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What is a Phaal? Is this a real Indian Curry?

  • t

Or is it just a gimmick?

I like hot food -- but only when it is also tasty! My worry is that there is no attempt to make the curry be anything but hot.

Anyone had the Phaal at Chola or Brick Lane Curry House? Those are the two places I know of that serve it.

232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

Brick Lane Curry House
306-308 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Phaal is the hottest Indian curry out there. I get the impression, though, that it is spicy for the sake of being spicy. Whether or not it is authentically Indian is up for debate as I never encountered it before coming to New York.

    I've never tried it, but I have had plans to go to Brick Lane at some point specifically to give it a whirl.

    1. I've had it at Brick Lane. A very painful, but addictive experience.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Miss Needle

        interesting -- does it taste of anything but chili powder?

      2. it is not "authentic" indian, it is a british indian invention, for drunk boys after a night of ales.

        that said... who cares if it's authentic if it's good

        5 Replies
        1. re: thew

          I agree about authenticity -- pleasing my palate is more important to me than pleasing tradition.

          That said: is phaal any good?

          1. re: thew

            It certainly is not a British invention, it's a Bangladeshi dish.

            1. re: Wilfrid

              This is definitely a British-Indian dish and not Bangladeshi. There is a dish from Bangalore with the same name but it is not the same food.

              1. re: antonys1

                Most "Indian" restaurants in the UK (approx. 90%) are owned by Bangladeshi's who were "Indians" before the partition of India & due to the fact Bangladesh was a new country the Bangladeshi owners used & kept the name "Indian" on their signs etc.

                You can still find Bengali food in India i.e. in the regional area of Bengal. Therefore Bengali food is still part of Indian cuisine. It is considered to be more aromatic & spicier & there is a large variety of dishes including fish, meat & vegetables compared to other the regions of India.

                Along with many other well known favourite curry dishes, the phall is a British - Bangladeshi invention. It is not a tradition dish & was invented for the British public who like their curries extra hot!

              2. re: Wilfrid

                Phall (sometimes spelt as fall, phaal, phal or paal) is a British Asian Indian curry dish, which originated in Indian restaurants in the UK, and is not to be confused with the char-grilled, gravyless, finger food phall from Bangalore. It is one of the hottest forms of curry regularly available, even hotter than the vindaloo, using a large number of ground standard chili peppers, or a hotter type of chili such as scotch bonnet or habanero. Typically, the dish is a tomato based thick curry and includes ginger and optionally fennel seeds.

            2. As stated on Brick Lane's menu: "An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor..."

              It's "good" if what you're looking for is something that normal people can't eat (my girlfriend had a tiny nibble and then loudly declared that I'm an idiot). If you were to subtract the heat, I doubt the flavor alone would bring many people back. There are definitely better-tasting spicy dishes to be found in the city.

              1. I have had the phaal at Brick Lane and I was not impressed. It is a vinegar based chile sauce like a vindaloo, but with more chile. I didn't sense that good fresh chiles were used, more like power or bottled stuff. It was just hot vinegar and bad meat.

                I have heard Indians (Bengalis to be specific) laugh at the obsession with making everything 'hot'. I do think it is a British/American stunt-food passtime, but there are those who get quite attached to it. I am one of them. I LOVE vindaloo, when it is made well. However the phaal at Brick Lane was just for show, in my opinion.

                Chola is a much better restaurant, and I expect more from them. I have not tried phaal there because I hated it at Brick Lane so much. I think any dish in the right hands can be magic, so who knows? But I do not hear about many Indians eating phaal.

                1. well I ate the Phaal at Brick Lane last week, and i was underwhelmed. The lamb tasted Ok, but the sauce was overly vinegared, and the heat was not a very balanced heat. All of the heat was in the back of the throat, carried by the vinegar, none by the lips or tongue or front of the mouth. As such it didn't even feel as hot as it was - if that statement makes sense.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: thew

                    Since my last post (above) I have tried the phaal at Chola, and it was very good. Chola is overall a better quality place than Brick Lane (which began well but is now just a 6th street typical hack place). The phaal there balances the vinegar with more up front spices around the chile heat, and the whole taste is fuller and has dimensions Brick Lane's lacks. It also has a sweet undertone, from what I don't know (Jagury?) which works really well. I like it better than their vindaloo, which is saying something!

                    1. re: NYJewboy

                      chola.. thats on 58 st, right?

                      1. re: thew

                        Yes. 58th in the block of several other higher priced Indian places. Chola is my favorite amongst them. Try a vegetable dish too, and their excellent spiced potato paratha.

                  2. I live on the south coast of England, and just about every curry house does Phaal's, and all the ones i've tried (yes, I have had it more than once) are extreamly hot, but somehow the taste if you can stand the heat is incredible, moreover, order it at night on a cold evening, and walk home afterwards, every breath is like fresh water, rather than destroying your tastebuds, they'll thank you forever.