a way from heart to heart · round robin

Going for a Ruby, or why I love the curry capital of Britain

Today I’m taking part in another Round Robin, and this month’s topic is “a favourite food or meal.” Well, since I live very close to Bradford…three guesses what meal I’m going to choose!

helena fairfax, a way from ehart to heart
Image from Pixabay

Those who don’t live in the UK may not get the answer straightaway, but the rest will probably know that Bradford is the so-called Curry Capital of Britain, and has retained its crown for the past four years. It seems a bit of a cheat to choose a loose term like “curry” for my favourite food, since there are thousands of different types of curry, and this is just a generic term for spicy food originating in Asia. In the US, I believe a curry restaurant is called an Indian restaurant, but in reality curries come from many different countries, each with their own specialities. In the Bradford area, most curry chefs are from Pakistan, and in my particular area, they are mainly from the Bangladesh region. (I’m such a curry connoisseur nowadays, I can often tell where a curry comes from!)

People from India and Pakistan started coming to the Bradford region in the nineteenth century, to work in the woollen mills. Their cuisine has left such a lasting impact that curry has now become the national dish of England – and in particular, a curry called Chicken Tikka Masala. In fact, Chicken Tikka Masala is never found in Asia – it’s a particularly British invention, and just shows how our cultures have become enmeshed one with the other over the years.

Bradford’s cuisine has become synonymous with curry, but there are other cities in the UK that hotly contest

helena fairfax, a way from heart to heart
Image from pixabay

the Curry Capital crown each year. Glasgow is one, and also Birmingham. Manchester has a whole street of curry houses known affectionately as the “curry mile”. I’ve had many an excellent meal on the curry mile, as well as on Brick Lane in London’s East End, which is also famous for its curry restaurants. If a Londoner asks you if you “Fancy a Ruby?” it’s cockney rhyming slang for curry. Ruby Murray is a singer from the fifties. “Going for a Ruby” is such a common term in London that many London curry restaurants are actually called “The Ruby” – another example of how our cultures have entwined.

Curries are quite often very cheap meals and for a long time they had a working-class image. Even now “curry houses” are often found in the more downmarket end of town, but this is absolutely no reflection on the quality of the food. Don’t be fooled by the cheap price and the locale. The chefs are often superb, and I’ve had much nicer meals in some of these curry houses than in far more expensive restaurants.

In my new release, A Way from Heart to Heart, I have the hero and heroine go out for the evening to a curry restaurant in a rundown area of London. The heroine is surprised at the hero’s choice – she always thought he was more a guy for fancy restaurants. She’s even more surprised when the waiter turns out to be a good friend of his. It’s the first of many surprises for the heroine as the story progresses.

A Way from Heart to Heart was released last week. Here are the buy links on on Amazon US and Amazon UK

As I mentioned above, this post is part of a Round Robin of posts, all on the theme of favourite foods. I’m intrigued to know what my fellow authors are going to choose as theirs! You can find out by clicking on the links below, so please take a moment to call in on them.

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/a way from heart to heart, helena fairfax
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Ginger Simpson http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/


Do you like curries? Have you ever had a curry on the curry mile or in London’s Brick Lane? Do you have curry restaurants in your part of the world? If you have any questions or comments at all, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

20 thoughts on “Going for a Ruby, or why I love the curry capital of Britain

  1. Hi Helena, I’m in this blog hop too, but lots of the others are in different time zones! I like mild curries and have enjoyed cooking my way through Madhur Jaffrey’s early book. It’s great how just a pinch makes a subtle difference. Anne Stenhouse


    1. I have one of Madhur Jaffrey’s books, too, Anne, but since we really are surrounded by the best in curries, this is one dish I rarely cook myself – not when there are such delicious takeaways! :) Thanks for coming by. We two are the first time zone to awaken!


  2. Aloha Helena. Wonderful!!! I would kill for a decent curry place here in Modesto. :-). It’s a standard restaurant in NZ too. Borrowed from the Brits no doubt. I didn’t know you had the curry capital there. How fabulous!! I’m so envious. Lol

    My family have a family lamb curry recipe. It’s gorgeous.

    I have been to Brick Lane with my sister and her then husband. :-).

    American cities as a whole often don’t have a decent Indian restaurant. We used to have one in San Jose that was so authentic that mostly Indians queued out the door to eat there. Always a good sign.

    I love chicken tikka Marsala. And chicken makhani- butter chicken. No doubt also not available in India! Lol. I love puri bread and chaat. And samosas. There’s a place in Berkeley that does Burmese food. Gorgeous. It’s like. Combo between Indian, Thai and Vietnamese food. Fabulous.

    Wow. Loved this blog. Thanks.

    Aloha Meg. :-)


    1. Hi Meg, Brick Lane is brilliant, isn’t it?! One thing lots of British people miss when they live abroad is a great curry. We are definitely spoiled, especially in my part of the country.
      I’ve never tried Burmese food. It sounds delicious!
      Thanks very much for calling in, and for your great comment :)


  3. Helena, Thanks for the wonderful insight into the curry world of the UK. Your blog post is quite an education on a subject dear to my heart. I love curry, and one of the best I’ve ever had was made by an Englishman who’d lived in India and guarded his secret recipe like a jewel (perhaps a Ruby?!)… The world is in such an uproar these days, I often think that if we all just tuned in to the cultural delights of food and blended our recipes, we’d have world peace.


    1. Gemma, you’ve really hit the nail on the head with your comment. One of the reasons the city of Bradford won the award was because the judges said they “used curry as a bonding agent to bring different aspects of society together.” Eating a meal together has always been a way for people to bond, and curry has become a symbol of fusion of societies in Britain. Thanks for your great comment!


  4. I’m no curry connoisseur but will be in the Manchester area next February. Thanks for that tip Helena, I’ll definitely visit ‘curry mile’. We have several very good Indian restaurants here in Calgary, Alberta and I’ve eaten at every one of them.


    1. Oh, it will be a great experience going to the ‘curry mile’, Victoria! Some of the restaurants are better than others, so it would be worth checking it out nearer the time. In the meantime, here’s an article that might help: http://www.creativetourist.com/articles/food-drink/manchester/curry-mile-guide-where-to-eat-on-the-curry-mile/ My brother has just moved to Alberta. He’ll be very glad to know that you can get good curries there! Thanks very much for dropping in, and have a great time in Manc!


  5. I’ve never had curry but I live on the backside of nowhere in Michigan. You’ve made me want to try it. Maybe Grand Rapids has a restaurant, if not, my next trip to Chicago will be a curry hunting trip.


    1. I’d love to visit Chicago. I expect it has lots of great restaurants. I’m sure there must be some curry restaurants there, too. I hope you do like it, if you get to try it! Thanks for coming by, Rhobin!


  6. Great post. I loved the history of curry in Britain. I’ve visited London a couple of times many years ago. I ate in several restaurants and found most food adequate. The only food I really enjoyed was at the curry restaurants.


    1. I’m afraid the cliche about British restaurants is often true :( And the prices in London!! But some of the curry restaurants there must be among the best in the world. I’m glad you discovered them. Thanks so much for dropping in!


  7. Helena. I remember trying curry when I was way younger and not liking it. Obviously, I need to try it again. Our tastes do change. :) So surprised to find Curry is such a big deal in the UK, would never have guessed it. We have a couple of Indian restaurants in Fort Worth and of course lots of Asian ones. I’ll keep a look out for menu items with curry and give it another try :) Best to you with this latest book. It’s waiting somewhat impatiently for me in my Kindle. :)


    1. Hi Marsha, I was never keen on curry as a child. I think it is one of those acquired tastes, but I do know plenty of people who have never been really keen. Spicy food isn’t to everyone’s taste. Thanks very much for your comment, and thanks so much for downloading A Way from Heart to Heart!


  8. Helena, you’ve sure made me want to try curry. I ate in a restaurant once called Taste of Thai which specialized in curry dishes. I can’t remember what I had, but I know it was very, spicy. I think I’ll talk my daughter into going their again.


    1. Hi Leona, I love Thai curries, too! They’re slightly different to Indian/Pakistani curries, but still delicious. Hope your daughter takes you there again. Thanks very much for coming by!


    1. Hi JQ, it is so interesting how cultures can become enmeshed through food. I’ve been running a series of holiday recipes from mainly American authors, and it’s strange how I understand all the terminology behind putting a curry together, and yet some of the US terms I struggled to understand, even though we supposedly speak the same language. It just shows how British and Indian/Pakistani cultures have become entwined.
      You’re right, food is a great topic! Thanks so much for your comments.


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