Spicy curry feature: Variety is spice of life

Peri Peri Chicken at Cafe Spice Namaste
Peri Peri Chicken at Cafe Spice Namaste
Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes and that is certainly the case at Cyrus Todiwala’s restaurant Café Spice Namaste.
It has a halal menu which includes game haggis samosa chaat which is crammed with mince and has a strong acquired taste. Also on offer is a succulent duck sausage, a filling sea bass cube, a more conventional prawn and venison.
Chef Manpreet Ahuja, who works at the east London eatery, said as the world became more globalised the appetite for chilli dishes is growing.
“The demand for spicy food is as great as it always had been, the demand is greater because the world is smaller,” he told EE.
“Today the average diner is a little more aware and more adventurous compared to 10 years ago. People who frowned upon unusual combinations of dishes are more receptive to new dishes now.”
A red-hot main course is the peri peri chicken. The spiciness sneaks up on you and you need plenty of yoghurt chutney to drown it in along with a glass of water. You may not be able to see the chillies but you can feel their presence bursting in your mouth.
Ahuja added that instead of using traditional chilli power he opted for kashmiri chillis.
“A lot of restaurants would add chilli powder to give you that heat but you would end up coughing straight away. We use kashmiri chillis because of the flavour and also because of the colour.
“The heat is not as much as some of the other chilli. But if you soak it for good two three days with garlic and vinegar, you get a little bit of a sweetness and bit of sourness.”
For its peri peri chicken dish he used around 15 chillis which were turned into paste and then marinated into the meat.
“It is not to do with number of chillis. It’s about the paste and you decided how much paste you wasn’t to use in the marinate with.”
Cafe Spice Namaste
16 Prescot St,
E1 8AZ
020 7488 9242
Head chef Zuber Shamim at Masala Bricklane served its chicken jalfrezi which has around seven green chillis including one and half teaspoon of Mr Naga chilli paste.
It has the most ferocious chicken jalfrezi in the country which is not for the faint-hearted.
Between two of us we could only finish half of the dish despite having a lassi in one hand and water in the other. The lamb dry curry was cooked with
daal curry, one teaspoon of chilli powder and seven dry extremely hot seven chillis.
Shamim revealed that English customers who traditionally opted for vindaloo as their “hot curry” are now asking for more spicer varieties which the Indian and Bangladeshi palettes are used to.
“With English customers they want really hot Bangladeshi style curries. Before it used to be just vindaloo now their taste is changing and they want what we’re used to having at home.
“In our restaurant we have curry club and our chef would get the dry chilli and green chilli and put in a blender and add it in the curry.
“We get a lot of people coming in winter time asking for spicier curries. Some people have it to help get rid of colds.”
By the end of the meal, our lips were burning, stomach churning – it was a shock to the senses. We tried different ways of eating it like having more rice on our spoon and digging out the green chillies but it did not work. We were defeated by the curries.
Masala Brick Lane
88 Brick Lane,
E1 6RL
020 7539 9448
Iqbal Hussain,a chef at Jhal Chilli in Maidstone, Kent, has cooked meats like ostrich and deer.
The ostrich bhuna has naga chillis and mushroom rice. Smoke was nearly coming out of my ears by the end of it. Hussain and his team kindly decided to give me a sweet dish afterwards to cool my taste buds of glazed honey duck chunks which had a dewy texture and did the trick.
Hussain said he used a variety of ingredients including garlic,onion, coriander, spring onion and one teaspoon of naga pickle.
He said: “The standard is one small teaspoon of pickle. The most for a customer was one and a half naga in a chicken dish,they managed to finish it.
“Ostrich is cooked on a tandoor oven already so it only takes around 15 minutes, the meat is marinated 24 hours before with yoghurt and Kashmiri masala.”
He added: “The hottest dish I had was a chicken madras,it wasn’t hot as the one you had.”
Jhal Chilli takeaway
61 Union St,
Kent,ME14 1ED.
Raabitah is a mix of Asian, Turkish and Italian cuisine, and claims to have the spiciest mixed grill in the country.
Saj Afzal,manager and grill chef at the east London restaurant, said the mixed grill began life as a mild dish.
“Because of the demand and where we are located we introduced Asian spices and preparing the meat in a Turkish way – it is cooked on the charcoal,” he told EE.
“We put chilli powder,bit of ginger and garlic.a little red chilli from Africa,it’s one of the hottest ones we have found.
“We used it for the marination along with a few other chillis,hot pepper,paprika sometimes.
“The majority do finish it,it becomes a point to prove and an ego thing.”
A starter of five succulent char-grillled sausages with salad is a good warm up for the challenge. The mixed grill itself is a hearty portion of lamb kebabs, chicken and lamb chops. I was able to finish it just about with lots of water and a special juice of mango,carrot,orange and apple. With my mouth still burning, a dessert of creamy candy floss and bubblegum ice-cream settled me down.
2 Victoria Road,
IG11 8PY