[London] What to order at Indian/Bagaladeshi/Pakistani places?
- Lina Jan 5, 2009 09:08 AM
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.