There is much to love about India: the colourful culture, the breath-taking landscapes, the spiritual ambience… and of course, the glorious food! However, if the closest you get to experiencing India is a much anticipated night out at one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants, you are most probably one of the first at the door when the annual Alchemy Festival, held at the Southbank Centre, comes to town.
By the time you read this post, this event may have rolled up and rolled out of the cultural heart of London, after taking over the entire site of the centre for 11 days. From Friday 15th May to Monday 25th May, the festival plans to put on an appropriately epic and exotic showcase of top quality performance, comedy, literature and music demonstrating the connection between India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK.
Entertainment for all the family
Highlights include talented Bollywood star Shreya Ghoshal performing a succession of her hits; drama production Nirbhaya, a powerful performance about gender-related violence in India; the Jaipur Literature Festival, bringing two days of debates, guest speakers and literary shenanigans; and Siddartha das Studio, a dynamic installation celebrating India’s tradition of passing down stories through the generations.
But the main event that aficionados of Indian cuisine are getting really excited about is the food market that will lead visitors on a spice adventure through some of the choicest street food specialities of South Asia.
Street food specialists KERB are bringing together some of the most talented street vendors in the UK to work together and create a giant spread filled with all the flavours of India. With more than 20 stalls displaying their wares, street snacks inspired by the classic recipes of the sub continent will set up alongside a cocktail bar as well as an oh-so colonial gin and tonic bar. The lassi station will serve up creamy concoctions whilst for those that need a little pick-me-up, the chai-wallahs will be meandering through the crowd, offering up a fresh brew.
Food glorious food!
Taking a closer peek at some of the best of KERB’s tempting street traders, Dosa Delhi is set to be a highlight of the market. Aromatic, steaming pots sit alongside hot, sizzling griddles at this Indian inspired stall. Expect experimental fillings for the popular South Indian dosa – a pancake made from rice and filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. A favourite flavour is the creamy paneer dosa, smothered in tomato chutney and teamed with tamarind apple, date chutney and crunchy, red onion. Dosas are served up with the famous Indian street snack, bhel puri, a combination of puffed rice, sev, nuts, chopped onion and cucumber and plenty of tamarind sauce.
For something a little more sinful, try the Indian tikka arancini – balls of risotto rice and tikka masala, coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried to golden perfection. Or crispy vadas, the traditional Indian doughnuts made out of fermented lentils.
Another popular street trader is Horn Ok Please. Offering up food filled with colour, texture and spice, the moong dal dosa incorporates chunks of masala potato with channa chaat and chutneys; the samosas are fat with spiced vegetables, and their Indian omelettes, wrapped in parathas, will certainly keep hungry bellies satisfied.