Why the humble curry still spices up our lives in National Curry Week
This week (October 10-16) is National Curry Week, something which will be music to the ears of anyone looking for an excuse to tuck into a chicken jalfrezi, lamb balti or beef madras.
But what is it that makes curry - and rice - so popular it is often referred to as a national dish alongside fish and chips or a Sunday roast?
Mohammed Yaseen, operations director at Maharanis restaurants in Hampton, Peterborough, and Deeping St James, puts it down to the “interesting and eclectic mix of spices which gives a taste that is clearly quite different from usual British food palette.”
He added: “Over the years the Indian curry has become a British favourite and the recipes have evolved as chefs and connoisseurs developed new dishes to keep our love of Indian curry alive.
“It’s hard to find one that dislikes an Indian curry no matter your preferred taste. The beauty of an Indian curry is that it can be adapted to your specific taste. So more than likely how you like your curry is how you can have it cooked.
“ The Indian curry has progressed with fusions from cultures around the world which means that its appeal increases creating new fans.”
Dinesh Odedra, owner of The Banyan Tree restaurants in Werrington and Westgate in the city centre, was in agreement, citing two good reasons why it had stood the test of time.
“One, it goes very well with beer - the national drink - which helps take the edge off the curry,” he said. “Two, it has traditionally been cheap and easily accessible - you can get a curry with rice and a side dish for around £10, which compares favourable with a sit down meal in a bistro for example.
“And going for a curry is generally a relaxed, casual dining experience which appeals to people who go out to eat in groups and don’t want to feel uncomfortable talking loudly.”
Thanks to saturation cookery programmes on TV, making a curry at home is possible and you can pick one up ready-made from most supermarkets, but Indian restaurants remain popular - even if they and the dishes they serve now have changed over the years.
“If you look back to the 1950s and 60s there were pioneers blazing a trail, making curries with what ingredients they could get their hands on at that time. They were mostly new to the country, couldn’t speak English and unable to get any other jobs but they set the standard and it was cheap. And while it developed over the years it owed a lot to those basic curries .
“Then about 10 years ago the curry scene changed,” says Dinesh. “The range of ingredients became huge - the world is on our doorstep - plus people have travelled much more and seen what is out there.
“Add to that a new generation of classically trained chefs and a new generation of professional operators doing their research to create a new take on Indian food - much more authentic, marinating and cooking chicken differently for instance, creating lighter dishes, lighter colours and lots of flavour.
“So you now have a fine dining option when you go for a curry, but most restaurants, like The Banyan Tree, are very much casual dining with full flavoured Indian food although there are still a few of the original basic curry houses out there.”
LOOKING for somewhere to enjoy a curry in Peterborough? Try:
The Banyan Tree, Westgate, Peterborough city centre, and Church Street, Werrington.
Maharanis, Hargate Way, Hampton, and Bridge Street, Deeping St James.
Bombay Brasserie, Broadway, Peterborough city centre.
Ba Shoh, Broadway, Peterborough cty centre.
Jenas, Brook Street, Peterborough city centre.
Shah Jehan, Park Road, Peterborough city centre.
Taj Mahal, Lincoln Road, Peterborough city centre
Bollywood Nights, New Road, Peterborough city centre.
Amarah’s, Lincoln Road, Peterborough.
Lahore, Lincoln Road, Peterborough.
Ibrahimi’s, Sycamore Avenue, Dogsthorpe.
Kurry’s, Stewartby Avenue, Hampton.
Spiceland, A1, Sawtry.
Angel Spice, High Street, Stilton
Bollywood Tiger, Main Street, Yaxley
Sonargaon, Market Place, Whittlesey.
Little India, A47 Thorney Toll.