Do you know how to really eat a curry?
Have you ever wondered how to enjoy a curry the right way? Probably not, hey? A curry is simply something you grab from your local London curry house and pop in the microwave at home, isn't it? Or maybe, if you're in the mood to splurge a bit, you head into one of Britain's top Indian restaurants and get slurping. However, there's a lot you can do to maximize the curry experience and ensure your taste buds are titillated by Britain's favourite dish every step of the way- and today, the Carlton Lounge team are here to help you make the most of this delectable classic dish.
A curry isn't just a curry
Firstly, let's get one thing straight- there's no such thing as 'a' curry. It's become a convenient shorthand for a vast, complex [and delicious] food culture that caters for every palate [yes, even you who are chilli-adverse]! Dishes available to you in Britain can range from a mild and gentle korma right through to a taste bud-popping vindaloo or phall, and cover almost everything in between. You'll find restaurants and takeaways with dishes influenced by every region of the Indian subcontinent, made with pride. Add to that a veritable wealth of fusion cooking inspired by the fragrant spices of the east. So don't be afraid to experiment - one bad curry experience shouldn't turn you away from this truly unique style of cuisine. Everyone can enjoy a curry, we promise!
Choosing a great Indian restaurant in London
If you truly want to experience all that Indian cuisine can bring to the table [pun intended], then popping a microwavable box from the supermarket isn't going to cut it. You need to experience sensitive, informed cooking at the hands of a skilled practitioner- and for that, you need to go to the source. London's got no shortage of restaurants from all sorts of backgrounds, so you're sure to find a gem that will keep you going back for more.
From South Indian cuisines [typically a little hotter and very heavy on vegetarian dishes] to Carlton Lounge's own North Indian traditions [lush dairies and traditionally more meaty], right through to the unique tastes of Gujarat, East and West India, the taste explosion waiting for you is vast. Nor are those rough typings hard and fast- North Indian dishes also produce a ton of delectable veggie-orientated foods, and you'll get hot and mild dishes no matter where you venture, so be prepared to have some fun experimenting. Even if you enjoy your meat curries, it's not a bad idea to look for a curry house with a decent selection of vegetarian dishes too- it suggests they care heavily about flavour, are confident in their offerings and cater to a broader guest experience. While you'll find everything from hole-in-the-wall takeouts to luxury restaurants to suit your mood, at the heart of it the 'frills' shouldn't steal the show- no amount of glamour will cover up poor cooking!
A limited menu isn't always a bad thing- no truly stellar kitchen can produce 100 great dishes, after all. A little speciality and some limitation of menu size suggests some actual mastery of the dishes. It's a good idea to avoid too many signs of 'faddish' catering- you don't need curry challenges and slavish reproduction of Western cusine's marketing tactics [low-fat, healthy this, reduced that] if you're looking to enjoy an authentic curry experience- the cuisine types and cooking methods are different, and that's what makes them great.
Takeaway vs eat-in
There's nothing wrong with either, of course, but they do offer considerably different experiences. Takeaway is fantastic for when you're just not in the mood for people [Carlton Lounge offers all our menu items as takeaway for those 'hide at home' days], want a no-frills dining experience or if you're worried about eating a somewhat messy dish in line of sight of everyone else. However, there's a lot to be said for allowing yourself the treat of a full-on dining experience in opulent surroundings too- just make sure your choices fits your mood and you're ready to go.
When should I enjoy my curry?
The curry, in Britain, has become inexorably linked with drunken takeouts. Truthfully, it does make a great hangover-buster...rich flavours for your soggy head, fat and carbs to chase away the headache, and a nice dose of restorative chilli heat to pep you up. It's a great dish for any time, though, so the best answer to when to enjoy your curry is 'whenever you feel like it'.
What should I expect from a curry experience?
To properly enjoy a curry, you should opt for the full experience- and that's at least two and a half courses. Think poppadoms and a tasty starter, then your main course with herbed rice and a daal on the side. While there is a rich and diverse range of Indian deserts you can round off the experience with, there's traditionally much less of a focus on these then there is in the Western diet, so be sure to skimp there if you fill up easily and want an authentic curry experience. Don't be tempted to order a ton of different dishes to share- while it sounds like a good idea on paper, it often leads to a bunch of mismatched flavour combos that don't give you the full breadth of taste from your dishes. Plus, if you're stuck with a boring tablemate you may end up sticking only to 'safe' foods instead of getting to eat a real curry and try what you really want!
Etiquette-wise...well, don't get too hung up on it. If you're out-and-about in a London Indian restaurant, some basic table manners will never go astray of course, but if you're at home you can pig out without judgement! Beer pairs really well with curries, although a nice acidic pineapple juice and tonic combo is just as great if you're not into booze.
It's not hard to eat a great curry- in fact, the less time you spend worrying about it and the more time enjoying your curry the better! Be sure to pop past Carlton Lounge and experience our fantastic North Indian and Indo-Chinese fusion menus while you're experimenting- we will be looking forward to seeing you!
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