Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The search for the Perfect Chicken Korma: The Tiffin Tin

I know it's a sad failure for my image development (ho ho) as a trumpet player but I don't really like very hot curries and never have. And yes, I know it's terribly pedestrian and unimaginative of me but I quite often end up having a chicken korma because I feel reasonably safe with that and I know I will usually like it, or at least that it will not frighten the horses.

Recently, however, I have started to feel rather dissatisfied with some of the chicken kormas supplied by the average High Street restaurant/takeaway. The problem, I feel, is that the lack of spiciness can lead to a certain blandness: it's as if, somehow, the broader landscape of hot-spicy food leaves more room for the chef to manoeuvre and to deploy interesting flavours. Conversely, the less-hot environment seems to sometimes leave little room for variety and you can get a pretty uninspiring meal out of it. Mild should surely not have to mean characterless but this is what often happens here.

A very good example of this was served to me recently in Salisbury, where we were doing a Christmas Oratorio at the Cathedral. (I ought to write about this some time but goodness knows when.) It was a perfectly nice restaurant, that the brass section has been to often before, but the chicken korma really was a huge disappointment. It was so bland and sweet and untroubled by any real flavour or interest - in fact it was really like eating chicken in a yellow condensed milk sauce - just sweet, and pretty much nothing else. Why would you want to eat this when Indian food can be so interesting?

And hence my quest for the Perfect Chicken Korma, or at any rate for Some Better Chicken Kormas. That is, I know that it can be better than this but I don't that often encounter the better ones, so I am going to try to identify and remember them, and avoid as far as possible the sad boring ones.

My first Fantastic Chicken Korma Award goes to The Tiffin Tin. This wonderful takeaway in Hornsey High Street (020 8347 7700) has much to recommend it anyway and if you are local and have not tried it yet then I urge you, please, to do so - but apart from its general wonderfulness it has quite stolen my heart with its delicious chicken korma. This is an interesting, subtly flavoured dish with all sorts of interesting stuff going on - I couldn't even begin to list it for you but please take it from me that it is a world away from the sickly custard-like stuff I got in Salisbury. I would love to know, in fact, what would happen if the Salisbury chef could try the Tiffin Tin chicken korma - would he/she love it, hate it, give up, resolve to do better, or what? The fact is, it has the same name but is really not the same dish. A bad chicken korma just makes you wish it was over - it's a feeble toot on a party squeaker: the Tiffin Tin one is a whole symphony in glorious stereo and makes you wish the sensation could go on all evening. Marks out of ten? Ninety-six! Yum.

PS There's another Tiffin Tin opening soon (or already there?) in Junction Road, N19. If it is as good as the Hornsey one it is going to have many good friends very fast.

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