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Jan 8, 2009 12:54 AM

authentic, HOT indian

I'm a transplanted New Yorker - moved to London about five months ago. Before that I worked in India (split my time between Rajasthan and Gujarat for the most part). I love Indian food and I *LOVE* it hot (hotter than most of my friends in India, actually). Please let me know where I could find, say, a really good vindaloo. Everywhere I've tried has given me a mild anglo-Indian version of curry, which can be good but it's not what I'm craving. Also, where can you get a good chai (I'm looking for the overly sweet, small glasses of it that are ubiquitous in northern India)?
Thanks so much,
p.s. I'm veg, but if a place will make a veg version of a meat dish on their menu I'm all for it.

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  1. where on earth did you find a vegetarian vindaloo in gujurat or rajasthan?!

    and chai is ubiquitous all over india, not just the north. its very simple to make - boil together milk, water, tea and sugar.

    1. I also like my Indian food with the proper amount of chilli. You just have to make it clear when you order - if you don't look Indian they often assume you'll be a typical white English southerner.

      Restaurants in the north of England are a bit better because the local food culture has absorbed very hot curry.. but a london restaurant just needs some gentle indication, I always say 'can you tell the chef lots of green chilli pls' and you can tell from the persons reaction if they've understood.

      Like I said, manchester, newcastle etc. its a different story, the vindaloo will be ridiculously hot and they will also do a phal which is too hot even for me. Btw the worlds hottest curry is advertised by a restaurant owner in newcatle, its about 7 pounds, but free if you can finish the plate! I have never ordered it but I've heard of people who can finish it, mostly psycho soldier hard man types.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chinesechicken

        really hot food seems to me that it's less 'authentic indian' than just 'macho english person'

        1. re: chinesechicken

          I had a very interesting chicken dish in Reading with a sauce made from Naga chillies. The flavour was very interesting, it was searingly hot but with a very marked flavour. I think it would work better with lanb, but that option wasn't available.

          1. re: chinesechicken

            Seconding t_g on that. I generally associate the heat bit with the standard macho Brit who goes "What's the hottest thing on the menu?" Some cuisines are really really hot (Thai) and some aren't. Some fall between. India has all of the above.

            1. re: chinesechicken

              I agree that there is a lot of Indian cuisine that's not meant to be hot, I just happen to enjoy the hotter dishes the most and I've been having a hard time finding them here. As for authentic, I just mean I want the spices to be similar to what I'm used to from India - for example, habaneros are hot but they've got a different flavor to them.

            2. Vasanta Bhavan or Thattukada would have what you're looking for. Thattukada has some dishes that pack quite a bit of heat, but their veg selection is less hot. They won't have vindaloos or any other English style dish. I would avoid Gram Bangla because even though they load their dishes with serious heat, they slip A LOT of non-veg items into their vegetable dishes and you won't know until you order it and sift though. Not keen on dried fish in your mixed veg? Then Gram doesn't work (they slip shutki or dried shrimp into virtually everything, actually.)

              If you want to make sure it's definitely going to be veg and have what you need then go to Vasanta Bhavan near Thattukada. It's 100% veg (to the extreme) and if it's not hot enough you can request it hotter. They're Tamil and they're generally pretty free with the chillies at Vasanta Bhavan.

              I can't really help you with Northern Indian. Aside from Gram Bangla, most of the places are highly anglicized and finding actual good Punjabi or Gujarati food is veeeery difficult. I can't even think of a proper Moghlai place in London (which is sad btw) not that the meat fest which would ensue at one would appeal to you. You can take a dice roll and try Kastoori for it, but they're downhilling at record speed.

              Do you want masala cha or cha? Just cha, Thattukada does a really nice one and they pour it back and forth in the air to make it frothy which is cool. Masala cha is harder to find and you're honestly better off making your own. It's just a matter of asking a friend to get his mom's recipe, toasting some spices, and mixing with some Assam loose leaf. You can make really big batches and it keeps for ages if you have good tea containers.

              P.S. Isn't Gujarati food very mild? My girlfriend's mother cooks for me all the time (she's Guju) and it's never hot. They find it hot sometimes, but I would never. I don't think what a Guju finds hot is even a good indicator of spiciness.

              Also, to put it in NYC terms... What heat level would you order at Chao Thai? I'm a Chao Thai very very very spicy (I usually have to go into a tirade of "veeeery hot, 10 star hot, hot" to get it these days.) If you're not at that sort of rediculously self damaging level than you should for all intents and purposes be able to find what you want.

              4 Replies
              1. re: JFores

                Yeah, I'd say Gujarati food is pretty mild, but Rajasthani food can have some heat. Also I spent a lot of time in rural areas, and the food there tended to be quite different from what you'd get at a restaurant or even homecooked by people living in nearby cities. A lot of different ingredients, like different grains for the chapatti, different vegetables and usually more chiles.
                As for chai, I'm looking for masala chai. I've tried making it myself but it never lives up to my hopes. Guess I'll just have to keep trying.
                Thanks for the recommendations - can't wait to try 'em.

                1. re: streetfoodie

                  Completely understandable. Rural Bangladeshi food is about a thousand times hotter than food near the cities, especially Dhaka. Dhaka Bengalis are practically fearful of Sylheti food.

                  I can't think of any Rajasthani places, but you could also give Chawalla a shot on Green St. It's probably nothing amazing, but it's still Gujarati owned and operated (getting rare for a restaurant.) They have many standard Gujarati items like kichdi kadhi, Gujarati thalis, etc.

                  1. re: JFores

                    There is an outstanding gujerati restauant in Leeds, at least it was when I lived there 5 years ago.. Called Hansa.

                    You don't really need to roast your own spice mix to make masala chai, infact you will get better results from a packet of dried roasted spices specifically for making masala chai, its what any restaurant serving this in the uk would use. Any Indian food shop will sort you out.

                    The reason it will never live up to the taste of masala chai from a roadside dhaba in UP is bacause of the milk.. In India it has come from a pale direct from source, and not from a dairy which has pasteurized it etc.

                    1. re: chinesechicken

                      Ehhhh some people have really good family masala chai recipes!

              2. Several of my coworkers were originally from the south, as was my boss' wife (who is hands down the best cook I've ever met).
                As for the chai, I just said the north since that's the area I'm most familiar with. The one time I was in the south, it seemed like coffee was much more common. Anyway, I found the chai always had some nice spice to it - cardamom, pepper, ginger - depending on who made it, time of year, etc.