For my Food, Culture and Society Class this week our professor took us to Southall, a predominantly South Asian neighborhood. Monisha Bharadwaj, a well known cook and author, is an expert in Indian cuisine, and she took us on a walking tour of the area.
Central London has countless Indian restaurants, which are mostly white-washed Punjabi establishments. The food I’ve gotten in these restaurants has been delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I was excited to try more authentic cuisine.
The walking tour started at the train station, which is one of the only stations in the UK that has signs written in two languages: English and Punjabi. Monisha took us to a Hindu temple, and we all took our shoes off and sat in front of the incredibly colorful stage of Hindi gods. She told us about arranged marriage, and I learned how family oriented the celebration and marriage is.
We walked to the high street and passed carts selling sweets and shops selling beautiful fabrics. We stopped in a huge supermarket with a wall dedicated to rice sold in bags the size of fertilizer.
After the tour, my 10 classmates and I went to a Southern Indian restaurant for dinner. My father traveled to India very often for work pre-COVID, so he was excited for me to try some southern cuisine, specifically a Masala Dosa, which was delicious. Not to mention it was the cheapest meal I’ve eaten since arrival.
The food we tried on this class trip was much different than that of our first tasting—Marmite, blood pudding, meat pie, pickled onion, smoked mackerel and jellied eel. Although English food can be quite good, I’m glad we moved away from the super traditional snacks, because many of them were not pleasant.
I have a feeling they started us off with the hardest-to-swallow British, because we went from jellied eel (this was truly horrible), to Scotch eggs (quite good warmed up), to Cornish pasties (very good!), to high tea, to wine tasting, to cheese tasting, to Southern Indian cuisine.
Overall it was a lovely day. I tried the “Indian equivalent to cheetos” according to a friend on the trip from Mumbai, raw mango hard candy, a rose drink with basil seeds, rasgulla and dosa. Southall isn’t a short Tube ride but it was definitely worth it, especially if you go with an expert like Monisha.
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