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merrybaker

Have you worked in a British Indian Restaurant?

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Hello, I’ve eaten food from British Indian restaurants and takeaways, and it has a special taste that isn’t found in American restaurant curries.

Do you know what that is? Is there something in the base sauce that is special? Chicken broth? I’ve heard that oil is skimmed off the curries and added back to the base sauce? Is that true? Is monosodium glutamate added? If the oil in the pan catches on fire -- does that add that special flavor? Is the base sauce left out to ferment? Is there something else I haven’t thought of? Something complex -- something simple? A special herb or spice?

I’d appreciate any thoughts you have, any clues. I’ve tried many cookbooks -- Kris Dhillon, Pat Chapman, and on and on. They are close, but not quite there. I want to recreate some of those great meals at home! Thanks,

-Mary

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have you tried 'madhur jaffreys ultimate curry bible'? worth a try i think, i'm not sure its a specific ingredient you're looking for, more a style and a national disregard for authenticity!

i've eaten curries all across the US and they are never anything like what i served in the uk, having said that, i've eaten in india a lot too, and could say the same thing!

i doubt chicken stock is too widespread in uk indians, most sauces seem to start with tinned plum tomatoes and a lot of ginger and garlic......

also bear in mind, a lot of these kind of dishes benefit from a night in the fridge

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Hello, I’ve eaten food from British Indian restaurants and takeaways, and it has a special taste that isn’t found in American restaurant curries.

Do you know what that is?  Is there something in the base sauce that is special?  Chicken broth?  I’ve heard that oil is skimmed off the curries and added back to the base sauce? Is that true?  Is monosodium glutamate added? If the oil in the pan catches on fire -- does that add that special flavor? Is the base sauce left out to ferment? Is there something else I haven’t thought of?  Something complex -- something simple?  A special herb or spice? 

I’d appreciate any thoughts you have, any clues.  I’ve tried many cookbooks -- Kris Dhillon, Pat Chapman, and on and on.  They are close, but not quite there.  I want to recreate some of those great meals at home!  Thanks,

-Mary

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This may be off the mark (I apologize in advance!) but I read somewhere that the Brits prefer their Indian food quite red in color like a vindaloo and so restraunts sometimes add red food coloring to accomodate the expected visual.

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I think it could be one of several things.

1.The ghee might be different in the uk

2.MSG

3.Food coloring

4.The recipe beening tweaked for UK tastes


"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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Most Indian restaurants start with a generic onion suce as its base. When a curry is ordered the relevant spices are added I'm pretty certain it will be the Onion base that is consistent between most Indian meals in this country and are giving you the taste that you are referring to.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Look at "The Modern Indian Restaurant Cookbook" by Pat Chapman (ISBN 1-84358-134-5), or "The Curry Secret" by Kris Dhillon (ISBN 0-7160-2054-8).

Base sauce:

2lb onions

2 oz green ginger

2 oz garlic

Peel and roughly chop onions; whizz ginger and garlic with 1/2 pt water.

Put all in a large saucepan with 2 pts water and simmer for 25 mins. Cool, and whizz or use a stick blender until absolutely smooth.

Can (8oz) tomatos

1 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

Blend together until smooth; mix with onion mixture; simmer 30 mins.

That is the basic stock sauce.

To make, for example Chicken Curry

5 Tbs oil

3/4 pint base sauce

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

1lb cooked chicken, cubed

1 tsp garam masala (mixed spices)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Pinch Fenugreek ( I think this may be your charateristic flavour)

Mix together. Simmer for a few minutes to heat the chicken through.

Variations:

Cream (and less chilli): Korma

Cream and thicken with egg: Moghlai

Lentil Dhal and lemon juice: Dhansak

Tandoori marinated and cooked chicken: Tikka Masala - red colouring optional

Onions: Dhopiaza

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This may be off the mark (I apologize in advance!) but I read somewhere that the Brits prefer their Indian food quite red in color like a vindaloo and so restraunts sometimes add red food coloring to accomodate the expected visual.

this used to be alot more widespread 10 years ago, however its still more widespread than it should be! the British are slowly educating themselves......

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Yep - it's the base sauce that gives it the characteristic taste, and consistency (Restaurant curries tend to be a lot thicker than you would get at home - and it isn't long simmering that's doing it).

The meast also tends to be precooked in the base sauce too.

I don't see anything wrong with it, yes a lot of the dishes get a bit samey, but when done well they can still be very tastey.

And when you think about it, it;'s not a lot different to Classical French with the ubiquitous ladlefull of demiglace or sauce espagnole.

The fenugreek is important too - people see the odd fleck of green and assume it is coriander when they try and recreate dishes at home, but it is usually fenugreek.

The last thing is that they tend to cook the onions properly - most people don't cook them anywhere near enough - Camilla Panjabi's 50 great curries of india (Definitely not a guide to how to make curry house favourites!) goes into the importance of cooking the onions (And the variety) at great length.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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FYI: Fenugreek is often referred to as Methi in Pakistani/Indian restaurants.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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The fenugreek is important too - people see the odd fleck of green and assume it is coriander when they try and recreate dishes at home, but it is usually fenugreek.

I’m intrigued by this. Would that be fresh fenugreek? I’ve used dried fenugreek (leaves and seeds), but never tried fresh.

-Mary

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Dried.

Apparently fenugreeek (Methi) is pharmacologically active, and used to stimulate lactation. Makes you smell of butterscotch or maple syrup as well if taken for a long time and high doses

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Thank you all so much! There’s much good information here, and maybe if I put it all together...? I guess I'll just have to make a lot of curries to find out.:biggrin:

-Mary

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Rather than a particular unique flavouring, might it be a function of the massive amount of ghee that british indian restaurants seem happy to use? This wouldn't apply to more upmarket indian restaurants, but I think your average take-away contains a unauthentically large dose, which will tend to act as a flavour enhancer.

I was told that at one time a local authority wanted to put health warnings on the 'great british curry' like those on cigarettes...


Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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Thank you all so much!  There’s much good information here, and maybe if I put it all together...?    I guess I'll just have to make a lot of curries to find out.:biggrin:

-Mary

Definitely check out that curry cookbook. I have it and it's quite good. The onion sauce is a key thing, I think. Also, I was making an Ethiopian curry the other day and the recipe called for stirring in some melted butter at the end. It gave a texture not unlike some curries I have had so I wonder if that might be a factor too, in things like lamb rogan josh, for example?

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Makes you smell of butterscotch or maple syrup as well if taken for a long time and high doses

I've noticed my latest batch of fenugreek seeds has that smell, but previous ones didn't. Could use it for cheap perfume?

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the massive amount of ghee that british indian restaurants seem happy to use

Oh, that's the truth! It's the rare curry that doesn't have huge puddles of orangish oil floating on top. I've heard that Indian chefs scoop off some of that oil and add it back to the base curry sauce, giving more flavor to the base sauce. But (1) apparently the chefs won't admit to doing this, and (2) there's still so much left on top!

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Mary, I have your answer :)

First off, although some wonderful suggestions have been mentioned as to how to make great Indian restaurant style food at home, no one has adequately addressed the difference between British and American Indian restaurant cuisine.

They both:

Utilize base sauce(s)

Use lots of ghee

Add MSG

Add varying amounts of food coloring

Utilize fenugreek leaves both dried and fresh (in certain dishes)

None of these areas change as you travel across the water.

One difference, one BIG difference that hasn't been breached, is brutally simple. UK Indian restaurants are staffed by great chefs. I've eaten Indian food in just about every restaurant between E. 6th street and Pennsylvania, all the way down to Philly and I can say, without a doubt, that if you live near Princeton, you're not getting great Indian restaurant food. If I had to pinpoint the 'great Indian food' area on a map, I wouldn't go South of Freehold nor would I go West of Morristown. And Chicago... well, I've never had the pleasure to eat Indian food there, but I have had St. Louis fare and it was the worst I've ever eaten. Once you leave the tri-state area, forget about it.

In other words, you've lived in areas with mediocre Indian Food (Princeton, Chicago) and you visited somewhere with some of the best Indian food on the planet (outside India). That's your answer.

Btw, if you want some UK quality Indian food without shelling out for airfare, I suggest a road trip up 206/287. There's really some breathtaking stuff up North.

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Fenugreek is also great to stop Monteczuma's Curse. Just take a handful and swallow with water. My mum's home remedy. And it works.

I wasn't aware that Indian restaurants use MSG!! I thought only the Chinese did that. Also the red colour is unhealthy and should not be used at all.

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the massive amount of ghee that british indian restaurants seem happy to use

Oh, that's the truth! It's the rare curry that doesn't have huge puddles of orangish oil floating on top. I've heard that Indian chefs scoop off some of that oil and add it back to the base curry sauce, giving more flavor to the base sauce. But (1) apparently the chefs won't admit to doing this, and (2) there's still so much left on top!

In my many experiments in recreating favourite indian dishes I have found that seemingly unecessary amounts of oil are vital for getting the right taste and consistency - you can drain it off after if you leave it to cool and settle without losing to much of the effect, but for some reason you need it for the cooking.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Fenugreek is also great to stop Monteczuma's Curse. Just take a handful and swallow with water. My mum's home remedy. And it works.

The things you learn here! I think it might be wise to carry some on any trip, just in case.

In my many experiments in recreating favourite indian dishes I have found that seemingly unecessary amounts of oil are vital for getting the right taste and consistency - you can drain it off after

For my last curry, I did use a massive amount of oil -- close to a cup, I would guess. The scary part was that the amount floating to the top at the end was about a fourth of that. :shock:

In other words, you've lived in areas with mediocre Indian Food (Princeton, Chicago)

Oh, dear. What can I say?

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I tried the idea of the generic curry sauce, with the thick onion and tomato base last night, served with some nice basmati rice and with some chicken thighs (favourite cut for most things, breasts are so un-flavoured compared to them) and it was actually very very nice.

Time to go forage for that "50 Currys" book.

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Look at "The Modern Indian Restaurant Cookbook" by Pat Chapman (ISBN 1-84358-134-5), or "The Curry Secret" by Kris Dhillon (ISBN 0-7160-2054-8).

whizz ginger and garlic with 1/2 pt water...

Put all in a large saucepan with 2 pts water... 3/4 pint base sauce

I just want to add that Kris Dhillon's book is from Britain, and I think a British pint is 2+1/2 American cups. Also, she says her spoon measurements are slightly rounded and the cup she uses is a 5 oz. teacup! This can get very confusing, especially in the frenzy of cooking :biggrin:, so it helps to go through her book and wrote down the conversions next to each recipe.

-Mary

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Look at "The Modern Indian Restaurant Cookbook" by Pat Chapman (ISBN 1-84358-134-5), or "The Curry Secret" by Kris Dhillon (ISBN 0-7160-2054-8).

Base sauce:

2lb onions

2 oz green ginger

2 oz garlic

Peel and roughly chop onions; whizz ginger and garlic with 1/2 pt water.

Put all in a large saucepan with 2 pts water and simmer for 25 mins. Cool, and whizz or use a stick blender until absolutely smooth.

Can (8oz) tomatos

1 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

Blend together until smooth; mix with onion mixture; simmer 30 mins.

That is the basic stock sauce.

To make, for example Chicken Curry

5 Tbs oil

3/4 pint base sauce

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

1lb cooked chicken, cubed

1 tsp garam masala (mixed spices)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Pinch Fenugreek ( I think this may be your charateristic flavour)

Mix together. Simmer for a few minutes to heat the chicken through.

Variations:

Cream (and less chilli): Korma

Cream and thicken with egg: Moghlai

Lentil Dhal and lemon juice: Dhansak

Tandoori marinated and cooked chicken: Tikka Masala - red colouring optional

Onions: Dhopiaza

Tried this -- but was completely unimpressed...

I lived at the end of Curry Mile in Manchester for a few years, so I reckon I know what a proper English curry should taste like. However, I don't claim to be a great cook by any measure, so maybe I did something wrong. I'll try to list what I did here, in case anyone's got any comments.

I used more tomatoes than the recipe called for (since I had a 14.5 oz can rather than the 8 oz) and also, I didn't bother with any tomato puree (since I'm pureeing the tomato sauce mixture anyhow). I would normally be mortally afraid of deviating from a new recipe, BUT since this recipe's "Variations" section lists Tikka Masala as something you create from Tandoori chicken, I figured well -- you know, that's BS... Chicken Tikka Masala comes from Chicken Tikka, not Tandoori chicken. I only noticed this after I started cooking. So I used a bit more tomatoes, and no puree... I don't think this has any influence on the taste, but I went for the Dhopiaza variation.

The recipe doesn't specify what to do, but during the simmering, I left it uncovered, since there's so much liquid, I figured it was meant to reduce. I used white onions.

I used a stick blender to smooth the onion/ginger/garlic mix, but had to use a proper blender for the tomatoes. Also, I used fenugreek seeds, that I crushed in a mortar (along with cumin). I assumed fenugreek seeds is what the recipe called for -- I used to have some fenugreek leaves, that had a really fantastic flavor, but had run out.

I was really disappointed by this... :sad:

Mind you, what I ate in restaurants, were normally Madras or Vindaloos...

Edit: Sorry, forgot: I used normal ginger, not "green ginger." What's green ginger?


Edited by Grub (log)

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Green ginger is the normal fresh ginger root, not dried.

The extra tomatos would add liquid.

This is a mild base sauce; MAdras and Vandaloo have a lot more spice added (and Vinegar for Vindaloo)

Chicken Tikka should be cooked in a tandoor

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