by NADEEM BADSHAH
UK RESTAURANTS CASH IN ON FOOD BOOM
THE next time you order a tikka masala at your local restaurant you could be in for a shock – with a vegan version on the menu.
Around 542,000 people in Britain now have a plant-based diet with no meat, seafood or dairy products, with nearly half aged 15-34.
The boom has led to curry restaurants opening in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol offering only vegetarian and vegan cuisine in recent years.
Among them is Hullabaloo in south London, which opened in February and offers meat-free spicy bhuna, madras, jalfrezi and rogan josh with tofu and a cashew nut sauce.
Harish Kumar, owner and head chef of the eatery, told Eastern Eye that 60 per cent of his customers are vegans and many are students.
Kumar, whose parents are vegetarian, said: “Some people come in and say: ‘Can I have a chicken korma?’ We say: ‘We don’t serve meat, would you like to taste this?’
“We prepare something and they like it; we have more customers eating vegetarian. Especially a younger age, from Goldsmiths University and Lewisham College; it’s coming up very fast now.
“All the bread, rice and dishes are vegan and we use dairy-free butter. If you put coconut milk in tikka masala, the taste is very good and it’s more healthy.”
Kumar, known as ‘Baloo’ and who has worked with TV chef Atul Kochhar, added: “I have friends who are vegan and it was inspired by them saying they have no good food around; they were eating burgers all the time.”
Supporters of the diet say it can lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of death from heart disease and cancer.
Other businesses carrying favour with diners include Roots Manuka in Bristol, which opened in May offering vegetarian and vegan curries. Also Sanskruti in Liverpool, which opened last July, and also has a Manchester diner offering similar cuisine.
Jay Shukla, manager of the Liverpool branch, told Eastern Eye: “The authentic Indian menu people like. There’s not a similar menu in other restaurants, it’s down to health reasons too.
“It’s a growing trend in veganism. We serve vegetarian so we have all communities coming. The most popular dishes is vegetable seekh kebab and a kathal jackfruit curry.”
Chef Cyrus Todiwala, owner of two Indian restaurants in London, believes offering only vegan cuisine is a “bold move” but it could be a success long-term. He said: “It is the people’s choice, and what people want we have to provide as professionals and meet their demands.
“Whether it will grow and survive or not is anyone’s guess but there are enough vegetarians in our society today to help steady that growth.
“Good luck to them for taking a bold step like that, but I feel if they hang in there they will turn things around.”