After a thousand-year journey across seas and cultures, the ‘curry’ comes to the city, bringing with it new influences and flavours
To a population who probably tucked into idli-sambar for breakfast and lunched on rice and chicken curry, a food festival dedicated to ‘curry’ may not be an event worth marking on their calendars. But, the ten-day festival at Park Hyatt is the Taste of Britain Curry Festival that has travelled all the way from Britain where the word ‘curry’ means something slightly different. ‘Curry cuisine’ or ‘curry’ is the blanket term used to describe food that has been carried over from South Asia, mainly India and Bangladesh and adopted into mainstream British cuisine, so much so that celebrity chef Dominic Chapman, “can’t go a week without having at least two curries.” Stepping out for a curry can be taken to mean stepping out for an Indian meal complete with kebabs, meat and vegetable curries, dals and naans, but with a British twist; expect your chicken kebab to be spiced with oregano and don’t be surprised to find generous amounts of cherry tomatoes in your yellow dal.
Organised by Park Hyatt in association with Curry Life magazine the festival featured six ‘curry chefs’ from across the UK serving up over 80 dishes over the course of the next 12 days. In contrast, Chef Dominic Chapman will also be doing what he does best – serving up a classic British meal. The Michelin starred chef who is visiting India for the second time has a lot to say about the country’s rich culinary cuisine. This trip is another step forward to his mastering curry cuisine. “The idea is come here, eat, enjoy and get an idea of the traditional curries here and then go back to our kitchens and try new thing. I like to get into the core of the dish and this is where curry comes from. I hope there is going to be a lot of learning from this trip,” he informs us. “Last time I was here, in Kolkata, I cooked an eight-course vegetarian meal and also got to try some local cuisine at an Anglo-Indian home.” According to him, local dishes are best savoured from the home kitchen, garnished with some good old Indian hospitality. While the internet provides easy access to even the most traditional recipes, what Chapman is here to learn can only be studied through observation and tasting – spicing. “This time around, I want to learn about spicing. How do you get the right proportions that bring out those delicate flavours?” he asks.
Although Chapman does not endorse ‘fusion’ food or mixing up cuisines or dishes, he believes in experimenting with modern versions of traditional food.
“I myself specialise in very British food but I would love to modernise a few traditional dishes and out it on my menu,” informs Chapman. And what does this modernising entail? “Flavour is the most important part of any dish and it’s all about taking that flavour, and presenting it in a clean and fresh way rather than piling it all onto a plate,” explains the award winning chef.
True to its definition, the curry buffet included traditional dishes that had been treated a bit differently by the chef. Potatoes, which feature quite commonly in British cuisine were flavoured with lemon to make a wholesome starter and spiced and topped with parmesan cheese for the main course. The menu also included the Shatkora Gosht, lamb a preparation more common in the UK than in India. The most obvious difference that you will find between traditional Indian curries and British curries is in the spice levels. The dish everyone was waiting to taste was the famous ‘Chicken tikka masala’ – which is said to have its origins in Glasgow and is now one of UK’s national dish. It is a delicate, sweeter version of the popular butter chicken that went with the Sunhera Pulao, a mixed vegetable pulao with baby corn and peas. Ask Chapman what dish he was going for and he responds, “I like a good dal,’ going straight for the Dal a la Kent, yellow dal garnished with bay leaf and fresh cherry tomatoes. The festival will go on till June 21 and will be open for lunch and dinner.