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Jun 8, 2007 06:11 AM

Fresh vegetarian Indian homecooking in London

Via a post talking about the new London Wholefoods (posted by Howler) we started a bit of a thread about fresh vegeatrian Indian home cooking.

There's a fantastic stall at Broadway market and so now I am looking for other locatiuons and other tips.

I'm keen to learn and taste more of this so all recommendations are very welcome.

I am also keen to have an indian breakfast. I've had it before in California and it was delicious. Anyone know where to have this in London?

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  1. here are a few tips to help you narrow your search:

    there's no such thing as 'indian' cuisine. its as if europe were united politically into a single country - there'd be no european cuisine, but spanish, italian, french, greek etc. and of course there'd be huge regional sub-cuisines within each.

    for example, i'm a maharastrian, a native of the state mumbai is the capital of. there are 60mm of us - like spain! - and our cuisine has all the variety you can find in spain, from coastal to inland to mountain (actually hills). its predominantly a vegetarian cuisine, as most indian cuisines are, and i can safely say (grin) its easily the supreme achievement of vegetarian cuisine in india: light, soulful, unique, satisfying in a way that nothing quite does it for me.

    now NOBODY is ever going to even get a birds eye view of the cuisine - remember they are 4000 years in the making. i was utterly fortunate to habe grown up in bombay, where my friends were from all over india: sindhis, parsis, tamilians, gujarathis, goans, marwaris etc. as i got to eat in their houses, i got to see at first hand what the cuisine was all about. indian cuisines do NOT live on in restaurants, but are passed from mother to daughter and daughter-in-law over the generations.

    so the thing you want to do is to find out which particular cuisine floats your boat, and then try and get the specialty of that cuisine. for instance, your gujarathi family home cooked meals are undoubtedly east african tinged - how interesting. i'd explore that aspect of it... but i'd be skeptical of their iddly sambhar because iddly sambhar is a tamilian dish (think england versus spain) that i've never seen done well in gujarathi households (the temptation to sweeten the sambhar is too much for the gujarathi to bear, awrights thats a joke).

    which is not to say the iddly sambhar you get at broadway can't be good. but if you want iddly sambhar and you want to explore the wonderful cuisine that brought you that dish, try a tamilian place too.

    you'll have guessed by now there's no such thing as an indian breakfast. what did you eat? if you can describe it, perhaps i can help you find it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: howler

      I know I've had Tamilian and Gujarathi sounds familiar too. I've just e-mailed my friend who took me to this place to get the details.

      What I remember were little 'pancakes' made of fragrant, light rice. Some pickles, a dahl type sauce, it was delightful.
      We had lunch there once too and the restaurant was literally on a stripmall somewhere in silicon valley, where I believe is a big Indian crowd, and it wasn't a 'proper' restaurant, there wasn't exactly a menu, but there were 1 (if you were lucky 2) dishes that day. That's it.
      Very cheap, very much homecooking, very easily one of the surprsingly nicest tasting plates of food I've ever had.

      O - by the way we had a 5 year old with us, who I remember had some sort of spicy home made crisps as well (as he didn't like the other stuff). I had never seen crisps at any indian restaurant before. I don't know if that gives you any clues?

      Sorry if I'm being vague, I'm just really interested in learning more!

      1. re: howler

        In your view, what are the restaurants in London that sufficiently well express the cuisine of these regions . . . or is it just a lost cause and I'm going to make some friends with roots in those places?

        1. re: Howard V

          sadly, its more or less a lost cause. even the gujarathi places in ealing etc are fairly awful.

          but you can decent keralan at quilon in buckingham palace gate (go for lunch). and i would urge you to check sagar out - if it IS an udipi place, you've hit pay dirt.

          1. re: howler


            Have you been to any of the Keralan restaurants in Tooting Bec?

              1. re: howler

                Maybe it's not a lost cause . . . maybe there are places out there!

                I've had pretty good meals there (I'll try and recall the names of the places as it was a couple of years ago that I explored the area). Having said that my judgement on this kind of food is probably not as good as yours as you've had the benefit of trying home cooking and also this food in India.

                Time Out seems to rate Cocum for Keralan too:

      2. just had a message form my friend...
        I had Tamil food, of the vegetarian brahimic variety

        7 Replies
        1. re: loisstella

          go try sagar in king street chiswick next time you're around those parts. its an udupi restaurant, and the udupis are karnatatka cats who went to tamil nadu, figured it all out and set up the vegetarian lunch trade for office workers in bombay.

          sadly, i haven't been.

          but if its udupi, you should be in heaven. and if you want to know why thats the only one i'm recommending, its because every iddly dosa place i've been to in london is actively nasty.

          1. re: howler

            Kastoori in Tooting serves delicious East African-tinged vegetarian food. I guess it must be Gujerati. It is also cheap.

            1. re: Jenny Sheridan

              I second the Kastoori - very good banana and tomato dishes I remember.

              By the way, Howler, which are the actively nasty places?

              1. re: Howard V

                let me put it you this way: there are a handful of restaurants in INDIA that serve authentic home style food. the utter gloriousness of homestyle cooking is just unavailable. the reason is, i guess, that indians want to make an occasion of going out - and for say a punjabi to make an event of going out to eat gujju home food is just not going to happen.

                and in any case, no gujju is going to go out to eat what he/she gets at home, so any such restaurant will probably be cooking for non-natives. but then standards slip, because non-natives don't demand correctness (from ignorance) and the spiral downwards begins.

                and so its going to be impossibly hard for such a restaurant to survive outside india, unless theres a local population of that cuisine to keep the coooks on their toes.

                theres not a single homestyle restaurant in london. quilon has a few dishes (the chefs were actually trained by keralan grandmoms) - ask the waiter to point them out to you.

                actively nasty are the rasa samudras, etc.

                1. re: howler

                  But if the food's just so delicious why on earth wouldn't it find a market in London . . I don't necessarily think you need an audience that would demand correctness - if what you're saying about they way the stuff tastes is true then it would easily beat Rasa Sumadra etc.

                  1. re: Howard V

                    good point. i must be wrong, the rasa samudras are right up there with genuine home cooked food.


                    1. re: howler

                      That's not at all what I'm saying and I trust you when you say that the home cooked stuff tastes better. That's why someone should open a restaurant selling it and knock Rasa Sumadra into a cocked hat. Maybe the Gujarati Rasoi saw exactly this gap in the market. I don't buy your argument about how why this kind of restaurant wouldn't emerge and thrive in London.

        2. Should we start a fresh thread on 'authentic Indian' restaurants in London? Not the bangladeshi balti variety, but the ones which are closer to the true Indian experience. And why not do one thread just for authentic regional Indian cuisines? Would love to know some great udipi places in Central London.

          BTW, found this great site for Indian events in London,