I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that if you’re an Englishman of a certain generation (i.e. mine), chances are that the first “foreign food” you ever ate was Indian. And very possibly it was a biryani, because that was “safe,” essentially a risotto (though I surely didn’t know that word at the time), with a curry sauce on the side that you could pour over it in whatever quantity you wanted.
Were these biryanis authentic? Probably not, although Wikipedia has a remarkably detailed entry on the subject, which suggests that authenticity comes in a vast number of forms. You want inauthenticity? This is what Martha Stewart’s version looks like:
I started thinking about biryani because I found myself back on Venice Boulevard last week and spotted this restaurant sign:
However you look at it, 30,000+ is an impressive number – I was seduced, I wanted one – but it was early, only 11 am and the restaurant wasn’t open.
And so I wandered further along Venice Boulevard, and I came to India Sweets and Spices: a place I’ve been known to go to buy their giant jars of Marmite and slightly less giant jars of lime pickle. And yes this is the only “All Asian, Fiji and British Grocery” I know of in LA or in fact anywhere else, though I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there are others in this town. India Sweets and Spices is a small, independently owned chain - but I don't think any of the others claim a connection with Fiji.
And they have a small buffet – you point at things – (no biryani alas) - and have exchanges in polite, cheerful but fractured English, and end up with a plate that looks like this:
I wouldn’t absolutely swear what’s there. I do know that’s a yoghurt curry, front left, with spinach and a chick pea flour fritter lurking in it. I think that’s a potato curry (perhaps aloo poori) in the back, and that’s definitely lemon rice – I had to pay extra for that – and there’s some yogurt on the side, not curried. It was all pretty decent.
I also ordered a paneer pakora (above) – a deep fried cheese pancake – you’re not going to go far wrong with that – but I had to wait for it to come, and by the time it arrived I knew I was going to be so stuffed I didn’t need it. I took it home. reheated it, and it was good, damn good, the best thing they sold. You know, sometimes I think maybe the British Empire wasn’t all bad.