KOLKATA, India, Apr 24 (AFP) – Britain exporting curry to India? The idea seems ludicrous but a group of chefs are in the subcontinent determined to teach locals about British versions of traditional Indian recipes.
Indian food has become a mainstay of the British diet, eaten in vast quantities across the country, but few people in the homeland of the curry have ever heard of the dishes that pass off for their national cuisine in Europe.
|Indian hotel staff serve a dish of prawn and mango for guests during the Britain's Curry Festival in Kolkata. AFP photo|
Chicken Tikka Masala, known for its spicy red yoghurt-based sauce and said to be the most popular dish in British restaurants, is unheard of in India where even the word "curry" is seen as a British invention.
Dishes with "gravy" are what Britons, or "Britishers" as they are still known in India, would recognise as a curry, though gravy for traditional English folk is something served with roast beef on a Sunday.
"The Taste of Britain's Curry Festival" has been running this week in Kolkata, eastern India, the first capital of the British empire on the subcontinent.
Advertised widely across the city, the idea is to introduce Indians to some of the dishes that have developed in Britain in the 300 years since the two countries have been linked by trade and colonial rule.
"The British Raj in the Indian subcontinent started from Kolkata and Britons had the first Indian curries in this historic city," festival director Syed Bilal Ahmed told AFP.
"Bringing back curry to its original place is like a homecoming."
The festival features 50 dishes by four Britain-based Indian and Bangladeshi master chefs.
Some of the recipes on display are British curry house staples, such as Balti, Jalfrezi and Tikka Masala.
"British curries are healthier as they have less spice, less oil and less sugar and salt," added Ahmed, who believes Britain no longer deserves its reputation for poor food.
The festival, which organisers plan to take to Bangladesh and Spain, ends on Sunday but its impact might be long-term in Kolkata, a bustling city famed for its passionate gastronome residents.
"We plan to continue some dishes of Britain curry even after the festival," said Utpal Mondal, executive chef of host hotel Hindustan International, where sales are up 18 percent since the festival began.
Locals appeared to be enjoying the fare on offer.
"We came here to get the taste of Britain curry. It's delicious," said Sutapa Sanyal, an employee of a city-based firm who walked into the restaurant with her husband for the first time.