The Desi Digest: Hot Indian food finds for May

May’s calendar conveys new Desi ‘dive bars’, a Sri Lankan supperclub, and the arrival of the annual Alchemy festival – plus a few tasty treats…


Talli Joe Shaftesbury Avenue London Indian restaurant cocktail Sameer Taneja chef

‘Talli’ means tipsy, and after a few tipples at this new Central London hotspot that’s just how you’ll feel – whether your name’s Joe or something else entirely. Just don’t say they didn’t warn you…

The term ‘Indian tapas’ is lazy, yet so apt to describe what’s on offer here that I offer no apologies for employing it. Ex-Benares Sameer Taneja’s regional morsels are designed to be shared; and designed with drinking in mind.

A pair of perfect pairings…

Turmeric-laced South Indian Gimlet + Konkani pork sorpotel & sanna rice cakes

 Vodka-spiked Cutting Chai + Bengali-style patisapta crepes with rum, coconut & jaggery

  • Talli Joe, Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC1V 7EN. For more information, click here

THE SWEET TREAT: Zotter’s Labooko India 62% chocolate

Zotter Labooko 62 Indian Kerala cocoa chocolate dark bar Cocoa Runners

Kerala-grown cocoa beans are the secret to this intriguing dark chocolate’s incense-y, intense earthiness. A bar where you taste the terroir.

  • £3.95  from Cocoa Runners

TOP TABL #1: My Indian Table’s ‘Delhi Special’ supperclub

My Indian Kitchen supperclub Delhi special

Brighton-based, Bengal-born Piyali loved living in New Delhi, and this edition of her region-roving supperclub brings the city’s culinary culture to the table. The menu is a trip down memory lane for the host and a journey of discovery for diners – one that’s likely to ignite tastebuds and wanderlust alike.

What’s on the menu?

Dal kabab with fresh mint chutney


Old Delhi Butter Chicken

Jeera baby potatoes

Bhindi masala

Naan, Raita & Salad


Malpua pancakes with spiced reduced milk rabri

  • My Indian Kitchen’s ‘Delhi Special’ supperclub costs £25 per person and takes place at 7.30pm on 14 May in Saltdean, East Sussex. Book tickets through TABL by clicking here

TOP TABL #2: The Sri L Catering Co’s ‘Ultimate Sri Lankan Pop-Up’

Sri Lankan Catering Co supperclub London banana leaf rice curry sambal

At last, Sri Lankan food’s having a bit of a moment in the spotlight, It’s taken a long time for short eats and suchlike to make it onto the British table – so don’t delay in getting a taste. Sri L Catering Co is already a well-established event caterer, and now head chef Sonali is are starting up supperclubs with this East London feast. Hop(per) to it!

What’s on the menu?

Signature cocktail


Assorted cutlets, mutton & vegetable rolls, fish pattis


Plain & egg hoppers served with sambals


Rice served on banana leaves with a curries, sambals and moju


Watalapan jaggery pudding

  • Sri L Catering’s ‘Ultimate Sri Lankan Pop-up’ supperclub costs £35 per person and takes place at 6.30pm on 21 May in East London. Book tickets through TABL by clicking here

THE FESTIVAL: Kerb does Alchemy

Kerb-Alchemy-Indian South Asian street food market Southbank

May means Alchemy – the Southbank Centre’s creative, colourful and compelling celebration of all things South Asian; from film to fashion; music to art. There’s even a quirky Desi Pub pop-up exploring the cultural phenomenon which saw the Black Country’s public houses suffused with spice.

Of course, food is a focus: for two too-tasty weeks, KERB traders will bring spicy street eats and Desi drinks to Festival Square; from Horn Please’s bhel puri to Kothu Kothu’s Sri Lankan roti ‘hash’. With cuisine coming from Pakistan, Afghan, Bangladesh and beyond, you can expect bot only a fine feed but an edible education.

  • KERB does Alchemy is at Festival Square from 19 – 30 May. For more information on the market and the entire Alchemy series, click here

THE PRODUCT: Modha Ales’ True Maharajah

Modha Ales cardamom craft beer Indian Leicestershire

Spice in your beer shouldn’t be scary. Don’t lose your bottle; rather, get hold of one. Modha Ales‘ light. bright pale ale-style tipple is infused with a whisper of cardamom.

THE CHALLENGE: Zest Quest Asia

Zest Quest Asia Cyrus Todiwala chefs student challenge

We’re not even halfway through the year, but already Cyrus Todiwala and the Zest Quest Asia squad are inviting expressions of interest for the culinary contests’ 2017 instalment. Based around conceptualising and executing an Asian-inspired menu, the challenge is open to teams of students from colleges nationwide. Background and nationality are irrespective – as ‘zest’ suggests, this game is all about enthusiasm.

  • The Zest Quest Asia challenge takes place from Nov 2016 – Feb 2017. To register interest in participating, visit the website

THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: Cinnamon Culture’s Zafrani murgh

Zafrani murgh Cinnamon Culture saffron chicken korma

Come rain or shine, bring a little sunshine into your life with the Bromley-based, Michelin-recommended restaurant’s vibrant saffron-scented chicken korma.

Serves 4-6


  • 50g ghee (or 40ml oil)
  • 250g onions, finely sliced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, puréed
  • 4 cloves garlic, puréed
  • pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 2 tsp hot water
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 50g full-fat yoghurt
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces on the bone
  • salt, to taste
  • up to 125ml water, as required


1. Melt the ghee in a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the onions, and fry until golden-brown. Transfer to a blender jug and set aside.

2. In the same pan, fry the puréed ginger and garlic for 1 minute, then add the saffron and its liquid, the ground spices, and the yoghurt. Stir well and continue to cook until oil appears on the surface. Add the chicken pieces, stir, and fry until half-cooked.

3. Purée the fried onions, add to the chicken, then season, mix well, and cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked and tender, adding sufficient water to loosen the sauce.

4. Check the seasoning and serve hot, accompanied by rice or roti.

  • Want someone else to cook it for you? Visit Cinnamon Culture in Sundridge Park, Kent – and follow @CinnamonCulture for news on hot dishes and new menus
  • To read more about London cocktails with an Indian twist, click here
  • For hot London restaurant dishes and Desi counterparts, click here
  • To discover more Indian chocolate, click here
  • For a review of Pamela Timm’s Delhi food memoir, click here
  • To learn more about Zest Quest Asia, click here

Image credit: Cinnamon Culture recipe by Alice Griffiths


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