Britain's first Indian restaurant, the Hindostanee Coffee House opened in London in 1809, just 50 years after the arrival of British in India. At present there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants established in England and Wales alone. No calculation is available for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Commonly named as 'curry houses', the Asian catering industry serves Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Sri Lankan food. But in the UK well-known Sri Lankan restaurants are numbered less than five. It is estimated that there are around 80,000 employed in the industry with an annual turnover of £3.6 billion serving 2.5 million customers every week.
Bob Walton, Chairman of the British Restaurant Association says curry houses have been integral in the transformation of Britain's food culture. "Thirty years ago Indian and Chinese restaurants brought the British out of their homes to eat," he said. In some areas it has become a habit to dine at Indian restaurants after pubs close at 11.00 p.m. Most of them serve past midnight.
Whatever it is, the British still love their traditional recipes. The name of two slices of bread stuffed with various fillings famously known as a 'sandwich' which takes a big chunk of British luncheon, is also a village in Kent. Although there is no clear evidence, it says the 'sandwich' was named after the 18th century English aristocrat John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. It is said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, while eating without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands. Although the United Kingdom is famous for its signature meal 'fish and chips', scotch eggs, pork and chicken pies, bacon and sausages, roast beef and lamb are some of the other traditional food in demand.
British also have a traditional meal on Sundays called 'The Sunday Roast'. It consists of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. It is common in European countries with Christian heritage to have a large meal following the Sunday service. There are few opinions on the origin of Sunday Roast. One is going back to medieval times, when the village serfs served land owners for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field and practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit. Many pubs and restaurants serving food have a Sunday menu that features a Sunday roast.
United Kingdom which is full of around-the-world food has a special place for Italian too. At least four or five Pizza, Pasta restaurants are in service even in a small town centre. The next visible ethnicity is Spanish. Other European restaurants are in moderate. African, Caribbean and American, you name it UK has it.
Although they are called Indian restaurants, two thirds of UK spice restaurants are run by the Bangladeshi community. Eat in, take away or delivery, English people have turned to tikka masala, vindaloo, onion bahjis and samosas than any other Asian taste. Some supermarket chains are full of Indian cooked meals, curry chicken, naan and various bread types and also takeaway packages for ease life. Traditional British potato chips have a choice either fish and chips or chips and curry.
As Indian food has a special place in day to day British life, an award ceremony called The British Curry Awards is held since 2005 to recognise the heroes of the curry business and to promote the curry industry and to encourage the younger generation to follow in their elders' footsteps. In 2009, present Prime Minister David Cameron delivered the keynote speech and this year over 1,300 guests attended the event. The Awards are based on members of the public nominating their favourite spice restaurant serving Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Nepalese cuisine. The award ceremony was referred to as the 'Curry Oscars' by Mr. Cameron.
In 1998 a British band released a song for the football World Cup played in France. It was titled "Vindaloo". Vindaloo is a popular Indian dish in the UK from Goa. The single came second in music charts in the UK and became a hit during the World Cup season. It repeats "Vindaloo, Vindaloo and we all like vindaloo, We're England, We're gonna score one more than you We're gonna score one more than you" and the word Vindaloo 29 times. One can assume that Vindaloo is 'that popular' amongst the UK football fans.
It is not that every section of the UK society has embraced Indian food. There are critics who had tummy problems after having spicy curries. It is your choice you are fighting with. Fish and chips? Italian? Or Indian?
Courtesy of dailynews.lk/features