Curry Guide… Goan Cuisine

 

1024px-India_Goa_Chapora_River_Boats.jpg

The food in Goa is quite distinctive from the rest of the India, despite it being one of the smallest states in the country and home to fewer than 1.5 million people. Its location along the western coast of the country, by the Arabian Sea, means seafood features prominently in its cuisine and because its population is largely Christian (Catholic), thanks to just over 450 years of Portuguese occupation, beef and pork are also common, unlike in the rest of India. Chillies are also important in Goan cuisine having been introduced to to the country by the Portuguese in 1498. Curries without chillies, who’d have thought? The Indians used peppers for heat before that.

The most famous Goan dish is Vindaloo, which is a favourite of all heat lovers. Vin means vinegar, thanks to the southern Europeans and the aloo bit is for the amount of garlic in it (the aloo bit is commonly confused as meaning potato because “aloo” means “potato” in Hindi and chunks of the good old spud is in the dish. The traditional dish, cooked with loads of vinegar and pork, is nothing like the curry house dish you’ll get in Britain, although it does share the heat levels.

Other well-known Goan dishes are Xacuti, a dish of chicken or prawns with chilli, white poppy seeds and coconut, and Cafrael, a Portuguese-Indian combination dish which uses a lot of coriander and lime juice and has its roots in Africa.

Photo: Zerohund Wikipedia.

Curry Guide… Korma

IMG_0810The poor old Korma gets a bit of a bad press in Britain. The obsession among some people in eating ever hotter curries means the Korma gets lumped with the “curry novices” tag because it is mild and creamy. And to be fair, the quick and easy Kormas some restaurants turn out have hardly done anything to raise its status. The pale dish that most diners are familiar with uses very little spice – garam masala and perhaps a little turmeric – which is mixed with puréed onions, garlic, cream, cream coconut and ground almonds.

And, yet, a well-cooked Korma can be one of the tastiest dishes on a menu – it was certainly highly regarded by the courts of the Moghuls and is said to have been served at the inauguration of the Taj Mahal. Korma actually refers to a style of cooking where the chef starts by frying ingredients with oil and avoids using adding water until towards the end of the process. The water must be fully evaporated by the end of the cooking. As such there is no reason why a Kormas has to be mild at all – and indeed there are many Kormas which use chillies.


The Spice Card offers savings on curries, including on takeaways at many venues. You can get your Spice Card here.

3D card image

Featured

Get your Spice Card here and Save at Curry Restaurants & Takeaways

3D card image

You can save 20% on curry every time you use the Spice Card – on dine-in and takeaways (including takeaways!)

The Spice Card is for lovers of spicy food, whether it’s Indian, Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese – and for just £15 a year you can enjoy savings at restaurants and takeaways across South East London – from Greenwich to Blackheath, Lewisham to Charlton, New Cross, Grove Park, Bexleyheath and the Isle of Dogs.

You will enjoy the savings for dine-in and takeaways (including deliveries) at most venues. You can use the Spice Card as many times as you like during the year.

Yes! I want to buy my Spice Card now!

The concept is simple.  First you buy your Spice Card for £15. Then you enjoy a curry at one of our partner restaurants or takeaways. Your bill will include a 20% discount on your food. Repeat for a year…

How it works graphic.jpg

To see which restaurant and takeaways offer the Spice Card discount head check out the website.

The chart below shows the annual savings you could enjoy with your the Spice Card

Savings chart.jpg

Liss, Hampshire (Madhuban)

Madhuban, Liss, Hampshire

IMG_0792

Ok, where’s this place?
It’s a village of about 6,000 people, about 20 miles north of Portsmouth.

What’s its Indian restaurant like?
It’s actually got two but Madhuban is the famous one.

Famous?
Absolutely, people travel from far and wide to eat here and the curry guru Pat Chapman raves about the place. He even named it as one of the top restaurants in the country in his Cobra Good Curry Guide.

Have you been here before?
Been here before? I came here the year it opened in 1987 and have been coming here whenever I’m in the area ever since.

Wow you must have seen some changes?
You bet. It was a 30-seater restaurant when it started and now it has 130 covers. It’s well designed, with a modern bar and waiting area and side-lit carvings of classical dancers (Bharat Natyam) and plants in the wall recesses. It was even packed on my last visit on a Wednesday night. It felt like everyone turned up at the same time which meant the service was a bit slow but it was still as friendly and warm as the first day I visited the restaurant.

And so to the food then?
The Railway Chicken and Egg Curry is a nod to the famous food found on the Indian railways. I’ve had it a few times. It’s thick with meat, vegetables and sauce, with a boiled egg in the middle. Rustic, just as it should be. The Chicken Tikka Darjeeling Masala is also highly recommended, with green tikka a great change (and very fresh tasting). According to the menu, the dish is in tribute to the garden in the Bangladeshi home of Lodue, the man behind the Madhuban. The Achari Chicken and Kashmiri Pilao (with lychees) was also devoured, as was the Madhuban Special Chicken, which  is a combination of the flavours of Bhoona, Korma and Tikka Masala.

What else is on the menu?
Maybe you should ask what isn’t on the menu! It’s one of the biggest menus I’ve every seen – and I don’t mean just the printed menu, which is a large-format eight-page masterpiece of information on dishes and spices. There are something like 150 menu options (I gave up counting after page three) and a promise to try to make anything that’s not on the menu if you ask!

The chefs must be superhuman.
They certainly do a top job with all those options. Everything on our table of eight was very good. The bill, including drinks, came to just over £160.

What’s the damage?
Drinks: Cobra (draught) £3.95 (large bottle) £4.75, white wine (large glass) £5, Lemonade (pint) £3.50, Diet Coke or Lime and soda (small) £2.50
Popadoms: 60p each and 60p each for pickles
Starter: didn’t have any
Mains: Zeera Prawn Masala £11.50, Chicken Tikka Darjeeling Masala, Achari Chicken, Railway Chicken and Egg Curry £10.95, Madhuban Special Chicken £10.50, Jungli Maas Chicken £9.95, Rogon Chicken £9.50
Sides: Sag Paneer, Bombay Aloo £3.95
Rice: Mushroom Rice, Kashmiri Pilao £3.50, Pilao Rice £2.95
Nan: Keema Nan £3.95, Peshwari Nan £2.95

Madhuban, 94 Station Road, Liss, Hampshire, GU33 7AQ.
Tel: +44 1730 893363 or +44 1730 894372.

Open
Monday to Thursday: 5.30pm–10.30pm.
Friday: 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Saturday: noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–11.30pm.
Sunday: noon–2.30pm and 5.30pm–10.30pm.

The Riz (Margate, Kent)

The Riz, Margate

If you love a good old British-style seaside resort and you love a good curry may I direct you to the Riz in Margate?

The smartly dressed owner directed proceedings and gave us all the information we were after when it came to what was and what wasn’t in certain dishes. It’s always good to gauge different dishes and if the owner or staff are happy to help out then they’ve found the right man for a chat.

The decor is as smart as the owner. This is a real little gem, albeit not in the smartest of streets. And it looks like the locals know it too as there was a gaggle of girls getting stuck into and a couple of families enjoying the food.

My previous experience of trying to get a curry in this street had not gone well (yawn! Is it ever coming?) but my Margate friend assured us that this was the place to try. He was right.

The Riz serves superb dishes and they are as fresh as they come. This is the place to dip into South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes. So where to start? How about Nethli Meen Varuval (£4.50), spiced anchovies which are then deep fried. A pretty lively taste of Kerala I’d say. Or Fish Cutlet (£2.50), Sri Lankan traditional fish dumplings, crumb fried and served with hot spicy sauce perhaps?

House specials are parathas, iddapams and puttus, which all use eggs. A chicken paratha, scrambled with eggs and cooked with minced parathas is £6.95. But it’s got to be fish for me so the recommendation is Monkfish Curry with Mango (£8), a Keralan dish made with mango, coconut milk and ginger.

The Riz, 49 Northdown Road, Margate. Tel: 01843 293698.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 9
Decor 8
Service and friendliness 8
Atmosphere 7 (Tuesday evening)
Value for money 8

Blackheath (Chinipan)

Chinipan, SE3

Usually, no matter which corner of London you visit you will find a curry house. So why has there not been one in Blackheath Standard for the last umpteen years? Luckily the rain has come to the desert in the form of Chinipan, a smart Bangladeshi-run place in the premises of the old hardware store.It’s only been open a few months and I’m pleased to see it’s going strong.

The name, meaning sweet leaf, is used on a few of the specials on the menu. I tried the Chinipan Fish Curry (£8.95), with tender, large chunks of salmon. The fish is marinated overnight then sealed in the tandoor for a few minutes before joining the spicy, creamy coconut sauce. A touch of smoked tamarind keeps your taste buds alive throughout.The Chicken Tikka starter (£5.50) was tender and moreish, and a fan of Biryani assured me the chicken version (£10.95) they had was excellent too. It certainly disappeared quickly.

Service is friendly but relaxed and there is an attractive lunch deal (£8.99 for two courses, £10.99 for three) which means it is one of the few local curry places where I often see people eating in the day. The decor is smart, if a little sparse, but it looks as if the team is slowly building a good reputation in this part of SE3.

The restaurant is now fully licensed after a spell of BYO when it first opened at the end of 2016

Chinipan, 15 Old Dover Road, Blackheath, London, SE3 7BT. Tel: 020 8853 5800. Open: daily noon – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Decor 6
Service and friendliness 8
Vibe (early Wednesday night) 6
Value 8

Greenwich (Pathiri)

Pathiri, SE10

Fed up with identikit Indian restaurants and their identikit menus (same old, same old)? Pathiri in Greenwich’s Trafalgar Road could be just what you are looking for. This unassuming little place specialises in Keralan food, the home region of the friendly owner Kutty – and there are plenty of interesting dishes to try.

First up it has to be a couple of the South Indian dosas, the slightly sweet crispy pancakes (think crepes). The Ghee Roast Dosa (£4.75), with a hint of cheese, is a nice way to test the water or go for the more hearty Masala Dosa (£4.99), which is packed with potato, spinach and Nigella seeds (black cumin). The dosas are very large and come with an array of sauces so I’d advise the latter is shared if you don’t want to completely dent your appetite for the main courses.

IMG_7834
Masala dosa
FullSizeRender.jpg
Clockwise from top left: Vegetable Korma, Cabbage Thoran, Fish with Cassava, mixing the fish with the sauce, the sauce for the fish, pilau rice.

There is a small choice of old-school dishes (Tandoori Chicken anyone?) if you really must, but fish has to be the way to go. Kappa with Fish Curry (fish mixed with cassava and served with a spicy sauce, £9.99) is a heavy, tasty dish and is recommended along with the Green Mango Fish Curry (£7.25). Both dishes use fresh coconut and have a good kick. Plain pilau rice (£2.50) or a Keralan Paratha (£2.50) are the best accompaniments, and coconut rice (£3.50) an overload of the fairground favourite.

Elsewhere, vegetable lovers will rejoice at the array of choices with dishes of beetroot, okra, eggplant, beans spinach, paneer and eggs all on the menu (from £4.50 as side dishes). But most importantly, Pathiri has a chef who takes his vegetables seriously (the Cabbage Thoran, £4.50, was probably the best cabbage dish I have ever had) and not as an afterthought to sit sadly next to the meat dishes.

Pathiri operates a BYO policy and on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes you can try a range of dishes with their South Indian Thalis (£8.99 veg, £9.99 non-veg).

Pathiri, 119 Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9TX. Tel: 020 8858 1220. E-mail: info@pathiri.co.uk.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Decor 5
Service and friendliness 8
Atmosphere 6 (Wednesday evening)

Value 8

Village spice

Kasturi, SE7

When you read from a food writer (Solange Berchim in the Greenwich Visitor) that the curry she ordered from Kasturi in Charlton was one of the best she had tasted, it is time to take notice.

The Greenwich Curry Club had a mammoth Christmas curry here when it was called the Viceroy, so we clearly needed to check out the venue’s new incarnation. After a couple of warm-up drinks in the friendly White Swan we skipped the starters and headed straight for the mains.

I’m currently on a Vindaloo rush and the chicken one (£6.95) was spot on – well spiced and a decent amount of vinegar. It’s amazing how many restaurants ease up on that ingredient when it’s a core part of the Goan dish.

Elsewhere on the table, the Lal Maas (£9.95 ), a Rajasthani lamb dish, didn’t explode in heat as we expected from the menu’s description, but it disappeared nonetheless, along with a Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani and Mashq-e-Tanjan, the chicken version of the same dish (both £9.95). Considering there were the remnants of a Keema nan (£2.95) and pilau rice (£2.95), an empty bottle of red wine and a few Cobras littering the table, the final tally of under £20 a head was exceptional for this quality.

I particularly like the tight menu, in particular only listing a handful of “speciality” dishes. Now, that is a restaurant that is confident in itself and one where you can be more confident that the chef actually does specialise in those dishes.

Kasturi, 10 The Vilage, Charlton, London, SE7 8UD. Tel: 020 8319 3439. E-mail: info@kasturi-restaurant.com. Open: daily 5.30pm – 11pm.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 8
Decor 7.5
Service and friendliness 8.5
Vibe (early Wednesday night) 7
Value 8

Plenty of fish

Saffron Club, SE3

Not only does this Blackheath restaurant have one of the coolest names in the curry world, it also has a superb selection of seafood dishes. Sparking my interest was the Punjabi Fish and Chips (£8.95), a twist on the British classic, with Ajwain seeds used with the gram flour for the batter and served with a yoghurt dip. There’s even peas. Spicy I wonder? The waiter did admit that the dish was pretty much standard fish and chips with a hint of spice but then that’s not such a bad thing in my book anyway.

Other tempting fishy delights on the menu are the Mixed Seafood Curry (£13.95) with tiger prawns, salmon, fish and mussels in a Goan sauce and Bulsari Salmon (£11.95), a brochette of fresh salmon with onions and peppers. There are also four different prawn dishes (from £12.95) and Tandoori Trout Fish (£10.95) served with a stir fried aubergine and tomatoes.

To say there’s a fair bit of competition in the restaurant stakes in Blackheath is an understatement but Saffron Club has certainly put its marker down when it comes to fish.

But as this is a Nepalese restaurant specialities such as Chicken or Lamb Hariyali (£8.95) and Himalayan Chicken (£8.95) are also to be recommended. The latter is cooked with Jimbu, a popular spice from the hill regions of Nepal apparently. Not your usual ingredient that’s for sure. And, as can be seen from the photo below, there are some excellent, fresh vegetable side dishes too.

IMG_7400.JPG

Saffron Club, 39 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 0BU. Tel: 020 8297 1071.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7.5
Decor 8
Service and friendliness 9
Atmosphere 6 (Tuesday evening)

Value 7.5

Popadom and pickles

Crayford Tandoori, Crayford, Kent

I used this Indian restaurant a lot a few years ago, so I was delighted to see it going strong on a recent visit.

This is a classic small-town curry place: it serves more or less all the old-school dishes in its attempt to satisfy everyone: from young couples getting ready for a night out to oldies making their visit a night out, to groups celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and all those people in-between (like our jolly table down from London for the night).

And a classic place deserves some classic ordering. So where to start? Ah, the joys of an Indian. No faffing around like in other places; it’s not what to order, it’s simply how many to order.

“That’ll be six popadoms please.” See mum, I can order with no hands (on the menu) now.

Then it’s the pickle tray ritual as people make a grab for their favourites.

“Oh, that’s hot! Try that one.”

“Oh I love that one.”

“Is that the mango? Mmmm.”

“What’s that one? I don’t think I’ve had that one before.”

“Yes you bloody have,” I want to cry. “This is a classic curry house. They’ve been dishing up the same stuff for years when it comes to this bit of the meal.”

In case you haven’t been out since 1978 it goes like this…

  1. The popadoms arrive 18 seconds after they have been ordered. Some people in your group are still removing their coats and before long another member of the group will return from the loo and exclaim: “oh you’ve ordered popadoms,” as if it is unusual.
  2. The amount of popadoms you get will be the highest number that a member of you party asked for. So if everyone asked for six but one person said ten then the waiter will have only have heard him and you will get ten. Nobody argues because it’s not the done thing.
  3. The popadoms will be moderately warm as they were cooked earlier and have been sitting under a warmer tray. Nobody argues because it’s not the done thing.
  4. The pickle tray will include, a) some chopped onion with mint and a bit of vinegar. b) mango pickle. c) lime pickle. d) yoghurt/mint sauce. There is never a variation of the pickle tray in a classic curry house, although occasionally the  yoghurt/mint sauce can be bright green thanks to colouring, which is rather exciting, even though it tastes no different.
  5. Everyone tucks in. There are two ways to eat popadoms and pickles. One is to break off small bits of popadom and put on the pickles one at a time so you can actually taste them. The second is to pile a mixture of all the pickles on your plate and mix them up into a complete mess in a complete disregard for the individual taste of each one. You can then scoop up the mess on to your popadom and wonder why it is dripping all over the place.
  6. After five minutes someone at the table asks for another tray of pickles because they have already been devoured. This is the equivalent of a large bottle of ketchup and mustard being used on a couple of hotdogs but no worry, the waiter will assist us.
  7. The waiter mutters something in Hindi to his colleague. This can roughly translated as “that greedy bunch have eaten a whole pickle tray in five minutes. Thank goodness we charge £1.10 per popadom these days.”
  8. After another five minutes the waiter returns to collect the empty tray but as he touches it someone exclaims, “we haven’t finished yet,” before picking up the last miniscule shards of popadoms and popping them into his mouth.
  9. The waiter says something else in Hindi.

And so begins a classic meal in a classic Indian restaurant, which on this occasion served up an excellent Chicken Tikka Sag (£8.95), Keema Bhuna (£7.95) and Sag Aloo (£3.20), as well as the largest King Prawn Butterfly starter (£5.95) I have ever seen.

IMG_7441.JPG
Sag Aloo (left) and Chicken Tikka Sag.

Crayford Tandoori, 4 Empire Building Waterside, Crayford, Kent, DA1 4JJ. Tel: 01322 529 907. Open: Sunday to Thursday 5.30pm – 11pm, Friday to Saturday 5.30pm – midnight.

Scores on the tandoors
Food 7
Decor 6
Service and friendliness 7.5
Vibe (Saturday night) 8
Value 8