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  1. Wealth
April 7, 2009

Culinary superpowers

By Spear's

Indian takeaways will never be eclipsed by Chinese. Can you say that you get the same slobbering, greedy, drooling, sensation as you wait for an Indian to arrive?

Usually the publication of surveys into the way we live and eat strikes a chord. Indeed more than that, they often seem to state the obvious.

However, the latest set of statistics about British takeaways jars with my experience. For, apparently, Chinese food has overtaken Indian as the nation’s takeout of choice, although it has far from overtaken Indian as the Sitwell household’s choice.

In fact I can barely remember the last time my wife and I took home Chinese. But then it could partly be because where we live is nowhere near a Chinese restaurant. Yet that is not the only reason.

Chinese and Indian compete strongly as the most popular takeaways because they are harder cuisines than many to cook at home. You don’t often take out an Italian as most of us can knock up some pasta. The same goes for French or Spanish.

To make an authentic Indian meal – i.e. without cheating on paste – you need around 30 ingredients. You also need to stink out your kitchen and then, after a while, move house.

Chinese cooking is likewise tricky. Have you ever tried to make Peking duck at home? It takes about three hours and a hair dryer. I tried it once. You shouldn’t.

And so in order to get a fix of the exotic we rely on others to mix together the garam masala, or to add the MSG to chicken with cashew nuts.

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Perhaps the rise in popularity of the Chinese takeaway has to do with the improvement of Indian ready meals. The supermarket dhals, kormas and phals are now often as good as a takeout and it means you don’t have to schlep to your nearest curry house to place an order or, indeed, stretch for the telephone. You do have to put it into the oven though.

The improvement in quality, by the way, is much down to one man, Sir Gulam Noon. From his factories in Southall, and from vast vats of lentils and conveyor belts bearing chicken tikka, he dispatches his Noon products to supermarkets around Britain and now beyond into Europe.

But for me, Indian takeaways will never be eclipsed by Chinese. Can you honestly say that you get the same slobbering, greedy, drooling, sensation as you wait for an Indian to arrive?

Do you sit by the door, waiting like a panting dog, refusing to take part in conversation or any other form of human behaviour while anticipating the arrival of Chinese food?

Of course not. Only Indian cuisine has that mysterious power to turn you into a deaf, inconsolable mute as you wait for the chicken chilli masala. Only Indian food rewards you with feelings of guilt and foolishness after you have wolfed down far more food than you needed.

The only downside of an Indian takeaway is the lack of seaweed. But then if you get to know your local curry house well enough you could always ask them to stop by the Chinese and add some on the way.

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