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British Bangladeshi's restaurateurs reject ‘down market' cuisine claims

27 May 2016 by
British Bangladeshi's restaurateurs reject ‘down market' cuisine claims

Claims that British Bangladeshis are responsible for the "downmarket curry-house" image of Indian food has been condemned by the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA).

The BCA is demanding the Hindustan Times apologises for the claims, made by its writer Vir Sanghvi in an article entitled: ‘Why does Indian food not get the respect it deserves?', published earlier this month.

In the article Sanghvi writes: "So how did Indian food in England get the downmarket curry-house image, which has haunted all Indian restaurants abroad ever since? There must be a long and complicated answer. But there is also a short one: Bangladeshis."

Sanghvi cites the people of Bangladesh's Sylhet region, who opened many of Britain's first Indian restaurants in the 1950's, as responsible for the poor image of Indian food.

This, and the fact the Sylheti's dominate the UK's Indian restaurant sector, makes the Sylheti's "primarily responsible for the terrible image that Indian food has had, starting with the UK and then spreading to the rest of Europe," Sanghvi claims.

Sanghvi also has scant praise for top british Indiian chefs. Saying he is "hard pressed to name great Indian chefs from immigrant communities" he adds: "The most successful British-Indian chef is probably Sat Bains, but his cooking is Modern European. So it is with Tony Singh. Once you get past the novelty of a sardarji in a kilt with a Scottish accent, there is nothing Indian about his food."

The BCA strongly rejected Sanghvi's views this week. BCA president Pasha Khandaker said: "Not only is Sanghvi's article insulting and demeaning to the British-Bangladeshi community as a whole, it completely repudiates the hard work and success of the restaurant owners who come from Sylhet and have made the UK restaurant industry what it is today."

Pointing to the Sylheti's success in introducing the English to Indian food and creating the "uniquely British concept" of the curry-house, he added: "Without their considerable achievements that have gone on for decades, quite simply, Indian restaurants as a whole would simply not have the standing that they do today.

"Curry house cuisine is the nation's favourite food and the Bangladeshi community has been at the very heart of it. To deny that is merely denying the facts which are plain to see."

Sanghvi's comments come at a difficult time for the UK's 12,000 Indian restaurants, which the BCA says is facing an acute skills shortage due to UK immigration restrictions, and a rise in VAT, ingredient costs and competition from non-Indian restaurants.

"So what you have is a severe curry crisis and yet the British public still flocks to curry house restaurants in droves and that makes me very proud.

"What we don't need is a newspaper article which makes an unfounded, one-sided, perceived claim of blaming Bangladeshis and especially Sylhetis for making Indian food have a 'terrible image'. That's unacceptable."

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