Until about a week ago, Team GB had all but struck-out in the medal department at their home Olympics. Fast forward half a fortnight, and their 16 golds places them third on the overall list, as well as garnering them today’s national dish highlight at ETW – chicken tikka masala. Wikipedia offers this succinct definition: “Chicken tikka masala is chicken tikka, chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, that is then baked in a tandoor oven, [and] served in a masala (‘mixture of spices’) sauce.” The recipes variations are as wide-ranging as its origin histories, but nothing obscures its popularity. Recently Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, declared chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of the United Kingdom. Today, 1 in 7 of all curries sold in Britain are tikka masala, and it is the most popular restaurant dish in the country. But while tikka masala is unquestionably popular in Britain, and has been declared the national dish, its transnational origins reveal a fascinatingly complex and controversial history.
Chicken Tikka Masala at Akbar’s Indian Restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.
A view inside the Olympic Village Dining Hall – courtesy of The Daily Mail
The 2012 Olympic Games begin today in London, and Britain is using the international exposure to rebrand its still paltry international culinary reputation. Of course, anyone who still believes Britain has terrible food has either not visited London in the past ten years or, if they did, managed to have their heads stuck in the Underground for too long. As Henry Chu of the LA Times noted, London is a very different place from when it last hosted the Olympics (1948), and Londoners today are used to having the world at their doorstep. But just in case you missed the memo, here’s some light reading to catch you up: The New York Daily News is asking whether or not the Olympics can put British cuisine back on the menu, noting that the Olympic Village’s main dining hall contains a number of different culinary zones highlighting the international influences that make up the British culinary menu, including “Best of Britain; Europe, the Americas and Mediterranean; Asian, and Afro-Caribbean” cuisines. Meanwhile, Gavin Cleaver at An Englishmen in BBQ Sauce (he’s a Briton writing in Dallas – get it?) has a celebration and occasional loathing of British cuisine, dishing out gold, silver, and bronze medals (try the curry!) in an Olympics of British food. Lastly, Katrina Heron at The Daily Beast outlines how, as spectacular as the Beijing Olympics were overall, they were an unmitigated culinary disaster, with terrible food that kept running out. Instead, in London, they are trying to launch a “culinary revolution,” insisting that this Olympics presented “an unprecedented opportunity to look at our diets and our health, at our catering industry, at the state of our farms, and to commit to a long-term plan for good food and environmental stewardship.” Internationally diverse, readily available, locally sourced, delicious food? London, we wish we were there too.
Cornish Pasty by Uglix
What with the Diamond Jubilee reaching fever pitch, you might find yourself hankering for some British food while stateside. Though Chicago may be flooded with Irish (and even Scottish) pubs, it is also home to some pretty good British food. We were very pleased to learn that the historically Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport on the south side is home to a couple of noteworthy British options. The first is Bridgeport Pasty, a food truck which was recently awarded 3rd place in the World Pasty Championships. The pasty (rhymes with “vast”) is a filled savory pastry that originated in Cornwall, and is now found in countries with large amounts of Cornish immigrants (such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where there is even a PastyFest). For other British cravings, a bricks and mortar shop also in Bridgeport, Pleasant House Bakery (964 West 31st Street) is known for its savory pies. So there are definitely some places for homesick British and American Anglophiles alike.
This coming weekend marks Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne – and British companies have been pulling out all all of the stops to put out special editions of clothes, tea and even Heinz baked beans. However, what has most caught our eye are the special Laduree jubilee-edition macarons. The Union Jack themed box of six red and white macarons runs $25 and is available at Laduree NYC, Paris and London locations (and also Harrods in the UK). Apparently this is only the second time that special edition macarons were made – the first being a special nod to Hello Kitty. This year also marks the 150-year anniversary of Laduree, which first opened at 16 Rue Royale in Paris in 1862. We are a little sad that we cannot sample the special edition macarons, since Laduree was voted the winner of our Parisian macaron taste-test, but maybe one of our lovely readers can let us know how they are!
Having long been a fan of bagels – I never realized they are called “beigels” at some places in the UK – where they have long been sold at stores on Brick Lane. The wonderful blog Spitalfields Life recently had a detailed post about the Grandaddy of all of these London bagel shops “Brick Lane Beigels” which includes a history and some great photos of the employees and beigel production. I highly recommend it.