Indian cuisine is one of the most popular and well known cuisines worldwide, but how did it become one of the UK’s favourites?
It dates back more than 10,000 years to the Harappan era with its main origins in Hindu and Muslim traditions with additional Portuguese, Persian and English influences over the years. One of the key traits of Indian cuisine is its variety of powerful flavours derived from the use of spices, but Indian cuisine also includes sweet, salty, sour, and many more complex flavours. This variety of flavour is a key factor to the longevity of Indian cuisine and why it is still widely enjoyed to this day outside of India.
The UK was exposed to Indian cuisine in the 1930s as Indian nationals arrived in the UK. Since then, it has been a core part of the British menu and is now one of the most popular take-outs in the country. Indeed, it makes up a £1.733 billion industry with Indian restaurants serving 2.5 million people every week across over 8,500 establishments. Interestingly 3,500 of the 8,500 restaurants are based in London. Brick Lane is of course a ‘must visit’ for anyone looking for a good curry in London.
Indian food is often synonymous for being spicy and hot, which for some adds to the appeal of the cuisine. However, the UK’s favourite Indian dishes are anglicised curries including Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma and Butter Chicken, dishes that are far from hot and spicy. Plus, the influence of the Hindu religion (42% of households in India are vegetarian) means that it offers a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options, making it bang on trend when it comes to the rise in plant based diets here in the UK.
Recently there has been a rise in more authentic Indian food with operators like Dishoom and Mowgli managing to thrive despite the impact of Covid, driven by consumers looking for real Indian cuisine rather than anglicised dishes.
Whatever your favourite, be it authentic street food or the good old Chicken Tikka Masala, over the years Indian cuisine has adapted and evolved to incorporate a range of influences, yet it has managed to remain resolutely popular with UK consumers. Indeed, with plant based eating on the rise and more authentic operators coming through it may even be on the cusp of a renaissance!