Friday, 22 February 2008

Britain's Curry Crisis


So, Britain has a curry crisis does it? I'm pretty sure it has a few more pressing concerns than that and, personally, I'm more concerned about the future of people from Bangladesh who merely want to improve their lot. You're going to tell me that Britain is only a small island and you can only fit so many in before it bursts ...

Same problem as here in the Canary Islands, but what are any of these people doing that is any different to what I and every British expat has done?

My next door neighbours back in Birmingham were Bangladeshis - the husband worked at an Indian restaurant round the corner. Nicer neighbours I could not have asked for and, I owe them a debt, because they fed me when when I first moved in and was installing a new kitchen. Their kids used to appear at my door almost as soon as I got in from work, proffering plates of delicious, home-cooked food, because they just couldn't let me buy take-away every single night.

In those days, I could well have afforded to do so. In fact, mostly, I did.

As well as the Bangladeshi-Brummie Indian, the local chippie was run by Greeks, I think. The "Greek" restaurant was run by Iranians, the Chinese possibly was "as advertised" and, I can't remember what nationality ran the pizza place that delivered (not Italian, anyway), but they all had my custom at one time, while the Balti Houses provided my "traditional" Sunday lunch!

Yes, you try telling a Tenerife native that, actually, we really don't eat that so-called English food that's demanded by tourists on this island, at home! :)

Anyroadup, if there's enough irony in poor Bangladeshi "refugees" (they probably weren't) feeding a starving "rich" (and that's a very relative term) westerner, then as for needing authentic staff to produce these authentic meals, the real irony here is that Britain's new national dish - Chicken tikka masala - is virtually unheard of on the Indian sub-continent.

The story goes that it was created by a Bangladeshi chef (very likely in Birmingham too), almost by accident. Serendipity: a happy accident, I would say, but lets be clear what it is. Similarly, it's said that the Balti (Bengali for bucket) was also invented in Brum, probably in the Balti Triangle.

For those not familiar, this should not be confused with Bermuda Triangles nor any other form of exotic location. Although the same area also produced British reggae band UB40. About the Balti, it has been observed:

"Thanks to the presence of Asian population, Birmingham is famous for its curries, and known as the curry capital of Britain. A type of curry called "balti" is reputed to have been born in Birmingham, among the Bangladeshi and Punjabi immigrants. Balti can be found now anywhere in Britain, but not in India, Pakistan, or even in Bangladesh."

Averting the Curry Crisis

Would-be Citizens - with or without cooking skills - can try this entrance exam.

Sorry if you fail (as I did and I'm a British citizen already), but bear in mind that the real one will be even more difficult (and I'm damn sure I'd fail that too!)

The rest of you will just have to learn to make your own Chicken Tikka, with or without the masala sauce (gravy), until the crisis blows over.

Chicken Tikka

Serves one person, maybe two if you serve it with rice.

  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 tsp chopped and crushed ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp corn starch

Mix together all of the ingredients together (sic). Let the chicken marinate for 3-4 hours. When it's ready to go, heat up the grill and grill the chicken on skewers. While they're grilling, take 1/2 cup of the marinade and put it in a small saute pan. Before heating it, mix in 1/4 tsp corn starch. Heat the sauce until it thickens and then let it bubble for a while. Set that aside until the chicken is done. Recipe from Jon Sullivan.

Re-create Birmingham Balti restaurant favourites

You too can create a Brummie restaurant-style Balti in minutes with, Authentic Balti Curry Restaurant Recipes Revealed. Co-written by a highly experienced Bangladeshi chef of the award winning Kushi Balti House in Moseley, this book shows how to re-create Birmingham Balti restaurant favourites at home. David suggests finishing off a Balti meal (equally good after tikka) with Kulfi ice cream. I would beg to differ, but it's up to you. Try the Ras Malai instead.

If you can get to any of the restaurants and Balti Houses in Birmingham's Balti Triangle, they're either next door to or are Sweet Centers as well. Good for business, bad for we who love spicy food AND have sweet tooths! :)

Britain's Curry Crisis | The UK is in a curry crisis

Photo: Chicken Tikka from Jon Sullivan's

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