Going Bengali in Brick Lane
It won’t be apparent to someone who hasn’t seen it first-hand, but the British are absolutely nuts about Indian cooking! It has been said that there are more Indian food stops in London than in Mumbai. And they’re not cheap imitations, either. We’re talking about authentic Bengali flavors. This has impacted London’s culinary culture so much that the folks at Eating London, a food tour company, has created an all-new tour just for this!
As our tour group met up, we were introduced to the reason behind this curious migration of flavors. It is to be remembered that at one point, India was a British colony. The largest group of immigrants in London happened to be Bengalis, bringing not just their culture but also the products of their kitchen to the western shores. As we learned this, the tour guide began asking us to introduce ourselves. We started with our name and home countries, followed with how spicy we can handle! As our guide assessed our tolerance for one of the most famous flavors of Indian cuisine, off we went to our first stop.
Our Indian Itinerary
We began the tour with some traditional Indian started, washed down with Indian beer! The restaurant’s name was Nazul. We had some bread that we can dip in a wide assortment of flavors, with lime and mango being our crowd’s favorite.
From there we moved on to Taj Store, a grocery which has a lot of weird and Indian stuff: tongue, brains, calves, and more! While here, we also talked about the neighborhood we were in, Brick Lane. The place is very famous for its concentration of curry houses! It became one of the hubs of the immigrants who settled in the big English cities where there are employment opportunities. Historically, the London East End has been one of the first ports of call for the Indians working in Bengal ports. This regular stopover was one of the first precursors for the opening of the first curry houses.
The neighborhood is also a haven for street artists, such as the famous Banksy. Because of its unique vibe, it has been the go-to place of many music videos! In fact, after we got out of Taj Store, we were treated to a street art stop showing the Sacred Crane of Bangladesh.
As we learned this, our guide had us try some tamarinds, which are common ingredients in Indian food. We also learned that the store is undertaking charity works by selling the products of communities and even prisoners from back home!
Up next, we had some samosas with chili sauce and potato balls with mint. This was courtesy of Bengali Appetizers, owned by the kindly Mr. Batal. Both were good, though I preferred the samosa. While munching, we were told that samosas were made into triangles because they were meant as travelling food. Apparently, the shape makes it easier to pack.
At our next stop, we had a taste of Indian sweets! These sweets were made of milk and a LOT of sugar. We were introduced to different kinds, and we were asked to choose which one we’d like to take. In the end, we just bought them all and ate them at our last stop in the park!
Our sixth stop introduced us to the local Indian way of dining. We were taught to eat with our hands! Our guide Natalie had been in Sri Lanka for 3 years, and demonstrated how it was done. I used to use my hands for eating back at home, too, but it was interesting to know how they did it here. It was also cute for me to see my fellow travellers try it on fish curry!
By our next stop, we were already very full. But then came the showstopper — the lamb! Don’t miss out on this, no matter what. It was lovely, and hands down one of the best parts of the tour.
Finally, we got to rest at the park. Incidentally, this was also the birthplace of the community. It was here that we ate our sweets and went about our merry ways.
It’s always amazing to see how cultures have adapted over borders, but it’s also interesting to see how cultures can be preserved even across time and space. We had a taste of India here in the heart of England, and it was a wonderful experience! When you make your way here, make sure to try it, too!
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12 thoughts on “Eating London Food Tours : Brick Lane”
Are there really “more Indian food stops in London than in Mumbai”? 😀 You made me laugh, but I can certainly imagine the love for Indian food then. Where else to take such a tour, right!
That grocery looks like fun, I’d probably lose myself there. And your favorite dish… Oh, it looks delicious even in a photo! 😛
It’s not just brick lane either Indian cuisine flows through the whole of England, I have to say being from England there is no other place that does Indian food like England (apart from India obviously haha but I’ve never been there)
I love food tours! I had no idea that there was such a heavy Indian food scene, but it does make sense when you think about the history. I think the most interesting thing is that they taught you to eat with your hands- how cool!
It felt really local and all that. I mean, it’s something new and I liked it a lot.
Food tours are one of my favorite ways to get to know a destination. I remember the Indian restaurants bring some of my favorite ways in London.
This would be a fun tour. Food tours are such a great way to appreciate a new city. The pastries would have been my favorite dish. 🙂
I had no idea there was such a prominent Indian influence in London. What a fun tour! I’m amazed that there are so many Indian options that an entire tour was possible based upon that cuisine.
The Indian food scene in London is definitely something to rival India itself! I remember nights out in London and getting curry from Brick Lane when I lived there almost 10 years ago now, I would love to go back! And there’s definitely some great street art around. Cool that you got the chance to eat with your hands! This definitely sounds like an authentic tour; I agree with you that it’s always amazing to see how cultures have adapted and over borders, and preserved despite distance 🙂
How special is this food tour, especially with the Indian food and the Indian traditions. Especially how your described the supermarket with all the weird stuff and selling brains, calves,… Lucky this was not on the meny.
This post made me so hungry! I absolutely love Indian food! The city where I went to university had a town nearby that had a large Indian and Pakistani population, and there were so many delicious restaurants to eat at as a result. That’s where I fell in love with it. The photos you posted all look so yummy and remind me of my uni days. Looking forward to traveling to London to try out these dishes, especially the lamb!
As a Brit who spent 4 years working in London but has now been the last seven years in Switzerland, your post made my mouth water! Swiss food is great but I miss Brick Lane and a really decent Indian curry. Samosas are also a favourite of mine. Great to read that the Taj Store is both authentic, and supporting local communities back in India, as so much of the East End has become gentrified now. Thanks for sharing your food tour experience!
I initially wanted to go to Bricklane because of street art, but the food and culture there is so rich, I love it.