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Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

A "Quick Start" for members new to BIR style curry cooking - basic techniques and simple recipes to get you started on your BIR-style curry cooking adventures.
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Cory Ander
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Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:37 am

The following is an extract from our e-Book:

Distinguishing Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Curry Cooking:

There are several distinguishing features of BIR curry cooking. BIRs generally produce a wide variety of curries, to order, quickly and to minimum cost. That BIRs typically produce curries to a minimum cost suggests that the use of exotic and expensive ingredients is not generally a feature of BIR curries. That is not to say that spices, and other ingredients, shouldn’t be fresh; they should be. Stale spices will be useless. If they are not fragrant, ditch them and buy some more. Stored correctly, powdered spices will be good for around three months and whole spices will be good for around a year.

The main distinguishing features of BIR curry cooking are the use of ingredients prepared in advance of normal service. The most significant of these are:
  • Main ingredients (e.g. precooked meats and vegetables)
  • Curry base (or “gravy”, “sauce” or “garabi”)
  • Spice mix (or “mix powder” or “mixed powder”)
These preparations generally occur outside of normal service hours so that, when service commences, a wide variety of curries can be made quickly (i.e. typically in less than 10 minutes). Each pre-prepared ingredient is important if you wish to truly replicate the taste, smell and texture of your favourite BIR curries.

Main Ingredients (i.e. precooked meats and vegetables):

The use of precooked ingredients is fundamental to making BIR curries. These include precooked meats (e.g. chicken, lamb and beef) and precooked vegetables. These ingredients are precooked, in a mildly spiced water/oil mixture, to subtly flavour and precook the ingredients. These precooked ingredients are then simply added to curries (perhaps with a little of the stock from the precooked ingredients), when they are subsequently made, and reheated.

Some recipes state to add raw chicken breast when making your curry. Since raw chicken breast cooks quickly, it is not strictly necessary to precook it in advance of making your curry (although that is what BIRs invariably do, for logistical reasons). We suggest that you try both and see which you prefer.

Curry Base (or “gravy”, “sauce” or “garabi”):

An (if not “the”) essential feature of BIR curry cooking is the use of a curry base. A curry base is a mildly spiced onion and vegetable stock which is used to make most curries. Because it is used to make a wide range of curries, including very mild curries, it is important that it is mildly spiced. Additional ingredients are then added, when the curries are made, to develop a wide range of curries from very mild (e.g. korma) to very hot (e.g. phal).

BIRs generally produce many litres of curry base (typically of 60 litres capacity, or more), using a large stock pot, in advance of normal service hours. There are probably as many curry base recipes as there are BIR chefs. The exact recipe is likely to be a closely guarded secret by many of them.

Spice Mix (or “mix powder” or “mixed powder”):

BIRs generally use a pre-prepared blend of commonly used powdered spices (i.e. “spice mix”, “mix powder” or “mixed powder”) which is used in a wide variety of curries. Additional spices are then added, when the curries are made, to develop a wide range of curries. A spice mix generally comprises ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, ground chilli (or ground paprika), a commercial ground curry powder (e.g. Mild Madras) and, often, ground garam masala. Grinding whole spices (e.g. coriander, cumin) is preferable if you wish to produce a quality spice mix. Commercially ground spices are okay but grinding fresh, when required, is undoubtedly best.

Again, there are probably as many spice mixes as there are BIR chefs and, again, the exact recipe is likely to be a closely guarded secret by many of them.
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CA (aka Admin) :)

walkthewalk
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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by walkthewalk » Sun Feb 07, 2016 9:33 am

Good read

Sianlewis25
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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Sianlewis25 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:38 pm

An interesting and informative read!

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by smudgeroo » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:36 pm

Do you think precooking chicken makes a difference? I think the colour and texture is better, but don't know if it does actually make a difference.

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:40 pm

Regards

CA (aka Admin) :)

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Dowjungleland » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:43 pm

I've tried many recipes from cookbooks over the years striving to make a home curry as good as I can get in one of Bradfords many Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani curry houses. So many require the use of paste, so seeing this on gravys has definitely given me something to consider.

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by guffman315 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:52 am

Is the mix powder or spice mix part of the base gravy process (mixed into the base as it cooks down over hours) or is the mix added separate from the gravy during the cooking of each dish?

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:55 am

It is generally used when making main dish curries but it is sometimes (not always) used when making the curry base. Check some of curry base recipes and main dish recipes to see.
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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by christo » Thu Feb 22, 2018 11:56 am

Very well set out and helpful information, thankyou

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by deanmit » Fri Mar 16, 2018 4:06 pm

Great information, going to start and get ingredients together, is the best place for spices a local Asian shop or just buy from local supermarket

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Cory Ander
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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:40 am

Chat about Spices and Suppliers should be of help, deanmit.
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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by mikeinstlouis » Fri Mar 23, 2018 6:50 pm

This may be a dumb question, but are British Curries the same as the Indian Restaurants in the USA? It seems like everywhere in the USA they have the same Chicken Tikka Masala but I can't make it at home! Are they the same?
Thanks!

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Re: Features of British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Cooking

Post by Cory Ander » Sat Mar 24, 2018 10:35 am

I doubt it. British Indian Restaurant (BIR) style cooking is reasonably unique to Britain (and are primarily Bangladeshi operated).
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