With more than a dozen Indian restaurants to choose from, it is clear that curry is hot on the Coast.
Two new Indian restaurants recently joined around 11 existing ones, with all town centres from Millwater and Silverdale to Ōrewa, Red Beach, Stanmore Bay, Coast Plaza, Manly Village and Gulf Harbour having at least one.
This is more than double the number of other popular speciality restaurants, such as Thai, Mexican and Italian (leaving fast food out of the equation!).
There is also a new Indian grocery store in Ōrewa, as demand for the right ingredients to cook curries at home grows.
A quick survey on Facebook revealed that Coasties are very loyal to their particular favourite Indian places. They dine in, or takeout, from there regularly, and often choose the same dishes each time.
“Genuine Indian flavours” was a key attraction, from some widely travelled locals, and “lovely owners”, “great staff” or “amazing service”, were also reasons to keep going back.
The all-time Kiwi favourite, butter chicken, was top of the list for many, with some saying the quality of this dish is what they judge the restaurant on.
Gulf Harbour resident, Nirav Gor, knows his curries. Originally from Mumbai, his family treats themselves to Indian food, usually takeaways, twice a month.
He says while the standard is high on the Coast, he would like to see more variety on the menus – “currently the same dishes are everywhere, and it’s mainly North Indian style food,” Nirav says.
North Indian cuisine is a lot more meat based, whereas South Indian is mainly vegetarian.
Nirav says fake colours (using food colouring) are a definite no-no, and easy to detect.
“Dine with your fingers and check if the colours play nice and wash off easily!”
Being able to eat with your fingers (using naan or other bread as a scoop) and share dishes among a group is another popular element of Indian meals.
Stanmore Bay’s Ed Amon (originally from Pakistan) says he loves Indian food and has developed a taste for the versions offered here, designed to suit the local palate.
“There are several similarities between Pakistani and Indian cuisines because we were the same country 76 years ago,” he says. “The partition of India has led to some evolution of our cuisines, within the separate countries. The main difference is Pakistani cuisine is very much meat based. India and Pakistan also have several ethnicities so there are multitudes of cuisines around and calling it just ‘Indian’ is more of a western way of looking at it. So, if a restaurant says it is South Indian or Rajasthani or Bengali, or Hyderabadi, etc, there is a greater chance that it would be a good restaurant for me. I would also recommend people try other South Asian cuisines as well, such as Bengladeshi, Nepali or Sri Lankan – it is superb.”
He says when Indians or South Asians look for good Indian food they are looking for authenticity.
“Indian mains are not supposed to be sweet and every dish has a distinct flavour. The Indian food that we get in NZ restaurants, logically, caters to the local population. It is a little sweeter, creamier, and uses a lot of food colouring. Living in NZ, I have developed a taste for this as well, and sometimes I even crave the sloppy, red, creamy and sweet butter chicken typically found in a food hall!”
“A good Indian restaurant experience for me is one in which everybody in the table shares their food and when it’s time to pay the bill, there is a fight about who will pay all of it and the winner is the one who pays the full bill in the end!”