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[London] What to order at Indian/Bagaladeshi/Pakistani places?

There was recent message on the board 'Some London schooling on curry, please' http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/574550 that was very interesting but never got around to making too many suggestions about what to order.

I'd love to get some suggestions--generally I just pick something on the menu at random. Last night I had dinner on Brick Lane and tried my old stand-by "I'd like whatever is most delicious." Ended up with a chicken rezala (I think) which was not delicious and a lamb ureebisi which was very delicious.

What are you favorite dishes at London curry places?

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  1. If you describe what you liked about the lamb dish and didn't like about the chicken dish, it might help us point you to some other dishes you would like.

    Some I like are Passanda or Tikka Masala if I am looking for comfort creamy sauces with depth of spice but not much heat. Jalfrezi for more heat.

    1. Brick Lane... eek

      At Gram Bangla (probably the only edible place left on Brick Lane) I stick mostly to the fish dishes. It's a Bangladeshi restaurant therefore you eat fish. No exceptions unless we're talking banquet food. They also do an incredible quail curry, but its usually only there on holidays. Especially good are their dried fish (shutki dishes) including the lottia (type of shutki) with green yard beans. Also great is their fish chatni. Pair any of these with some karela, aloo OR bhegun bhorta (mashed potatoes or mashed eggplants with onions and mustard oil), and dal. They eat everything with rice and are probably one of the least bread heavy peoples in all of South Asia.

      If you're eating at Thattukada in East Ham (amazing Keralan restaurant) I once again generally stick to the fish, but they do so many things so well. Practically all of their chicken dishes are excellent except for maybe the butter chicken (butter overload.) The veg thali is excellent and less than four pounds with free refills on any of the stuff (if they like you.) The whole fish fried and then steamed in banana leaves is one of my favorite dishes at any restaurant in London. Thattukada does much better breads than you'd find at ei. Gram Bangla (though the thali comes with lovely Keralan rice) and their thattu dosa (great for crab curry which is sometimes a special, sambar, chutnies, etc) and paratha (mostly for chicken curry) are both good.

      Across from Thattukada closer to East Ham tube is Vasanta Bhavan which does some of the best dosa you'll find in London. Pretty much all of their dosa are great. Their menu is also a wealth of vegetarian food (Tamil and otherwise) which is probably unrivaled in London.

      When eating at Pakistani places (ei. New Tayyabs, Kebabish on Green St towards the Romford Rd end, and Lahore Lahore Eh on High St North in East Ham) you're usually safe to stick with the grilled items and karahi dishes. You can eat everything with naan (and all of the above will have a mind blowing variety of them to choose from, especially Lahore Lahore) and you'll be especially familiar with lamb chops and seekh kebabs. Also to look out for are seema kebabs which are rarer, but Lahore Lahore has awesome ones. Karahis are basically "curries" in the English sense.

      BTW, take the term curry with a massive pinch of salt. It just means gravy and its just a wide sweeping Englishism for "Indian" food. There's a lot more to it than that.

      1. I came to the UK knowing just about nothing when it came to 'subcontinent' food. It really takes a lot of tasting to figure out what one likes best. I was lucky in that my husband had been eating this for most of his life.

        If you like things that aren't so spicy, stick with a biryani or korma... a kashmiri has a great sauce and a bit of sweetness to it.

        I found the best way to learn about this cuisine is to start cooking it at home. It's not difficult and there are so many good dishes from the different regions of Indian.

        1. General rule of thumb;

          Bangladeshi - Fish, Rice
          Indian - Vegetarian (complex tastes & textures), Chicken, Breads
          Pakistani - Lamb, Breads

          Obviously you should start differentiating between different regions in India. The most significant are Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Keralan, Hyderabadi and Bengali (though Bengali and Bangladeshi are pretty similar).

          BTW, don't just take the restaurant's word for it...ask where the chef is from.

          Ask if you need more info and I hope you enjoy the experience as much as the food!

          1 Reply
          1. re: frogprince

            Haha, if you're in Central chances are the chef's from Bangladesh. The overwhelming majority of "Indian" restaurants are Bangladeshi operated. South Indian chains like Chennai Dosa are a lot more representative (minus the one Guju waiter at the one in Thornton Heath) of their populations.

            To be honest, I don't think where the chef's from has much bearing at all. Thattukada for example has incredible Hyderabadi biriyani, but the chef is fully Keralan Christian. I don't really see the point in seeking out those Bangladeshi run places for mediocre food though. Why not put in a little effort (10-15 more minutes on the tube) and get something really excellent? Alternatively, you could shell out loads for the same in Central.

          2. Just wanted to add, check out the suburbs for some of the more regional cuisines.

            1. I've just read this thread with keen interest. I love curry and live in London. Two of the best 3 in the whole city, IME have already been mentioned on this thread: ul tayyab (aka tayyab's) at fieldgate st, whitechapel; and chennai dosa (manor house, and thornton heath, & others?).

              Third, and just as good has to be Gifto's Lahori Karahi house, southall which perfects 'lahore' style grilled meats, and cooks side orders just as well to a formula that hasn't changed for 20+ years and hopefully never will.

              The best grilled meat in London though is at a lebanese place called beirut express, on edgeware road nr. the junction with star street.

              As to what to order: use your own imagination and inititive, everyone likes different things!

              12 Replies
              1. re: chinesechicken

                Chennai Dosa is only OK. I've now found better dosa and vastly better non-veg South Indian so I've moved on. New Tayyabs is good at what it does though.

                I'll have to give Gifto's a thought whenever I finally make it out to Southhall again (epic trek.) I've been getting my Pakistani fix on High St North and Green St rather than further west and I'm just as happy with both as I would be going to Tayyabs (and I don't get rushed out.)

                1. re: JFores

                  We're already got a thread for this. This is the "what should I order thread." ;)

                  At Bangladeshi places is it fish or die? I was thinking of trying Gram Bangla this week, but my dining companion isn't very keen on fish, unfortunately.

                  1. re: Lina

                    Or you could go for prawns - what does your friend think of those? Basically if its authentic bangladeshi then yeah fish or seafood is going to be the best.

                    There is another really good one that specialises in seafood in Muswell Hill N10, its on Colney Hatch Lane opposite the main row of shops a few doors along from the chiropractors office.

                    If we broaden this to the UK, the best south asian in the whole country IMO is an Indian on London Road, Leicester - its called 'The Tiffin' and its more expensive than most other Indian restaurants but the freshness and quality is also head and shoulders above these ones in London we've been discussing. Its traditional north Indian.. amazing..

                    1. re: chinesechicken

                      Muswell Hill eh? I knew I noticed a serious Bangladeshi presence when I was last there. All the butcher shops and groceries are BD there.

                      You've also got prawns, fish kofta (less noticeable that you're eating fish.) Etc etc. Gram Bangla also has really good veg options and their lamb with dal is pretty good. They have calf brains very often as well. They usually have biriyani, but I think it's a bit overpriced. Regardless, your friend will live, but I think the joy of the place is getting a few fish dishes, two vegetables, some dal, and sharing everything. BTW their jilafi are amazing if they're doing them fresh which they very often are. Get them straight out of the oil!

                      1. re: chinesechicken

                        I was interested that you rate The Tiffin so highly - I have only been once a few years ago and was a bit underwhelmed to be honest. I will have to make a return visit.

                    2. re: JFores

                      JFores: Wheres the best dosa in London to be had in your opinion?

                      1. re: chinesechicken

                        Vasanta Bhavan's are supremely good.

                        1. re: JFores

                          Thanks. I'm going to find time to head out to East Ham and try it!

                          Yeah lots of Bangladeshis in Muswell Hill. That general area of north London is really good for food lovers.. within a couple of miles, down the hill to stroud green you've got several v. good restaurants, great turkish and a v good greek - also two of the best realatively cheap Italian places. (Peteks, Trodos Taverna, Porchetta and Pappagone)

                          1. re: chinesechicken

                            Don't forget Muna's! Yeah, it's one of the best areas. Up there with East Ham if you're s South Asian food junkie. I need to get up into the N's sometime soon. I rarely leave stuff that includes an E in the postal code anymore (Mmm E16...)

                            Are they Sylheti at the place in Muswell Hill?

                            1. re: JFores

                              I haven't actually tried Muna's! And I love Eritrean and Ethiopean dishes served with Injera.. Mmmm Zigni!

                              Usually I go to Marathon at the N7 end of Caledonian road, as I got taken there by an Ethiopean colleague... It's very good. Incidentally the same guy told me that Injera in the UK is very different to the real thing but that he's heard of a restaurant in Tufnell Park (named after a famous freedom fighter) which imports the original flour and makes it with that... Haven't been there yet either though, and have forgotten the name. Anyone else know it?

                              e2a: A lot of the characteristic flavour of these dishes is in the smoked chilli powder the meat is tossed and dry marinated in. You can get a bit of this to take with you and cook with if you ask in Marathon, and probably Muna's as well. At Marathon, some people just pop in to buy a bag of this stuff for a couple of pounds. There's a proper name for it, though it depends on which local language, they sometimes use the sudanese term shatta but I think that just means chilli powder in arabic.. anyway they know what you mean when you say smoked chilli

                              1. re: chinesechicken

                                Thanks a lot. Definitely checking these out when I can get up there.