Friday 29 June 2007

Curry To Dye For

Enter an Indian Restaurant and you’re unlikely to come across the Weightwatchers brigade, especially if they’re seated sideways on. The food is widely considered cholesterol high, low brow, for beer guzzling vulgar types. Even Tandoori dishes - meat grilled in the oven and served with side salad no gravy - have been taboo, until recently at least.

Ten years ago in Surrey if you went for curry and opted for a Tikka item you would probably have been served luminous pink/glaringly red pieces of chicken, lamb, mutton dressed as, tainted with food dye. Tarnished and contaminated in fact. Following a stream of scares someone suggested, half proved artificial colourings caused allergies, asthma, migraines and even cancer. Therefore, the Surrey Curry Club was established to combat the use of unnatural colourings in regional curry dens. Curry chefs with a conscience were encouraged to join and commit to the complete removal of food dyes from the cooking process.

"Our advice to restaurants serving curry is to either follow the manufacturers instructions and measure carefully, use spices which also have colouring properties such as tumeric or paprika, use natural colours like beetroot, or to stop using artificial colours altogether" 1 reads part of the manifesto. To date 61 restaurants restaurants have signed up since the outset which can only be for the good.

Reasons why restaurants may not be listed range from: The restaurant not complying with all Trading Standards Legislation or with all Environmental Health requirements to the trader simply not being interested in becoming a member. When this is the case suspicions that too much artificial colour is being used are raised, indeed this is the main reason for restaurants not being on the list 2.

"It doesn’t improve the taste” said the waiter on patrol Thursday lunch at Halewi, Addlestone. Obvious but worth repeating. Nor does it really add to the appearance of a dish, like applying facial cosmetics, it doesn’t create the sort after 'natural' look. People want to be Mother nature's children and increasingly wish to eat mother nature's food.

My Jalfrezi at Haweli had a truly appetising and colourful appearance. Lightly browned hunks of chicken tikka sitting prettily in a tomato orange gravy with golden strips of caramelized onion, deep green chilli fingers and bright red slivers of pepper. Hot, sour and sweet, healthy. I felt better for it.

In addition to being unhealthy there are times when over use of food dye has actually ruined my curry, several CTM’s have tasted chemical. There continue to be die hard exponents of food colouring in the Indian Restaurant trade - the phosphorescent green garlic naan breads of an inner city Cardiff joint spring to mind –however, initiatives like the Surrey Curry Club seem to be inspiring a shift away from this outdated, good for nothing and no one tendency.

As for Weightwatchers, they should try Amaya in Knightsbridge for a 400 calorie lunch and tuck into some salubrious tandoori chicken.

1 Surrey Curry Club, Surrey County Council

2 Surrey Curry Club, Surrey County Council

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