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Food

The Rise, Love & Evolution For Indian Food in London: From the 11th to the 20th Century

15th September 2020

By Zahid Hai, Founder

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It is no secret that Indian food has now become a favourite for so many people across London, having reached its rightful stature as a great and complex cuisine of the world, evolving in the last few years. The aromas of the curries, the vibrant colours of the Masala, the healthy versatile lentils, and, how can we forget, the delectable butter naans can all instantly make your mouth water.

History of Indian Food

To really understand how this profound love for Indian food found its way to Britain, one must turn their attention to when it was first introduced to the people of this country. If you think it is the 1960s or 1970s, think again. It was almost over 200 years ago, in 1810 that London was graced with its first Indian food restaurant, Hindoostane Coffee House, owned by Sake Dean Mohammed who was a Bengali captain of the British East Indian Company. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he capitalised on the demand for these delicious spices that emerged in the UK since the 11th century as the crusaders brought home gifts after returning from the war.

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With not much information available of the restaurant, all we really know about this novel idea was that it gave the locals a taste of India in its mildest forms, with basic mildly spiced curries suitable for non-spicy palates, Hoakah with Pakistani Chilm tobacco, walls decorated in colonial style with trinkets and pictures that represented the views of India and its people. Unfortunately, Sake Dean Mohammed’s vision of putting Indian food on the aristocrats culinary landscape was not as fruitful as he had hoped, until many years later, in the 20th century.

The Curry House Boom in Britain

The famous curry house boom that Britain embraced in the 1970s was the hard labour of the Sylheti sailors from Bangladesh in the early 20th century, who had no other means of supporting their families but to utilise what they knew best – their unwavering love for Bangladeshi food. Salut-e-Hind, opening in 1911 was one of the first restaurants to open and see success, which primarily catered for the East End community of London. Many other reputable names followed suit thereafter, but the one that revolutionised Indian food for years to come was Veeraswamy, which opened its door in Piccadilly in 1926. Almost instantly, it was deemed trendy to be seen eating at this famous curry house, which still stands in its original place. In 2001, Chicken Tikka Masala was also declared as Britain’s National Dish!

The Rise of Modern Indian Fine Dining in London

Fast forward to years later, to the rise of Modern Indian fine dining restaurants such as Jamvar and Gymkhana in Mayfair, Benares and Sri Lankan Hoppers, all these restaurants are in the rat race of hoping to add more Michelin stars to their names.

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But, we must pause to ponder whether such heavily cooked dishes are a true representation of Indian food? No one can possibly eat from these lavish restaurants everyday and still maintain a healthy diet (no doubt the taste is divine), and neither do the people of India consume such dishes everyday. In fact, home cooked Indian meals are light, refreshing, tasty, easy to make and do not require hours of preparation. No doubt a fine dine in a gourmet restaurant is a luxurious treat every now and again, but one must remember that Indian food in India is different in every region, with various styles of cooking, a range of different ingredients and eaten 3 times a day.

The Misconceptions of Indian Food

It is a common misconception that Indian cuisine is heavily infused in oil, ghee, masalas, hot spices and rich in fat. This could not be more further from the truth. Indian food consists of a dazzling array of fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, protein packed lentils, high fibre and spices and fresh ingredients like garlic and ginger that have numerous medicinal and healing properties. When cooked correctly, with the balance of all of the above, you have yourself the most perfectly balanced, healthy and tasty diet for all your meals, everyday.

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The Evolution of Indian Food in London & Ayurvedic Science

With the younger generation becoming more conscious eaters (rightly so), with many turning vegan for the betterment of our planet and wellbeing, or just those who would like to maintain a balanced lifestyle, it is time they are offered meal options that suit their needs and requirements. 

At Tula, this is exactly what we believe in. Our love for Indian food is unparalleled, but we are equally passionate about sharing the right perception of it. Derived from over 5,000 years ago, we lean on Ayurveda, which predicates on the idea that we are made up of different types of energy (your Dosha), and should eat according to this to maintain a holistic balance of the mind and the body. After all, if we are to follow the famous adage ‘you are what you eat’ that was first  heard in the 18th Century by the popular French epicure, then why would we not be more conscious and mindful about what we put into our bodies?

If you haven’t already, discover your dosha to determine which foods are great for your body to ensure your wellbeing is upheld at all times. At Tula, we understand how difficult it is to plan your meals in advance with such busy lifestyles and schedules, hence we are passionate about creating balanced meals that are nutritious and delicious, and bring the real authentic taste of India to your homes in London.

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