Sunday February 18, 2018

Curry masala restaurants at risk of closing down in London

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London: Who does not know curry in the UK? Solely identified with Indian food menu, curry has become a palatable source of ethnic food for Britishers. But it seems that things are changing now as the Indian food industry faces a threat of losing business in England.
NewsGram brings you an exclusive report by Reuters from London.

The great British tradition of going for a curry on a Friday night appears to be dropping by the wayside, with an estimated 12,000 curry houses disappearing. As Joel Flynn reports, culture, not just cuisine, might be to blame.It’s lunchtime in the Bengal Clipper kitchen, and chicken tikka masala a British favourite is being prepared. This isn’t the busiest time of day, but that’s not slowing down head chef Mohammed Asrar, from the Bihar region of India.

It’s lunchtime in the Bengal Clipper kitchen, and chicken tikka masala a British favourite is being prepared. This isn’t the busiest time of day, but that’s not slowing down head chef Mohammed Asrar, from the Bihar region of India.

He has worked for years to be able to blend spices, but when it comes to customers, the Clipper and its curry competition are facing slimmer pickings than ever.

Business is down and changing tastes are to blame, according to Bengal Clipper owner, Mukit Choudhury. He said, “The old generation, they’ve gone back behind and the new generation took over the place, and since then I find the Indian restaurant is slowly, slowly coming down.”

Costs too are a big problem. While the price of a curry might barely have changed in the last few years or even decades, the weakness of the pound and the rising price of spices is hitting the bottom line. Rents in the capital, in particular, have also risen, but it’s staffing that’s the biggest worry.

SOUNDBITE: Reuters Reporter, Joel Flynn, said “Much is at stake and not just for the industry itself. Curry houses employ 100,000 people in Britain, many of them famously here on Brick Lane in London, and as far as sales are concerned, according to a government committee on curry, it’s worth more than 4.2 billion pounds a year.”

If current trends continue, the Bangladeshi Caterers’ Association expect up to a third of curry houses to go bust. But while many might publicly lament the dying off of a great British institution, restaurant footfall suggests curry might not be on the menu much longer. (image: Manjula’s kitchen)

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Dilli 6: Culinary legacy continues against all odds

Originality, legacy, a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth via social media are taking their businesses forward in times of rising inflation and rapid influx of a variety of cuisines, say Purani Dilli's much-loved street food vendors

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The "Daulat ki Chaat", once served to the rich and the Royals, is a frothy and sublime sweet made from churned milk under the moon only during the winter season. Wikimedia Commons

Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather’s 150-year-old recipe. There’s also Khemchand Adesh Kumar, who has been selling the sweet winter delight “Daulat Ki Chaat” from his humble “khomcha” on the streets of old Delhi for the last 30 years.

Originality, legacy, a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth via social media are taking their businesses forward in times of rising inflation and rapid influx of a variety of cuisines, say Purani Dilli’s much-loved street food vendors.

“Options have increased tremendously, but true food lovers value the originality and legacy. We have been serving ‘Daulat ki Chaat’ for more than 30 years now. We have a base of loyal customers who travel from far off places just to savour this winter delicacy.

“A lot of kids and youngsters also come to us and tell us that they read about us online. So, considering the quality and legacy of our product, business sustenance is never an issue,” Kumar, who belongs to Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, told IANS.

Also Read: These 10 Food Items are Popular with Indians and not to be missed this Monsoon!

The “Daulat ki Chaat”, once served to the rich and the Royals, is a frothy and sublime sweet made from churned milk under the moon only during the winter season.

“The soft, cottony foam is carefully collected overnight under the dew as it requires low temperature for the formation and is served along with khoya and saffron fresh in the morning,” explained Kumar, who gives a plate for Rs 40.

Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. Wikimedia Commons
Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. Wikimedia Commons

When he is not selling his seasonal delight in peak business months from November to January, Kumar makes money with a Golgappe and Chaat stall in Burari here.

“Inflation remains a key challenge, but our customer base has always seen a positive trend.

This has helped us cope with price rise,” he said, adding how foreigners find it intriguing and fancy to know about the six-hour process behind the making of “Daulat Ki Chaat”.

Also Read: 4 Startups which changed the face of Food and Beverage Industry in India

For Siddique, the pride in his Bade Miya Ki Kheer business comes from his belief, “We are not just serving kheer, we are serving our legacy of 150 years”.

“Richness of our ingredients and authenticity in the taste, a method of preparation and presentation keep us strong in business. We are moving ahead with time and using several strategies to sell our product and combat inflation.

“There are a lot of restaurants in Delhi which buy our kheer every day from the Lal Quan shop, plate it differently, and serve to their young customers.

Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather's 150-year-old recipe. Wikimedia Commons
Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather’s 150-year-old recipe. Wikimedia Commons

“This helps us in making good profits,” said Siddique, whose outlet satiates the kheer-craving of two people within Rs 250.

The kheer, he says, is made by using full-fat milk, slow-cooked on a charcoal fire for almost eight hours, with rice and pure ghee. The result is a thick, creamy pudding, full of smoky aroma and a rich golden colour, and sold in dry leaf bowls.

Also Read: Indo-Pakistan Peace Restaurant ‘Sarhad’ to showcase food in Paris at an International food event ‘Grand Fooding S. Pellegrino Plats’ in September

“A lot of people ask us what is that one secret ingredient that makes our recipe cult and we feel it’s “Allah’s blessing” that does the magic every time.”

There’s also Ram Babu Kushwaha, whose winner at his forefather’s eatery Hira Lal Chaat Corner is the “Kulle Chaat ” — scooped out potatoes and other fruits and vegetables filled with delicious stuffing, a recipe he claims to have discovered out of an experiment.

“Our clientele is getting diversified as a lot of young people keep coming to us when they read about us on social media sites. They come to our shop, make videos and click pictures of our ‘kuliya chaat’ which helps in putting a word out,” said Khushwaha.

These vendors were among around 20 old Delhi “chaat-walas” who participated in DLF Mall of India’s “Chaat Festival” in Noida last month.

“We want to introduce our legacy to the modern generation. We feel that is how it will grow. Instead of thinking that mall culture is a threat to our business, why not use them as a platform to reach out to a wider audience?” he added.

Also Read: Being Vegan Good For Environment: Study

Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. (IANS)

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)