Spicy joke… No. 8

How should an Indian takeaway always answer the phone?

“Aloo, can I take your order?”

The Curry Guide… No. 8

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Do you want a curry that’s cooked to perfection? Next time you go for a spicy meal ask the waiter if the chef would recommend a special dish from the country or region he’s originally from.

Chefs can, of course, cook lots of different dishes from different regions, but they will almost certainly have perfected the dishes from the place where they grew up or learned to cook. Remember, the dish will not necessarily something from the menu under the header “Chef’s recommendations”.

Spicy joke… No. 7

My friend always takes a long time to eat his curry. I sometimes ask him why he is taking so long but he just replies, “Don’t Reshmee.”

The Curry Guide… No. 7

Jalfrezi  has become one of the most popular dishes among British diners in Indian restaurants. It means a spicy food (jal or jhal) stir-fry (frezi) so should be dryish and served fresh from the pan, although in many restaurants it’s morphed into a dish with the generic curry house spicy tomato and onion sauce.

IMG_0935The dish was born in West Bengal (now part of Bangladesh) when the chefs, obviously without fridges in the Anglo-Indian days of the Raj, were forced to create dishes using leftover meats and other ingredients before they went to waste. With chicken being easy and quick to cook using the stir-fry method, it soon became the number one choice for Jalfezi.

A classic Jalfrezi uses few spices except cummin seeds, turmeric and sometimes chilli powder, but instead relies on frying up fresh ingredients such as garlic, ginger, chillies, onion, peppers and tomatoes and letting the flavours combine. The only sauce is from the ingredients themselves and the will be a golden colour from the turmeric.

Spicy joke… No. 6

The amazing thing about Indian food is that even when you are full you still keep picking at your favourite dish. The other day the waiter asked a couple if they had finished. The man replied, “You can take everything Butter Chicken.”

The Curry Guide… No. 6

Fancy a change from beer with your curry? The spices in whisky make it an ideal drink to accompany your favourite spice dish. Try the smoky blend Johnnie Walker Black or the super peaty Islay single malt Laphroaig with Chicken Tikka Masala for instance.

serveimage-3Whisky and curry go together remarkably well. The spicy notes – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cloves among others – are central to the aroma and taste of many whiskies while a host of the other tastes you associate with your favourite curry can be found too. In whisky you’ll also find creamy smoothness (Korma dishes), smokiness (Tandoori), sweetness (Dhansak), vanilla (Kulfi), nuttiness (Pasanda), zestiness (Achari) aniseed (Goan fish dishes), as well as saltiness, fruitiness and slight oiliness.

There’s a lot of snobbery associated with whisky (as with wine) but just as you don’t choose your favourite beer with an elaborate performance of swirling, staring and sniffing nor do you have to do so with whisky either. See the boxes for some ideas of Indian dishes and whiskies but don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you. A few select whiskies and a selection of dishes from your favourite takeaway can make for a great night at home with friends.

Classic dishes and popular whiskies 

• Butter chicken, with its creamy, tomato base works well with the vanilla smoothness of America’s favourite, Jack Daniel’s. No Coke!

• The strong and powerful smokiness of popular blend Johnnie Walker Black is needed to compete with the extra hot spiciness of Lamb Madras.

• Famous Grouse combines spiciness with sweetness (from its fruit tastes) something that fans of a Prawn Dhansak will recognise and enjoy.

• Biryanis are dry but highly aromatic and need a light and sweet whisky that will not fight the subtle aromas of whole spices used in the dish. Go for a Bell’s.

• Kormas or Pasandas, with their creamy and nutty tastes, both work well with the easy, smoothness of Ireland’s triple-distilled Jameson. Any idea why it’s a favourite for Irish coffees?


Advanced tasting menu

Starter: Onion bhaji and Glenkinchie 10 Year Old. A classic, simple starter of sliced onion and gram flour that deserves a gentle accompaniment and this Edinburgh whisky is light but has a touch of spice and ginger.

Lamb: Lamb Tikka and Caol Ila (pronounced Cal-le-la). The tandoor-cooked lamb needs something as strong and smoky as the single malt Caol Ila (it’s the lead whisky in Johnnie Walker Black) with its hint of pepper and spice.

Chicken: Achari Chicken and Tullamore Dew. This Irish blend offers spicy and lemon flavours, ideal if you like your chicken cooked in tangy pickles.

Vegetable: Mutter Paneer with Wild Turkey. The smoothness of the cheese needs a smooth whisky and this famous Kentucky Bourbon provides that, but also adds hints of spices including cinnamon.

Spicy joke… No. 5

An Indian restaurant that has been running for many years is in financial trouble. The staff are worried and the bosses have called in the accountant to see what can be done. They all wait in the restaurant while the accountant does his work.

When the accountant emerges he has a big smile on his face.

“What are you smiling for,” they all say. “This is serious.”

“I know,” the accountant says. “But I have checked the figures and it is good news. The trading has been up in the few months and I think the business has turned the Korma.”

The Curry Guide… No 5

Tandoori Chicken is a now popular dish across the world but it has its roots in the region that today comprises Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwest India. The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and a mix of tandoori spices, then cooked in a tandoor oven, with the heat from the wood or charcoal giving the dish its trademark smokiness. The edges of the chicken are often slightly charred and the meat is scored (this was the allow the marinade to penetrate deeper).

Tandoori Chicken Gurkha's InnThe red colour of the meat comes from the cayenne pepper, red chilli powder and turmeric in the spice mix, although some chefs add food colouring. In recent years there has been a backlash against the use of this red colouring and the days of Day-Glo looking chicken are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Tandoori Chicken is a popular starter with chutneys and makes a great snack with a Butter Nan.It also serves the base for a number of curries such as Butter Chicken. The chicken is often served to the table sizzling and for that reason it is sometimes called a Sizzler.

Spicy joke… No. 4

A customer in an Indian restaurant just can’t make up his mind what to order. Eventually the staff are getting impatient.

“Shall I have the Butter Chicken or the Vindaloo,” he asks for the umpteenth time. “And the rice or the naan?”

“Sir,” replies the waiter. “We have many dishes and we can advise you, of course. But the final choice of what you want to eat is en-Thali up to you.”

The Curry Guide… No. 4

IMG_7178Are you fed up with the same old menu choices when you go out for a curry? Ask the waiter if you can try the Kitchen (or Staff) Curry – the curry the chef will have cooked for the staff to eat when the night’s work is over. This is unlikely to be a dish you will find on the menu; it’s most probably a dish from the home region of the chef and it will be different every day. There’s not always some spare but if there is then most restaurants are usually more than happy for you to try the dish. Obviously if you are eating early you may be out of luck as the Kitchen Curry may not be underway until later in the evening!