India's Culinary Influence

Valerie Cherbero explores Indian cuisine and her experiences of its influence on British food.

As a food-snob from California, I was apprehensive about moving to the UK. “Where will I find carnitas enchiladas?” I asked my mom in a panic. “Do they even know what quinoa is?”

After three months in England, I can safely say my fears were unfounded. I have dined in pubs, cafés, and bustling restaurants and have been pleasantly surprised by each. But here’s the catch. It wasn’t the fish and chips or bangers and mash that impressed me most, but rather the rogan josh and tandoori jalfrezi. As it turns out, Britain’s national cuisine isn’t very British at all.


The first curry house in Britain opened in the 1800’s and you can now find one on nearly every street corner. Despite the overwhelming love of Indian food in Britain, most restaurants seem to offer a British version of Indian food, often unrecognizable from authentic dishes. British Indian food tends to be sweeter and thicker than food from India, with a greater dependence on nut pastes. In restaurants in India, dishes tend to be more sour, and usually include a greater variety of spices, such as asafoetida, ajwain, and hing. Authentic Indian restaurants also adhere more strictly to pairings of sauces and meats. For example, rogan josh would never be paired with chicken, as it is traditionally a mutton dish. Pop into any Indian restaurant in England you’ll find chicken rogan josh on the menu.


As British Indian food is based mostly on North Indian cuisine, it can be difficult to truly acquaint yourself with the Indian palate while in England. Luckily, you don’t have to fly to India to taste more authentic regional dishes. You must, however, have a well-stocked spice cabinet and the willingness to experiment in the kitchen. Here you’ll find a South Indian recipe that will cure your culinary wanderlust without testing your cooking skills: Chettinad Pepper Chicken by Saveur Magazine.


Chettinad Pepper Chicken or Koli Milagu Masal


This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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