LONDON – It’s a well-known fact the Brits aren’t exactly famous for their cuisine. With foods like “black pudding” and “spotted dick,” it’s no surprise even the locals try to steer clear of traditional British grub.
In favor of bangers and mash, Londoners seem to run on curry. Curry ranks No. 2 to fish and chips as the most popular food in Britain. For lunch, as a snack or to cure midnight munchies – curry gets the job done.
This came as extremely good news for me, as I have a slight obsession with the dish.
Ah, curry – my dear, sweet curry. How can I begin to describe my love for you? You are saucy and spicy, with chunks of meat and vegetables swimming through you. You are everything I look for in a meal, and just thinking about you now, I begin to salivate all over my keyboard.
Although you can find curry shops throughout the city, samosas are the equivalent of taquitos at local corner stores. But one place in London is considered to be the mecca of curry: Brick Lane. North of Central London lies this magical road with more Indian restaurants than you can shake a sari at.
The area surrounding Brick Lane is considered Banglatown, because of the enormous population of Bengalis. Immigrants from Bangladesh have been in London since the 1600s. Today, the population thrives with approximately 300,000 Bengalis in Britain.
Strolling down Brick Lane can be overwhelming. Not only are there more than 50 Indian/Bengali restaurants to choose from, but the streets are lined with salesmen who try to lure you into their specific establishment. Added to the pressure of choosing a restaurant are promises of free wine, Brick Lane’s top chefs and the best lunch that 6.95 pounds (about $10.99) can buy, which generally make me want to hide in the nearest alley.
As if there weren’t already enough options, Brick Lane also hosts an annual Curry Festival every fall, and a hundred new stalls crop up along the street, confusing my stomach even more. Having walked the length of the festival three times, my hunger overcame my desire to choose the absolute best spot.
I settled on some pumpkin curry from a simple stall with no line and a smiling old man in an apron. I quickly found a seat on the edge of the sidewalk and tore into my meal.
My hasty decision was probably the best I could have made. With each bite of succulent pumpkin drenched in the subtly sweet-yet-spicy sauce, I felt myself slip further into foodie euphoria. My meal was so good, I wanted to pay a personal visit to the curry gods and give them all high-fives.
As I savored my meal, wondering about the legality of marrying a food product, the Curry Festival parade passed by, complete with colorful costumes and people on stilts. I knew my day was complete.
If you’re interested in falling in love with curry, or if you’re just hungry, Philly has its fair share of Indian restaurants. Check out Tiffin on 710 W. Girard Ave., for cheap eats not far from Main Campus. For a more opulent eating experience, try Palace at the Ben, at 834 Chestnut St. A crisp $10 bill gives you access to the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. (Warning: At the hostess desk, there’s a small bowl of pastel colored stones. These are not candy; they are potpourri, and they will make your mouth taste like a funeral home. I learned this the hard way.)
As you enjoy your curry-licious meal, I hope you feel yourself slipping into a food coma, wondering about the curry gods’ address, because you have a thank-you note to send.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.