Sunday, March 2, 2014

Desi street food in London (and beyond)

Sounds (and tastes) pretty nice, just like the yoga-asanas, jhal muri from Kolkata enters English palates (and hopefully lexicon). Perhaps Londonistanis can compare notes and serve a few new pointers as well.

So what’s on the menu? Horn OK Please has been proudly serving dosa and chaat since 2011; along with the classic Indian soft drinks like Thums Up and Frooty that both delight the uninitiated and make long-time fans come over all nostalgic. Rava, rice, and mung dosas, bhel puri, pani puri, aloo tikki and samosa chaat form the core of a menu that’s won them a legion of hardcore supporters.

When it comes to influences, Angus Denoon of The Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express draws his from Kolkata’s culinary artisans. He learned his finely-honed craft in that city, observing and absorbing. Angus might be an Africa-born, British bloke; but, as many delighted customers insist, his heart is Indian. As are his tools, and the gloriously gaudy signs he commissions from his Bengal-based signwriter. All that would count for little were his food not also authentic. His chaat captures the streetfood spirit; freestyling, applying andaz, ever-evolving. Signature jhal muri is shaken into newspaper cones, puchkas are piled onto palm leaf plates, deep cups of ghughi dal feature a layer of crispy muri, chewy coconut chunks and a thick thatch of sev.

Outside the capital, England is enjoying Indian street food fresh from the Rajah Grill - ‘Urban Rajah’ Ivor Peters’ roving pop-up project. Manchester has Aarti Ormsby’s Chaat Cart; Birmingham the Keralite Pop-Up Dosa; and Leeds the unstoppable, award-winning Manjit’s Kitchen, whose legendary Chilli Paneer Wrap now merely needs referencing by acronym.


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