Skip to content

Quite so, quite so

Rarely did these tactics work, so when a new “authentic” curry house arrived, it dominated the family WhatsApp. I collected the next order and joked with the owner about the cursed vindaloo. “But vindaloo is authentic,” he said, adding that I probably wouldn’t know anyone who cooked vindaloo because it’s from Goa. As Goa was colonised by the Portuguese, there aren’t many Goans in Britain. “In the UK, it’s usually Bangladeshi chefs cooking it, adding their flair. But vindaloo in Goa is technically a spin-off of a Portuguese dish anyway.”

Not so much of a dish particularly, but of an ingredient. Vin d’alho. Wine and garlic sauce/paste/condiment thingie. It is used to create a dish, a pork stew type of thing. The leap to vindaloo being to add the chili peppers (or more perhaps) and to substitute vinegar for the wine.

The Vin d’alho being on every supermarket shelf here, the pork stew thing being Northern and the vindaloo surprisingly difficult to find. Despite what Indian restaurants there are here generally being run by Goans, not the Bangladeshis and Gujeratis more common in the UK.

18 thoughts on “Quite so, quite so”

  1. What’s an authentic curry house, anyway? India’s a country the size of Europe. It’s like calling pasta with pickled herring & bubble ‘n squeak authentic European cuisine. Most Indians I know, confronted with an “Indian restaurant”, would be asking why everything’s covered in that hot sauce muck? Used to eat in Bangladeshi restaurants round Euston way. Where the Bangladeshis eat. The food’s nothing like “Ïndian”. It’s like having Russians running an authentic churrasqueira.

  2. At one point – long story – I ended up collecting an Indian computer engineer from the airport as a favour. And taking him out on the town for an evening before he started a consulting gig. I asked him “Well, you probably don’t want a curry then” and he said “Actually, I’ve been in Germany for months, I’d love a curry”. So, off we went to the best that Bath had to offer (For Flatcap Army, Bloke in Bilbao etc, decades back this was, that place on Pultney Bridge). And I said please don’t tell me whether this is good or not, at the end though tell me how Indian it is.

    At the end. Each dish was pretty much like it would have been back home. Except in N India it would have been bread, South rice. Not both, as it was served. It was, as BiS says, a slightly odd mixture even if the bubble and squeak was just fine.

  3. Harry Haddock's Ghost

    When filthy capitalism forced me to live in the dirty cities*, one of my friends had a business customer who was a Sikh, nearing retirement and probably first generation. He invited us to the opening of his first ever restaurant, which you got the feeling was a ‘bit of fun’ project at the end of a highly successful business career. He explained to us not to be alarmed if the food looked nothing like what we were used to seeing in an ‘Indian’ restaurant as it was traditional fare from the old country. It was jolly delicious, but quite different, and as has been said already, less sauce was common.

    * Joke alert, for the humourless amoung us.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    Having worked in Dehli, Mumbai and Gandhinagar (a dry state and I have an interesting story about that for another time) I can confirm that the food was almost as diverse as that between Prague, Paris and Rome. I say almost because they didn’t have the variety of ingredients, but the cooking styles were different.

    As to Bath, as my son was living there at the time we ended in the Yak Yeti Yak for my 60th and it was very good. That was nearly 4 years ago so I can’t vouch for it now.

  5. “As Goa was colonised by the Portuguese, there aren’t many Goans in Britain.”

    I beg to differ. A mate of mine is a warehouse manager, the workforce contains a lot of Goans. The local Catholic Church is stuffed to the gunnels on Sundays, they’re all Papists.

    The author of the piece forgets that any Goan who can lay claim to a Portuguese passport via family lineage gets to choose where in the EU they come, thanks to freedom of movement. There’s loads of Brazilians over here too, because of the same colonial link.

  6. In the UK, it’s usually Bangladeshi chefs cooking it, adding their flair.

    Surely you mean “culturally appropriating it”?

  7. I second Jim’s comment. There’s thousands of Goans in two West London parishes. An old rugby mate is now a priest and his church attracts (before LD) 600 or so. The next church along tops 1,500, standing room only.
    We were talking about taking the holy father out for dinner and I suggested meeting up after evensong.
    “Evensong? It’s mass, you berk. We have a faith. You have a hobby.”

  8. Jim, if only it worked the other way too. Claiming Overseas Citizen of India status, despite being very obviously entitled to it, is the kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare to end all nightmares.

  9. Similar situation with Chinese restaurants. In UK, generally run by HK Hakka immigrants from the New Territories, the food bears little resemblance to Cantonese – or even any other regional – cuisine.

    chop suey and chips?

    I’m not necessarily knocking it. In my student days, I frequented a Chinese coffee bar/restaurant in South Ken underground station which had a cheap comfort-food dish, Shrimps&peas&rice, which, sadly, in 30+ years in HK I have never been able to find.

  10. When stationed in Hong Kong, was invited to a Regimental Dinner at a Gurkha Transport Squadron’s Sgts Mess. The main course was, of course, curry, with a meat or vegetable alternative. Fabulous meal though, later, while sat on the toilet, wished the ice cream dessert would appear sooner than it did!

  11. When I went to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco in my youth I was the only white face there.

    Very odd. The tucker was good – far better than any other food I’d had in the US, save for a chowder and lobster dinner on Cape Cod.

    Aficionados say that American and Canadian lobster isn’t as good as ours but it seemed pretty bloody good to me.

  12. dearieme, talking about lobster, I used to tag along with my uncle to his business trips to Durban, when I ordered a steak with monkey gland sauce he told me I was crazy not to order lobster or sole in Durban. Once I did and there was no turning back. Some kind of a cheese sauce on top, mashed potatoes around the plate, then finished as a gratin in the grill.

    The uncle when he went to have hotel buffet breakfast in Durban, Maharani or somewhere, the cooks being Indian of course, the only thing he would eat were piri piri chicken livers, whole plate. If in Durban, you just have to try the chicken livers.

  13. In Joburg, steak was the thing. Mike’s Kitchen, Longhorn in the 80’s, nowadays Pappas, The Butcher Shop and Grill or the Bull Run, with monkey gland sauce. Getting hungry, but I still have some Oklahoma onion burgers I cooked yesterday so the steaks will have to wait till Sunday.

  14. 30 odd years ago my evenings out in central London usually finished in Chinatown. We would go for a smaller restaurant with a decent display of air-dried meats in the window. If you looked through the door and couldn’t see any Chinese people eating there then move on. Formica tables were the norm, you just ordered soup and some variety of noodles with the meat of your choice. Very enjoyable

  15. Dodgy, this culinary thing is just one amongst many that are going down the pan in the current world, I decided many moons ago not to get disappointed yet again and learned how to cook. Youtube is full of first rate recipes, latest one I did was chicken francaise butter lemon sauce. I found a good one for you:

    “Perfection is many little things done well” —Marco Pierre White

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *