Special tidings at Anglow, curated by Anglo-Indian food expert Bridget White
built for the British army during World War I. When the soldiers left India, they handed over the apartments to several Anglo-Indian families who inhabited the city of Calcutta. The buildings, we noticed, were in shambles. But soon, it would be Christmas and things looked sunny…
I only took note of the cakes and ale that time. For my story for the Indian Express. If I would have probed further, I’m sure I would have heard of the special Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, too. The Anglo-Indian delicacies that we never really heard of or spoke about.
On Friday afternoon, as we tucked into a large Anglo-Indian spread at Anglow in Khan Market, curated by celebrity cookbook author and Anglo-Indian food expert Bridget White, I realised that the community does have some precious food secrets hidden in its pages of history. The dishes are a part of the winter menu that will be available from next week at this special restaurant. The elegant interiors, reminiscent of the posh living rooms owned by officers in colonial India, enhanced the gourmet experience for us. And then, we had Bridget herself regaling us with anecdotes, information and nuggets from her food sojourns.
We tasted the distinction in the Potato and Aubergine Vindaloo that could possibly be one of the best aubergine curries I’ve had. Sweet, sour with a hint of heat. Another great aubergine dish was the roasted eggplant, grilled and served on lavash. I loved it with my gin based lavender breeze…
Growing up in the British mining town of Kolar Gold Fields in the 1950s and 60s was quite like finding yourself in a little corner of England, reminisced Bridget, a custodian and researcher of Anglo-Indian cuisine. “In Kolar, which had many Anglo-Indian families, our upbringing was influenced to a great deal by the British.
The menu showcased the classic Fricassee Chicken, popularly called Frisky Chicken, a delightful dish of chicken marinated in garlic and ginger and cooked in a white wine sauce. It’s a full meal at Anglow, with a serving of creamy mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, leafy greens and toasted bread. I found the taste similar to Devilled Pork where the meat was marinated in lime, Worcestershire Sauce, mustard, vinegar, coriander, pepper and then braised with tomato and onions. It’s really meaty and filling.
Winter menus incorporate rich stews and broths. Like the warm chicken and vegetable stew that we ate. Complete comfort food.
While Bridget took us through her childhood memories of growing up at KGF, she also mentioned various Portuguese food trivia. Like how they used preservatives like wine vinegar, tamarind and garlic as a method of preserving food and many of these influences show up in Anglo Indian cuisine. “The addition of tamarind and vinegar in food to make it sour is all part of the Portuguese legacy,” she added. Many Anglo-Indian dishes have very unique names. “The famous Railway Mutton Curry was a direct product of the British Raj, when only East India Company officials and Indians from the upper strata of society travelled by train, considered an aristocratic form of transport. The trains came with very elegant and fancy dining cars attached and food had to remain fresh throughout the journey. The Railway Mutton Curry got its name from those train journeys in style!”
The other well-known dish, as mentioned by the culinary consultant, Daak Bungalow Chicken owes its name to the Daak Bungalows or Rest Houses along the postal route. Carriages would stop at these rest houses and the caretaker would prepare a dish, invariably chicken, as they were reared in house. Over the years, the recipe passed down from the original caretakers to their sons who would take over. The Lal Murgi Curry of today owes its origin to the chicken curry from the Daak Bungalows.
Then there is the Bengal Lancer’s Shrimp Curry. “The Skinners Horse Regiment of the Indian Army gave this dish to Anglo-Indians.” What we ate was a spicy tomato-based shrimp curry served with an aromatic yellow pulao.
As we count to the days of Yuletide, I wonder whether the women at Bow Barracks in Calcutta are jotting down what all they will cook this Christmas. A chocolate pudding maybe, or a bread pudding garnished with orange marmalade. If that is the plan, then it definitely will be a delectable Merry Christmas…
Eat this awesome winter spread at:
Anglow, 57, Khan Market, New Delhi – 110003.