Indian Questions

Time was when on entering an Indian restaurant you knew exactly what to expect: Madras, Vindaloo, Rogan Josh, Bhuna, Dupiaza, Korma, Dhansak… (Jalfezi, Balti and the dreaded “national favourite” Tikka Chicken Massala came a little later as I recall.)

Nowadays every curry house seems to have its own selection of house specialities and chef’s signature dishes. The other day I had a Lamb Jaflongi. Is there some remote region of the subcontinent called Jaflong or do they just make these names up?

In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t bad – medium hot with a rich sauce in which I thought I detected a faint hint of mint, and what I took to be the last piece of meat turned out to be a chunk of pickled lemon peel.

While I’m on the subject – when did the practice of serving popadoms and chutneys as an appetiser become commonplace? When I first patronised Indian restaurants in the late 60s/early 70s, both items were taken as accompaniments to one’s curry which, as I understand it, is what they were originally intended for. But sometime around the 90s it became the norm to order a stack of pupadums* and spoon little dollops of mango chutney and lime pickle on them. Why?

* Is there a “correct” spelling of this word? It seems that any combination of the vowels a, o and u interpolated between the consonants p, p, d and m is acceptable.


The Last Straw?

There’s a petition doing the rounds at the moment asking a well-known junk food chain to cut down on its use of plastic drinking straws (3.5 million per day in the UK alone).

Plastic pollution is in the news a lot these days, and so it should be. You’ve probably heard the prediction that, at the current rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. You’ve probably seen that harrowing video of the crew of a small boat painstakingly removing a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose.

Two thoughts occur:

When I was young, drinking straws were made of waxed paper. Surely that’s more environmentally-friendly than plastic?

Why does anyone – unless they have a physical disability which makes handling a cup or glass difficult – need to drink through a straw anyway?


On the Construction of Sandwiches

I had a crab sandwich in a pub yesterday (a pub with no beer – although I gather there were extenuating circumstances). Each slice of bread was about three quarters of an inch thick.  It was good fresh granary bread but there was rather too much of it to allow the delicate flavour of the crab meat to shine through, particularly as it had already been diluted with rather more mayonnaise than I would have used myself. Another of our party had ordered a ham sandwich. When it arrived the bread was even thicker – the two slices, a good inch apiece, barely separated by a couple of thin slivers of ham.

Now, whilst I would not deny that the bread in a sandwich is important, insofar as it should be really fresh (i.e. baked today) and of a suitable type, it is not the star of the show. Its primary purpose is to contain the filling and its secondary function to provide some carbohydrates and fibre to complement the normally protein based delicacies within.

Confronted with the aforementioned travesty, I was prompted to promulgate:

QR’s First Law of Sandwich Construction

The total thickness of the slices of bread should not exceed twice the thickness of the filling.

I initially phrased it slightly differently: “The thickness of each slice of bread should not exceed the thickness of the filling” but then it occurred to me that, whilst that applied to the majority of sandwiches, i.e. those with two slices of bread, the revised version would cover open and club sandwiches as well.

No doubt some of you may already be thinking that’s all very well but some sandwich ingredients have a stronger flavour than others, in which case a lower filling to bread ratio is surely acceptable, desirable even. I take your point – if you are partial to Marmite sandwiches you probably don’t need a half inch layer of the stuff between your slices of bread. [Anyone of a certain age who remembers “The Perishers” is probably thinking of Marlon’s inch-thick ketchup sandwiches and Wellington’s ketchup fallout suit.] However, for most solid ingredients I think the law stands scrutiny.

QR’s Second Law of Sandwich Construction

The filling should extend to every edge of the bread.

No disputing that one, surely. Don’t you just hate it when a sandwich is plump and succulent in the middle and the corners are empty?