also had many, many curries in British-Indian restaurants, and those meals hold a special place in my heart. They’re associated with good friends, much beer, and great camaraderie. It’s that experience that I long to duplicate in my own home. And that's why I was so happy to find the Real Curry Recipes site.

It’s rather like pizza. Sometimes I want a pure, Naples-style pizza to eat with knife-and-fork, along with a bottle of good red wine. Sometimes I want nothing more than to fold “a slice” and scarf it down with a Coke. Life is good.

V. Gautam, interesting post! Yes, the BIR menu is getting complicated. I think that’s profit-driven: to be the first restaurant to offer a new dish, or to play catch-up with the others. But if customers like it, well, isn’t that what restaurant business is all about?

#6 waaza

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 07:12 AM

I understand your sentiments, which are well put. Eating out is about food and friends/relations and meeting new people, but my comments were really about the food. I've had a quick look at the site cited, as much as is allowed, but I can't help but comment about the 'lack of business', though many forums suffer from this as well.

Maybe our enjoyment of restaurant food is dependant, to some extent, on our enjoyment of the company. But even after a grand tour of all the Indian restaurants in Chester, UK, I could only award 4/10 for the best of them, though having sampled many Indian dishes in restaurants in India, some would attract as low a score.

Why can't you have good company and good Indian food? Would this not be synergistic?

cheers
Waaza

#7 v. gautam

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:29 PM

Waaza,

I can see a parallel here amongst many friends in the US who enjoy [and who are truly are skilled in ] authentic Chinese cooking. Nevertheless, they admit to craving occasionally the New York/New Jersey versions of 'pork lo mein', chow ein with the exact proportions of celery, onions etc.. Arguments break out whether the shrimp in lobster sauce should have white glop or brown, peas or no peas!

It is a part of living (and eating) memories. As someone long sundered from his native pastures and unlikely ever to recapture familiar tastes and memories, I can understand what a torture this might become, and what a delight if the means to fulfil, even partially, are at hand.

Finally, Since the BIR is a native English creation, it is only fitting that the native sons and daughters find a source to learn the cuisine that they themselves have created. This is something to be proud of, akin to the creation of a 'creole' cuisine, much like the revered Creole/Cajun cookery of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Historically, the British creole adaptation of the Indian idiom has birthed at least 4 strains that I am able to discern, 3, possibly more, in India itself. The fourth is the very significant curry tradition of Japan. There may be more in Africa, especially South Africa, and the Caribbbean about which I am too ignorant to make an informed judgement.

So what we are seeing is the birth of major cooking traditions (perhaps more than one), taking as its initial, BUT not final nor exclusive, inspiration, the traditonal cuisines of India. This is a huge ferment, a huge explosion of experimentation and creativity going on.

Just as the settlement of North America and Oceania by Europeans led to the emergence of cooking traditions and methods quite distinct [and exciting] from the originals, that is what might be going on here.

g

Edited by v. gautam, 23 April 2007 - 02:36 PM.


#8 The Old Foodie

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 02:52 PM

My personal feeling is that Anglo-Indian cuisine is a distinct "branch" off the original stem - or perhaps an example of fusion over such a long time that it it a "cuisine" in its own right, and no longer just a bastardised version of "real" Indian food.

If you think of it that way, then the discussion about "authenticity" doesnt apply, and you can enjoy both. If you need a justifying argument that is.

One might as well say otherwise that any Indian dish with potatoes is not "authentic" because potatoes came from the New World (as with that authentic Neapolitan pizza with tomatoes)
Happy Feasting

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My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

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#9 merrybaker

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 03:44 PM

good company and good Indian food? Would this not be synergistic?

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Good company and good Indian food -- what's not to like there! Meanwhile, you might make some converts by posting recipes in the “Authentic Indian Recipes” section of that forum. There was a recent discussion on that exact topic, and members showed a genuine interest in learning more.

This is a huge ferment, a huge explosion of experimentation and creativity going on.

View Post

Where do you think it will end?

My personal feeling is that Anglo-Indian cuisine is a distinct "branch" off the original stem - or perhaps an example of fusion over such a long time that it it a "cuisine" in its own right, and no longer just a bastardised version of "real" Indian food.
If you think of it that way, then the discussion about "authenticity" doesnt apply, and you can enjoy both. If you need a justifying argument that is.

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I wish I had said that!

#10 v. gautam

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 05:52 PM

Old Foodie,

You make assumptions of what i intended to say or what i might have written. Please understand that while i respect expertise, there is a vast and real gap between people who think they know a lot and those who have spent a lifetime thinking, studying, researching and understanding these issues on its home ground. Its includes a nuanced understanding of the political and social history of the subregions, as well

Readers will notice how those who are truly knowledgeable about Indian food have abandoned this forum. I regret my returning. It was merely as a courteous gesture to some friends and to answer a few others.

I believe it is high time to leave this place to merrybaker and yourself.

g

#11 The Old Foodie

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 06:23 PM

Old Foodie,

You make assumptions of what i intended to say or what i might have written. Please understand that while i respect expertise, there is a vast and real gap between people who think they know a lot and those who have spent a lifetime thinking, studying, researching and understanding these issues on its home ground. Its includes a nuanced understanding of the political and social history of the subregions, as well

Readers will notice how those who are truly knowledgeable about Indian food have abandoned this forum. I regret my returning. It was merely as a courteous gesture to some friends and to answer a few others.

I believe it is high time to leave this place to merrybaker and yourself.

g

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Dear v.gautam

If you look at the time of my post you will see that at the time I was writing it (a long pause in the middle to see to my husband who is ill) I had not seen your post, so if I have offended it was purely inadvertent.

I have re-read my words and do not understand how they have been read as in any way being dismissive of your obvious expertise. I have, in fact, enjoyed your previous posts as coming from someone with clear appreciation, love and understanding of the cuisine of your country of origin.

I grew up in post-war England, with a father who served in India, so my own background has given me personal exposure to Anglo-Indian cuisine - which I do feel is (now) a distinct cuisine, in the same way as is Creole in the south of the USA, which you pointed out yourself.

I have always felt that the eGullet forums are a superb educative experience, so if this particular thread has caused "those who are truly knowledgeable about Indian food to have abandoned this forum" then I think that is truly sad, and not in the true spirit of eGullet.

merrybakers first post was quite clear that the information was for those who "wish to duplicate the taste of Indian food as its served in British Indian restaurants" - which is a perfectly valid topic. If it has spurred a debate on regional Indian cuisine, or its bastardisation by the British, or Ango-Indian cuisine as a cuisine in its own right, or where to get the best balti in Birmingham - so much the better!
Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

#12 Carlovski

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 05:16 AM

I understand your sentiments, which are well put. Eating out is about food and friends/relations and meeting new people, but my comments were really about the food. I've had a quick look at the site cited, as much as is allowed, but I can't help but comment about the 'lack of business', though many forums suffer from this as well.

Maybe our enjoyment of restaurant food is dependant, to some extent, on our enjoyment of the company. But even after a grand tour of all the Indian restaurants in Chester, UK, I could only award 4/10 for the best of them, though having sampled many Indian dishes in restaurants in India, some would attract as low a score.

Why can't you have good company and good Indian food? Would this not be synergistic?

cheers
Waaza

View Post

You are probably right, most indian restaurants in the UK wouldn't be deserving of more than 4/5 out of 10 on a subjective score, but that is probably a lot better than the alternatives available in the same town!
And at least they are cooking the food to order unlike most pubs and chain restaurants . And before anyone points out a lot of the food is precooked and just reheated with extra spices/vegetables then how do you think a large proportion of dishes in all restaurants, up to the michelin starred level are prepared? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the curry 'method' any more than there is anything wrong with the mother sauces of french gastronomy.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a greater range of authentic regional dishes on the menus, there is a good south indian place near me (can't vouch for authenticity , but it is at least different and tastes good) but even they have to provide all the curry house staples to stay in business.
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#13 waaza

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 06:53 AM

[

good points, Carlovski; best eatery in my town is an unpretentious pub, cooked to order stuff.
Lets get one thing sorted here.
'Indian restaurants' are mostly run by non-Brits, mostly Bengali, Pakistani and Bangladeshi; this has been so since the sixties, and even before. So, enough of the British-Indian thing, the dishes were invented by non-Brits for Brits who knew nothing (and still ignorant) of real Indian cuisine (this goes for most of the Indian restaurant cooks too, unfortunately).

What we have is a culture (?!?) born out of ignorance for the ignorant in the name of profit. Nothing so wrong in that, many businesses are built on this principle. But it is not British, please don't blame the Brits for this state of affairs (we're blamed (probably correctly) for so many other things), Indian restaurants in the UK (and I suspect in other coutries as well) are run by Asians. If they invented the 'British curry', then it is they who have to take the credit/debit.

What really saddens me is that it is possible to sell/serve real Asian food profitably with little or no change to suit Western tastes. I have only experienced it once in the East End of London (no, not Brick Lane). Large dishes of food were cooked, and when it was gone, it was off the menu!

cheers
Waaza

#14 merrybaker

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 08:39 AM

What do you think accounts for the large number diners from the Indian subcontinent (seemingly enjoying themselves) in curry houses? Is it a guilty pleasure, the way I'd eat a junky donut even though I could bake or buy a fancy pastry instead? Is it because the spices are familiar from home, even though the dishes aren't? Is it the camaraderie thing again -- casual, omnipresent, late license places to hang out, the food may be secondary? Are BIRs thought of as a completely different cuisine, such as Chinese or Greek?

#15 waaza

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 05:21 AM

I don't think the average punter would know what the proper food of a country really tastes like. Most Brits would not have visited India of China, and those countries they had visited were probably been served from the 'tourist menu'. This happens within India itself, how can a Keralite be expected to know what a real tandoori dish or rogan josh tastes like unless they had visited the relevant regions or be educated by others who 'know'?

I don't live in a large town, and the nearest large city restaurants are 90 mins away, so I have not observed such places patronised with Asian people, except in the restaurant I mentioned in the East End of London. BTW, it is all too easy to expect all Indian people to be experts on Indian cuisine. I would not call myself an expert on English cuisine (whatever that might be) being more informed of ISC, Japanese, Peruvian and Moroccan cuisines. If I consider my Indian friends, there is a broad spectrum of culinary knowledge, as with all peoples.

My guess is that the people you mention are quite young, so either they have not grown up submerged in Indian culinary traditions, or it is indeed a social thing, probably a bit of both. I cannot see how they could appreciate the mush served up in the name of Indian food. I know most of my Indian friends shun away from such establishments.

BTW, while in a Bangalore mal, I saw a McD full of Bangaloreans, in my book it didn't mean 'McD is good food', just people exploring the unknown. In fact, most of the usual offerings had to be changed....does that say something? (and no, I have never had a McD, the smell is enough to make me want to chuck).

Isn't it about time someone started marketing real Indian food ? (outside of the ISC).

cheers
Waaza

Edited by waaza, 25 April 2007 - 05:29 AM.


#16 Carlovski

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 09:25 AM

It's interesting, the same thing happens with Chinese restaurants, the food served in most British (And American, and no doubt in the rest of the world outside China) Chinese restaurants bares little resemblance to real Chinese food, at least the food on the menu shown to westerners anyway, but most Chinese restaurants have a completely different menu for Chinese customers. I've never seen this in Indian restaurants, something to do with restaurants not being part of Indian/Bangladeshi culture, unlike China?
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#17 merrybaker

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Posted 27 April 2007 - 11:59 AM

Yes, now that you mention it, there don’t seem to be separate menus. I’ve seen such in Chinese restaurants, and have even pointed to another diner’s food (not on English menu) and ordered “that.” Yet when I go to Indian restaurants with Indian friends, everyone orders off the “standard” menu.





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