Bradford World Curry Festival

By Flame Teale

Last weekend, Bradford hosted the third annual World Curry Festival.  On Saturday afternoon, I took a wander down with my family to experience for myself the lively sights and flavours offered by the UK’s “Curry Capital”.

Walking into City Park in the glorious sunshine, I was immediately struck by the aromas of fresh spices and charred meats and the sound of laughter floating up from the happy crowds. A music tent at the edge of a mirror pool played a variety of tunes – Bollywood classics, RnB, pop, and even house. The children made full use of the sunshine and the pool, running around bottomless through the fountains.  Later in the afternoon, the New World Steel Orchestra gave an enchanting performance at the music tent that included covers from well-known artists like Rihanna.  The upbeat steel drum twist delighted and an acoustic set by Nadeem Leigh that evening was followed by a DJ.  I marveled at the variety!

The sounds of music drifting from the tent followed me as I explored the perimeter of City Park.  Here is where I found the curry stalls and long queues for everything!  Fortunately, I was entertained while waiting.  Street performers dressed in every colour and design I could imagine swept past me.  A singing fish on a tray from the Fairly Fish Co was followed up by the Cake Ladies who wore brilliantly bright baroque fashions and walked on stilts, pausing periodically for photos.  These performances entertained me but I was most impressed with the Comedy Chefs.  The comedic cocktail bartender duo tossed about the tools of their trade while squirting soda everywhere.  They exuded crowd pleasing energy in the fashion of Morecambe and Wise.  I even spotted Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.  I am unsure if he was a performer or just there to get some delicious curry like the rest of us but he was a long way from Graceland!

I confess I was a bit disappointed while strolling through the curry stalls.  I couldn’t find any Southeast Asian curry, but naturally since this is England, I happened upon one Fish & Chip vendor – we do serve curry sauce with chips, right??  My first port of call was actually a spicy world food company, Ispice.  Ispice offers curry cooking classes, event catering, and pop-up stalls.  The company also donates surplus food to the destitute in Halifax. They had jars of spices and chutney available for purchase, but I jumped in for a Tattie Pattie at £2.  The fried, potato based snack contains dried fenugreek leaves, garlic, fresh green chilies and is wrapped in crispy filo pastry.  The warm snack was absolutely scrumptious and I followed it up with a sampling of their aubergine and tamarind curry for £3. Made with aubergine, pandan leaves, curry leaves, lemon grass, tamarind and jaggery, this dish was served at a cooler temperature than I would have preferred but still the flavours were fantastic. The curry  was wonderfully fresh and light with only a mild spicy kick. I could have sat with a jar of their chutney and eaten 10 plates of this!

My sister was next door at the Prashad stall, a family run business named Gordon Ramsay’s best Indian restaurant in 2010.  Their recipe book with jars of Kaushy’s magical Garam Massala was available for £25 + p&p ( but only one humble looking dish called Chaat was on offer for the festival for £2 a bowl.

Chaat refers to the many different snacks available from Indian street stalls and its name is derived from Hindi and Prakrit words that mean ‘delicacy,’ ‘to devour with relish,’ and ‘to eat noisily’.  And seriously, that is an accurate translation! What looked like merely a small bowl of crisps and chickpeas in sauce turned out to be an impressively constructed bowl of tasty sensations. Prashad’s Chaat contained crispy samosa pastry, chickpeas, and diced potato with sweet yoghurt and tamarind sauce.  It was dressed with coriander, Spanish onion and gram flour vermicelli. It was a beautiful union of tangy, spicy and sweet flavours on a crunchy potato base. This is their signature dish and I absolutely understand why!

My dad and brother went to the Zaara tent since I raved about them on our way to the festival. Zaara are the only Indian restaurant from Yorkshire in the Michelin Guide for 2010 and 2011.  They had a big stall with an even bigger queue!  For £5 you received a TV dinner-style tray with various curries and rice to choose from. My dad and brother chose Butter Chicken, Channa Masala, Pilau rice and naan. My Dad also got an Aloo Tikka for an extra £2.50 which came with chili chutney, yoghurt and saunth chutney. Zaara was definitely the most expensive of the stalls and the flimsy trays allowed our food to cool quickly; however, the Butter Chicken and Aloo Tikka absolutely blew every other dish at the festival right out of the water. The sauce of the butter chicken was a wonderful golden colour and incredibly light for a cream and butter based sauce. The chicken breast chunks were moist and flavourful; pairing perfectly with the silky, delicate gravy.  The Aloo Tikka melted my heart with its big patty of potato and lentils, covered in breadcrumbs and fried to crispy perfection.  It was lusciously covered in lashings of yoghurt, chutney, and fresh red onions and coriander.  Digging your fork into the crispy golden patty can’t prepare you for the carnival of flavours about to take place in your mouth.  It quickly induced a mouthgasm of unearthly magnitudes. Please make sure you eat at least one of these in your life time.

While I enjoy recollecting it, I would be negligent if I told you only about the incredible food my family and I experienced at the Curry Festival.  There were certainly other attractions besides the curry stalls that we moved on to enjoy.  From Wetherspoons, we purchased beer to wash down all the deliciousness we had consumed.  Then we walked from there to the gift shop and ‘Curry Theatre,’ both worth checking out, although the boys found the theatre demonstration dry and we quickly left for the chappati making classes.

To make chappati, we patiently waited in a long queue with other hopefuls.  Like a conveyor belt, one person showed me how to start my chappati and someone else showed me how to roll it, flour it, and fry it.  The system moved the queue along efficiently and the instructors were friendly and helpful.  The only objection from a beginner came from one man who didn’t want his picture taken lest his wife find out he knows how to cook.  Oh, for shame!

The chappati class pretty much wrapped it up for us, and with our bellies and our thoughts full of food we merrily made our way home.  The day we spent at the World Curry Festival was a real treat.  I highly recommend going to next year’s festival and immersing yourself in curry cuisine and new experiences.  Upon reflection, I noted there are a few things to consider for next year:

  • Get there early to beat queues, preferably before lunch
  • Don’t wear bat wing tops, they will end up dipped in curry sauce
  • Take your own water unless you don’t mind paying £2 a bottle
  • Have a good look around, the smaller stalls have some great offerings
  • Talk to the stall holders, they are all incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.
  • Buy any merchandise you like right then and there because I can’t find it online now

I will definitely be going back and hopefully I will see you there!  In the meantime, check out these sites: