The Threat to British Curry

Huma Yusuf in The New York Times:

Latitude-1129-yusuf-blog480LONDON — Upon first moving here from Pakistan two years ago, I was inundated with restaurant recommendations: Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House, Daawat and Brilliant. I spent many weekends sampling curries and kebabs in the east and halwa in the south. In the end, I settled on a Drummond Street standby. For members of the South Asian diaspora, having a favorite curry restaurant is like belonging to a tribe: It requires absolute loyalty and the occasional sacrificial ritual, like waiting in line for a table for two hours in cold, wet weather. But the appeal extends far beyond homesick immigrants. London now has more curry shops than Mumbai. Across Britain, some 10,000 restaurants and takeout joints serve kormas, vindaloos and other variants. At the British Curry Awards this week more than 40,000 nominations poured in from fans. (Among the winners, Karma, in Whitburn, for Best Spice Restaurant Scotland, and Shampan 4 at the Spinning Wheel, in Westerham, Kent, for Best Newcomer.) Prime Minister David Cameron took the stage between choreographed dance sequences and declared the foreign dish now central to British identity: “To all those who think being British depends on your skin color, wake up and smell the curry!”

But now curry is under threat, both from the state and the market. Cameron’s favorite curry house in Oxfordshire was raided by border officials last month, and three Bangladeshis suspected of immigration infractions were arrested. Stringent laws have made it nearly impossible for restaurants to bring chefs from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, creating a shortfall of qualified talent. Acknowledging the scale of the problem at the curry awards ceremony, the prime minister pledged to help: “So let me promise you this: We will work through this together. We’ll continue to help you get the skilled Asian chefs you need.”

More here.