So this is the big one right?
‘Going for a curry’ sometimes means going out for Indian food in general – but as this guide is about breaking down what’s on offer, here we’re just talking about curry as in the stew of meat, fish, vegetables or maybe paneer cheese in a spicy sauce or gravy.
Curry wasn’t really a grouping used in Indian cooking until after the British arrived. Different regions just had their different dishes.
When migrants from India started opening restaurants around the world, curry and rice was at the core of their menu. They were pretty flexible to local tastes, and many of the curries which are now Indian restaurant staples in countries like NZ and the UK are more 20th century than ancient (like butter chicken, Balti and chicken tikka masala).
Sometimes the curries on Indian restaurant menus are seen as a bit same-ish. It can be hard to work out what’s vastly different between 7 or 8 versions of chicken or lamb in sauce. Still, if you go to the right place any of those 7 or 8 dishes would be a damn fine thing to eat.
Some popular curries
Here’s a bit of background on some popular curries
- Butter chicken
This chicken in a smooth tomato, butter and cream sauce hardly needs an introduction for Kiwis. It was invented after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Kundan Lal Gujral was a Hindu living in Peshawar in Pakistan whose family was relocated to Delhi in India He had popularised tandoori chicken in his corner of Peshawar and when he moved to Delhi he opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal. He created a rich, mild sauce as a way of using up leftover tandoori chicken. The dish and his restaurant became among India’s most famous. See the Hindustan Times for more detail
- Chicken or lamb korma
A classic Mughlai dish with origins in the 16th century. It has meat braised in mild spices like coriander and cumin and finished with, yogurt/cream and ground cashews/almonds. This was developed in the royal courts of northern India.
- Pork or beef vindaloo
Like so many cuisines, Indian food is all about different influences and waves of explorers and migrants. Vindaloo is a Portuguese-Indian dish from Goa. Vinegar, which the Portuguese introduced to India, is used to to marinate the meat (that’s the ‘vin’ bit) and it features lots of chillies which come from South America. The fact it’s often made with beef or pork which Hindus and Muslims respectively don’t eat also point to its European heritage.
- Chicken tikka masala
Boneless pieces of marinated spiced chicken cooked in the tandoor oven and then simmered in a tomato gravy. Developed in British curry houses when customers were expecting a sauce as part of their ‘curry’ but had been served a ‘dry’ chicken dish.
Where to eat
The two restaurants in Sandringham that specialise in Mughlai cuisine (from the north of India) are Paradise and Bawarchi. They both serve the curry and rice dishes that are well-established in New Zealand Indian restaurants. The Paradise versions are some of the best you’ll find anywhere – packed with meat and flavour. Bawarchi is good too.
Bawarchi – 519 and 523 Sandringham Road. There are two shops two doors apart from one another; one for eat-in and one for takeaway.
Paradise – 591 and 595 Sandringham Road. This is an Auckland institution attracting queues and a lively street life day and night, winter and summer. The chefs are on show, and the coals are on fire. The menu is extensive, the food is quality and turns over quickly. They have a buffet and function centre around the corner on Kitchener St.