April 20, 2010 / 3:16 AM / 9 years ago

Britain's Indian curry comes home in Kolkata

KOLKATA (Reuters Life!) - Britain’s version of the curry has come full circle in Kolkata, the Indian city that claims to be where it all began, and which is now celebrating the origins of the dish that has become a staple in many households.

Chefs at a city restaurant are dishing out the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka Masala and Balti Chicken, as well as flavourful fish and lamb dishes, among nearly 50 versions of what the British commonly refer to as curry or “Indian food.”

The 10-day “Taste of Britan’s Curry Festival” has been met with an enthusiastic response, the organizer said, underlining the passion for food among Kolkata locals, as well as a curiosity about the fuss over the humble curry, which grew out of a shared imperial history and has become particularly British.

“It was like a homecoming for the great British Curry, as Kolkata was once the proud seat of the British Raj in India,” said Syed Belal Ahmed, the festival director and editor of UK-based magazine Curry Life.

“It is where the curry trail really started,” he said.

While chefs elsewhere in India and across the border in Bangladesh may dispute that claim, there is no denying the popularity of the dish, which even has a dedicated street in the east end of London, Brick Lane, commonly called “curry mile.”

It is also a cuisine that is a serious industry by itself, with an annual revenue of some 4.2 billion pounds ($6.44 billion) and employing more than 100,000 people, estimates Syed Nahas Pasha, editor-in-chief of Curry Life magazine.

The festival at Hotel Hindustan International showcases some 50 dishes by four UK-based Indian and Bangladeshi master chefs, with a lunch or dinner buffet priced at 1,299 rupees ($29).

“It is running to packed houses,” said Koushik Sengupta, food and beverage manager at the hotel.

Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, the hotel plans to incorporate some of the dishes into its main menu, with a few modifications mainly to dial up the spice levels, said Partha Mittra, one of the visiting chefs.

“British Curry uses less spices to suit the English taste. Hence a little alteration will be required,” he said.

The festival will travel to Madrid in June and to Dhaka in October, completing its homecoming in south Asia.

“We are overwhelmed with the interest and response ... (to) an everyday British food,” said Sengupta.

Editing by Rina Chandran and Miral Fahmy

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