Except for meatloaf.
Sorry to meatloaf lovers, but there is just no way I will ever enjoy it.
What is it supposed to be anyway?
But that's for another blog. Fortunately, I haven't come across any meatloaf here. But it wouldn't surprise me if England is its country of origin. Meatloaf has many of the characteristics a lot of British food has: few ingredients, greasy and heavy.
By observing the eating habits of my house mates (six of whom are English), I've gotten a pretty good idea of the British diet. Some essentials:
- Gravy. I come from a family where gravy accompanies special meals, like turkey dinners and expensive pot roasts for which the grandparents are invited to dinner. But here, gravy is as common as a bowl of Wheaties. In fact, almost all of my house mates have instant gravy pellets in their cupboards.
- Chips. Not potato chips (those are crips), but French fries. Chips in England accompany almost ever meal. Again, most of my house mates have a bag of frozen chips in their freezer bins. Restaurants too.
- Beans. Yeah, I thought 'ew' too. But they have really grown on me. Beans & Chips...only in England.
- Pasties, which are essentially various forms of pot pies: Cheese pasty, onion pasty, stew pasty etc.
- Fruit juice. All of my room mates have a 2L bottle of fruit juice in their fridge--a popular flavour over here being Blackcurrant. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner is juice time ...I mean, breakfast, tea and ...tea, or is it supper? When in doubt, refer to "tea."
- And without further ado, the most popular meal in Britain...
I never would have gussed it, and the first time I was told about curry's popularity among Brits I was skeptical. But there is no doubt. Curry has taken Britain by storm. Curry Mile is the area in Manchester with an endless row of "curry shops" along both sides of the street. I visited it last week for the first time to find that it can be described as "the English version of Las Vegas...on curry."
Neon lights and flashing signs decorate every restaurant, where managers stand outside the doors to beckon you into what they promise to be the finest curries around. I decided on Lal Haweli, it turned out to be the same place someone had recommended to me, but it was really just its impressive light display that won my attention.
The whole curry phenomenon is all very new to me. I had never tried a curry dish before arriving in England, but I'm hooked now. It all seemd so foreign and spicy. And spicy. But it was really the spiciness I was shying away from.
I can confidently report that I'm a reformed spice-wimp. But I'm still really wimpy. Just an adventurous wimp.
A curry is any of a variety of distinctively spiced dishes. I always associated it with Indian cuisine, but it is a common occurence among Thai, Malaysian and South Asian menues as well. And apparently it has been adopted into all of the mainstream cuisines of the Asia-Pacific area.
The popularity of curry in the UK encouraged the growth of Indian restaurants several years ago--Curry Mile being a Class-A example. And the British culture has gone on to influence what was originally a very Eastern dish. For example, one of the most familiar dishes served in British restaurants, Chicken Tikka Masala was apparently invented in the UK by Bangladeshi chefs. It has since gone on to be referred to as the "British national dish" over the past decade.
British curry has taken on a life of its own, and some British variations are now reportedly exported from the UK to India. British-style curry restaurants are also popular in Canada, so I hear, among other places.
A curry dish is essentially rice topped with a sauce, flavoured with spices and containing ingredients like chicken, beef, lamb and other vegetarian alternatives. Below are the few curry dishes I've become accquainted with over the past few weeks:
Chicken Tikka Masala - a tomato-based sauce with beef. The most popular, and the one I first tried in London.
Chicken Korma - mild, yellow in colour, with almond and coconut powder sauce. It's very sweet, which is difficult to imagine for a curry--at least I thought so. But it's great, particularly for spicy-food wimps like myself.
Rogan Josh- a tomato-based sauce that is considered a medium curry. I almost passed out.
Vindaloo - always classed as the classic "hot" restaurant curry--but apparently a true Vindaloo doesn't specify any particular level of spiciness. I wouldn't dare try it. Even the name sounds spicy....vindaloooooooooooothaspicy
So curry is the flavour in England. I recommend it to everyone who has yet to try it--except for those who would likely be taking me out for a meal..if you could wait for my return, it would be much appreciated. Bon appetite!