The ultimate curry guide

2014-10-30 11:00

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Anna Trapido, editor of the annual 2015 Diners Club Rossouw’s South African Restaurant Guide, knows where to get a good curry. In fact, she’s picked out where you can get the very best Durban curries around South Africa

Lugz

Canterbury Crossing, Bram Fischer Drive, Randburg, Johannesburg

On the laminated menu at Lugz Indian Cuisine in Randburg it says, “Durban has come to Joburg” and it absolutely has. Any Durbanite will tell you that Lugz is KwaZulu-Natal slang for the city’s Blue Lagoon, a gregarious beachfront hot spot favoured by South Africans of Indian origin.

The Johannesburg Lugz is in an uninspiring shopping arcade close to a busy road, but chef-patron Jacinta Naidu skilfully transports diners through a sensory portal into an East Coast epicurean experience.

She makes marvellous Durban-style bean, mutton and chicken curries. Her food can be served with rice, but most patrons opt for it to be served as a bunny chow. Everything on the menu is superb, but the mutton bunny chow is the house speciality.

Tender meat and fat, and sauce-infused potato chunks are topped off with batons of tart, tangy, carrot pickle. Only newbies use a knife and fork. Most diners wear their turmeric-stained fingers as a badge of honour.

.?Contact 011?781?6244. Open daily for lunch and dinner

Impulse By The Sea

167 Seaview Drive, Tinley Manor Beach, KZN north coast

The décor at Impulse By The Sea is deliciously tasteless. It is not a quiet space – at the bar there are slot machines, flashing neon signs, two huge TV screens and Ray Charles belting out soul standards.

In the dining room, there are red damask cloths, orange upholstered chairs, a forest of fake rhododendrons and a raised dance floor with a glitter ball for Saturday disco nights. Customers are equally mixed and unmatched.

The Reddi family have owned Impulse by the Sea for 25 years.

Shamen Reddi and chef Thami Mtetwa have worked together for all but five of those. Mtetwa started in the scullery, expressed an interest in, and showed a talent for, cooking, and the rest is history.

The restaurant’s legion of fervent fans are still reeling from the recent death of Shamen’s husband, Neville, who was a gregarious, gracious and much-loved host, always in his signature red boat shoes.

Crab curry with a thick, fragrant and richly complex tamarind-driven gravy is the signature dish of the house. Eating is per force a noisy, greedy and uninhibited business with plenty of sucking at flesh and dribbling on chins.

.?Contact 032?554?4626. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Closed Monday out of season

Curry Quest

89 Durban Road, Mowbray, Cape Town

Durban curry is at its best in Durban. Like any food form, it is terroir-specific. KwaZulu-Natal sunshine infuses the taste and texture of every ingredient so, taken out of its tropical context, the genre loses some of its glorious glow.

There are those who would say that, when in Cape Town, a diner would do better to eat Cape Malay curry, but homesick East Coasters are bothered by the sweet in the savoury flavour repertoire of Cape cuisine and long for the no-nonsense relationship with the chilli jar that only Durban curry provides.

Depravation drives them to Curry Quest in Mowbray for what, even the most dedicated Durbanite acknowledges, is a somewhat stilted taste of home.

Service and quality are erratic but chef-patron Vani Moodley makes cracklingly crisp potato samoosas and a chicken curry bunny chow that can heat the mouth in an instant, leaving a spicy zing long after the tender meat is gone. Not perfect, but beggars can’t be choosers.

.?Contact 021?686?3157. Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner

The Snack Bar at the Spice Emporium

31 Monty Naicker Road, Durban

This inner-city spice shop has been owned by the Haribhai family for several generations. Tucked away behind the shelves of basmati rice, masala figs and black cardamom pods, the current owner’s daughter, Mira, has started a tiny, unpretentious yet achingly stylish vegetarian restaurant with orange tablecloths and a ceiling sprinkled with twinkly lights.

Walls are decorated in the style of Indian “hand painter” trucks. Food is served on dried- leaf, hand-stitched plates. The menu at The Snack Bar is Indian from India rather than Durban diaspora cuisine.

Chaat street food/cocktail snack one-bite treats and more substantial meals are offered. The chefs and the cooking equipment have been imported from Rajasthan. Each item on the chaat menu is made to order (and can be cooked without onion or garlic on request).

Each mouthful is layered with taste and texture. Just when you think it is sweet, there is a hint of salt and chilli and soft gives way to crunchy. Mumbai sev puri spiced potato topped with coriander and almond chutney competes for customer attention with South Bihar pani puri semolina croquettes filled with chickpeas, green moong dhal with tamarind and date sauce.

Gits gulab jamun melt in the mouth and fluffy, syrup-soaked cheese rounds are washed down with chai gold elachi tea. No alcohol is served, but there is nimbu pani home-made lemonade with a hint of black salt and Thandai (almond, rose, cardamom and pepper-infused milk).

There are also imported Indian canned fizzy drinks including the legendary Thumbs Up and Limca. Nothing on the menu costs more than R22 a plate.

.?Contact 031?332?5888 spice@spiceemporium.co.za www.spiceemporium.co.za

Open weekdays 10am to 3.30pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am to 2.30pm

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