UK Curry Scene Editor : David Smith 17 October 1998
Ethnic Foods Show 98

David Smith finds out what it's all about

What are Jwala, Byadagi and Nalchetti? The Ethnic Food 98 trade show held at the NEC Birmingham on 14th-16th June provided the answer. They are all varieties of chilli grown in India.

Chicken Malabar
picture courtesy of and © Spices Board of India
I found out about the chillies from the Spices Board of India stand where I also tasted one of the best curries I've ever eaten - "Chicken Malabar" from the Malabar Junction restaurant in London.

The Spice Board of India have one of the 100+ stands at the show and are there to promote the huge range of spices grown in India. The stands are as varied as the produce they display. The main cuisines featured are Indian and Chinese but food from the Caribbean, America and the Far East complete the picture of ethnic food sales in this country.

Trade shows are fascinating events. Unlike a consumer show, where at least the goods on show are familiar, trade show gets behind the scenes. When you go out for a curry at a restaurant it's not the first thing on your mind to wonder how everything came together to make your meal. But, if you are curious, the trade show provides the answer. There are spice and produce importers and wholesalers, curry sauce, hot sauce, pickle, chutney and goodness knows what else manufacturers, ready made meal suppliers, kitchen equipment companies, you name it it's there. Oh, and breweries as well. Mustn't forget the nice people at the Cobra Beer stand whose motto is "the beer from Bangalore that let's you eat more ... curry!" Cobra Beer
Enam Ali
Mr Enam Ali
Did you know that 85% of "Indian" restaurants in the UK are run by people of Bangladeshi origin and are not Indian at all? Or that there are 9800 "Indian" restaurants in this country? I learnt this from Mr Enam Ali who is Chairman of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs. Mr Ali had a queue of people waiting to see him but kindly spared the time to chat to me all the same.

Food trade fairs are a fascinating place for a foodies like me. And an ethnic foods show is like being sent to culinary heaven. The only problem with all food shows is that after a couple of hours the mixture of smells from the cooking of dozens of different stands tends to, how shall I put it, ruin your appetite. Good job I tasted the Chicken Malabar early on.

My appetite did come back though while I watched one of the 5 cookery demonstration that are held each day. Gurmit Singh Pank of South Birmingham College was cooking Hara Bhara and Tava Paratha. The recipes have been created by the college and mix traditional tandoori cooking with the modern British style of presentation. The result was a delightful looking dish of slices of tandoori chicken breast stuffed with spicy minced lamb and served on a bed of mixed salad leaves. Heaven indeed. Is this the way of the future then - a fusion of Asian and British cooking? Keith Davies
Keith Davies of S. Birmingham College

Enam Ali thinks the future for restaurants looks bright. He believes that restaurants will continue to shed their old image of somewhere to soak up the beer at closing time and points out that families and business people make up a significant proportion of restaurant customers these days. He thinks we will see the rise of chains of restaurants over the next few years themed to a particular cooking style.

How about one final fact? 170 million meals are served each year in Indian restaurants and take aways. Yes, there was even a stand offering statistics, not poppadoms, for sale. Astonishing stuff. Pass the Cobra would you?

© David W Smith, 1998
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