Why is Indian food in the UK so famous?
Tourists to the UK often want to try Indian food but are confused as to why this custine is so famous over here. Today, it is one of Britain’s most popular cuisines and going to eat Indian food is often just referred to as ‘having a curry’. We even celebrate National Curry Week every October.
Indian food is big business and contributes more than £5 billion to the British economy, with some even referring to chicken tikka as a British national dish. But how did this all come about?
There are over 31.2 million Indians living outside of India with a big proportion of those people living in the UK. Many decided to open authentic Indian restaurants and in fact, the UK has the majority of Indian restaurants in Europe. The first opened its doors 1810, near upmarket Mayfair, called the Hindoostanee Coffee House. This means Brits have been dining on delicious curries for over 200 years!
Slowly Indian dishes and spices became more popular in the UK with many claiming that it had numerous health benefits, with even Queen Victoria being known to have eaten chicken curry, dal and pilau.
With India part of the British Empire, immigration started to increase and with it, more restaurants. The first fine dining establishment opened in 1926, Called Veeraswamy and even had King Edward VIII, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin as customers.
But it wasn’t until after World War 2 and in the 1950s that Indian food was truly accepted over here. Immigrants mainly from Bangladesh (which used to be part of India) bought bombed-out cafes and turned them into Indian restaurants. Unlike British pubs and cafes, they stayed open and served food after 11 pm to catch the after-pub trade. So, eating a curry after a night out became part of the culture.
Although most restaurants here have Bangladeshi origins today it’s very possible to eat and try dishes from anywhere in the Indian subcontinent, such as South Indian Styles and dishes from Pakistan for example.
So there you have it; from appealing to Kings and Queens to everyday pub goers, Indian food truly became accepted into British culture. And of course you can try many different delicious dishes in our Secret Indian Food Tour, which shows the best and secret Indian food in the East End of London. Once you try it, you will be on the way to being a true expert in British-Indian cuisine.