Book review: Going for an Indian by Ziaur Choudhrey
When Ziaur Choudhrey was a schoolboy, he would tie up his shoelaces tight before getting off the bus home.
He had to be ready to run because thugs from the National Front would be waiting for the Bangladeshi boy and his pals; being glassed was a real danger in 1980s Small Heath. By the age of 15, Ziaur was working all-nighters in Bangladeshi restaurants.
A year or so later, when college didn't work out, he moved to his cousin's Cambridge restaurant. He grafted, ambition flourished, and he opened Montaz in Newmarket in 2010.
It's a story Ziaur tells with gripping candour in Going For An Indian. Part personal memoir, part social commentary, part cookbook, it recalls football- and music-filled days that splashed life with sunshine despite financial hardship and endemic racism. Ziaur reflects on the evolution of Indian restaurants – Bangladeshi, to be precise – in the UK, and his ambition to open a restaurant unrecognisable from the ‘post-pub curry-house' image.
It's not surprising, then, that the 50 contemporary recipes bear little resemblance to the notion of ‘going for an Indian' (though a thickly sauced, green chilli-heated chicken jalfrezi is among ‘from our restaurant' classics). Starters include sweet-sour Goan mackerel recheado, apple chutney and potato salad with chilli, red onion, apple juice and chaat masala freshening the seared fish, and Montaz ‘signatures', such as ox cheek marinated in yogurt and spices then cooked slowly till fall-apart tender. In a nod to local ingredients, venison haunch is marinated in honey, mustard, yogurt and spices, seared in the tandoor, and served with celeriac purée, coconut-flecked red cabbage foogath, and a peanut and red chilli sauce.
A warm foreword from Daniel Clifford of two-star Midsummer House, Cambridge, reflects the local popularity of Montaz. Daniel readily admits to learning much about the nuance of spicing on regular visits. This is a book that will suit the adventurous home cook, but – as Daniel will attest – there's plenty in the Montaz repertoire to excite the pro too.
Going for an Indian by Ziaur Choudhrey (A Way With Media, £30)