Genuine Indian food is quite different to the British conception thereof. Many British people have been brought up on a diet of nuclear curry, which bears absolutely no relation to the real cuisine of the country or its regions. We believe that the high street curry house is an “Indian restaurant” – when in fact, had we been to any of the real Indian restaurants in London, we would immediately see how far off the mark we were…
One of the key elements to Indian cuisine, which defines it and sets it apart from the curry house curry, is that it relies on regional flavours and ingredients to create dishes with individual personalities. Heat exists in seem, but neither many nor all – and where fire is present it has a proper relevance to the overall flavour of the dish.
It is also true to say that much Indian cuisine follows its regional flavours irrespective of its class: that is to say, fine dining and street food from a specific region take the same basic ingredients and cooking methods, and provide dishes that have an obviously related personality. The difference is that fine dining, which takes place in the houses of gourmands and the palaces of maharajahs, uses the regional flavours and cooking methods as a base on which to expand artistically – while street food takes a much simpler and more cost effective approach.
The upshot of this is that a person can get food that tastes just as good in street food style Indian restaurants in London as he or she does in fine dining Indian restaurants in London. The former will be cost effective, quick and simple; while the latter is invariably elegant, extremely sophisticated and with a price tag to match.
The Indian restaurants in London tend to pride themselves on ambience and service as well as on the quality of their food: this is as true of a street food style restaurant as it is of a fine dining restaurant. In fact, in some ways it might be said that the street food style restaurant has more to do in terms of creating the proper environment than the fine dining restaurant.
This is because a fine dining restaurant is impelled, by its own personality, to create a sophisticated atmosphere – and that’s quite a natural atmosphere for a London restaurant to achieve. Indian restaurants in London that serve street food style dishes, on the other hand, are compelled to create an artificial environment so that the food and service become more authentic in feel. Simply put: London doesn’t have the climate or the naturally available ingredients to do actual street food but there are some restaurants that have managed to recreate the popular street food dishes faithfully.
London is, of course, one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities in the world. It prides itself on its diversity, and this is expressed nowhere more than in its food. Real Indian restaurants in London abound – so there’s no longer any reason to accept second rate curry.