Distinctly British passion for curry still evolving

Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:08pm EDT
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Food lovers, celebrities and restaurateurs feted the British passion for curry on Wednesday at the launch of the Brick Lane Curry Festival.

The tiny street in the east end of London is often called the "curry mile" and is home to more than 50 restaurants serving the mostly Bangladeshi-inspired versions of what Britons commonly refer to as curry or "Indian food" in reference to its origins in South Asia.

More than 30 restaurants in the lane served up spicy chicken, lamb, sweet-smelling sauces and rice alongside steaming vegetable dishes, fiery red tandooris and the indigenous chicken korma under a marquee in the street to judges attempting to choose the best Brick Lane curry.

Andy Varma, a celebrity chef and director of Food for V8 Gourmet Group -- one of the biggest "Indian" restaurant groups in Britain -- told Reuters that the modern obsession for a cuisine that's become particularly British grew out of a shared imperial history.

"It's an affinity with the Raj," Varma said. "There are three generations who have already got the taste and they brought it home."

Next week the lane will open up in earnest to the public for its festival from September 27 until October 10, offering food, culture, music, dance, snake charmers and traditional snack sellers.

Curry judge and television personality Nina Wadia -- who plays a character on the long-running EastEnders television soap opera -- and whose family comes from Mumbai said curry has become part of the national psyche in Britain.

"It's part of the make-up, not just British-Asian but British culture especially in the inner city," she said.   Continued...