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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Birmingham

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Immigration and Emigration
Saleem's restaurant and sweet shop
Abdul Waheed opened his restaurant in 1970

© Courtesy of Mr R Waheed
Birmingham's balti triangle

Chicken madras and a pint of beer

Balti dish
Traditional balti dish
'Going for an Indian' is something of a national hobby; the sheer volume of Indian food eaten in Britain today is phenomenal. Indian restaurants serve 2.5 million customers ever week and we spend around £3.5 billion on curry every year, according to the Observer Food Monthly supplement (May 2002).

The term Indian restaurant is misleading as visiting one could involve eating food from countries thousands of miles apart, whose traditions have little in common. Sri Lankan, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Goan and Bangladeshi are just some of the cuisines heaped together under the 'Indian' category of the Yellow Pages.

Even within the restaurants the same level of generalisation occurs, with all dishes that are served being called curry. The origin of the word is a hotly debated subject. One thought is that its roots lie in the Tamil language, according to
Balti chef
Balti chef with the traditional accompaniament - naan bread
© Courtesy of Marketing Birmingham
Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food, it comes from the Tamil word kari meaning spiced sauce. While Camellia Panjabi, author of 50 Great Curries of India, concedes with this argument, she does hold some reservations and suggests northern India may have played some part, the English first landed there in 1608 and there is a gravy dish called khadi. Others believe the word curry originates from Old English. The first English cookery book, entitled The Forme of Cury, was written during Richard II's reign (1377-1399). Cury was the Old English word for cooking derived from the French cuire, meaning to cook, broil or grill. Regardless of its origins, what is certain is that curry is not a word used on the Indian subcontinent, it is a British invention.

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Your comments

1 Ash from USA - 29 October 2003
"Who cares where curry comes from? Indian food is diverse and tastes magnificent, thats what matters!!"

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