For the most part, British food is the same as American food, but there are some foods that seem unique to the British palate or are food obsessions.
In Leeds, there are curry shops everywhere! Some of them are chain restaurants, like Jaldi-Jaldi, but the smaller takeaway (carryout) shops dot every corner. Chicken Tikki Masala is the #1 British food right now, not fish & chips (I’ll get to that later). For those of you who don’t know what curry is, it’s an oriental dish that is made of bite-size portions of meat simmered in a sauce & served with rice or noodles. The sauce is what makes it curry, and it’s full of spices and usually thick. I absolutely love it! My perception of its popularity may be a little skewed though, since my second family has a Jamaican heritage and likes things spicy (in general, the British are known to have a bland palate). I don’t think curry is very popular in the US, but if you want to try something new & amazing, find a good Indian restaurant.
I live in catered student housing, meaning I eat most of my meals in a cafeteria. So I’m not positive whether potatoes are a British food obsession or of they are just trying to fill is with carbs. Either way, they serve them every night & occasionally at breakfast. Most popular are chips (our equivalent to steak fries), but we also have them boiled, mashed, mashed then deep fried as fat stick, served as hash browns, or oven baked to crispy goodness. They haven’t served scalloped potatoes yet, so maybe that is an American thing.
3) Fish & Chips
Fish & chips is to the UK what pizza is to the US. If you don’t feel like cooking, get fish & chips takeaway. Skip the ketchup (ok, only sometimes…I still love the sweet, tangy dip), and go for salt & vinegar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a sweet chili sauce. All the above are delicious!
When I hear the word pastry, my thoughts go towards a sweet dessert. Here, pastries are often meat filled and served for lunch. Instead of stopping at McDonalds for a quick bite, find a local pastry shop. Prices are really cheap, although its not the healthiest option, and you can eat on the go. While you’re there, see of they also sell flapjacks. Flapjacks are not pancakes, but rather oat bars, and extremely good!
Mint is something I would consider unique to the English palate…or at least it doesn’t really fancy mine. It’s most often served with lamb, as a dipping sauce or baked into the gravy of a mint pie. I’ve tried both ways, and neither was really a favorite, but perhaps it’s just me.
Growing up, we didn’t eat a lot of tuna, so maybe that’s why I don’t fancy it. But tuna seems to be on every lunch menu here. They serve it traditionally on a sandwich…but the huge shocker for me was a tuna jacket potato. Jacket Potato = Baked Potato Why would anyone in their right mind want tuna on a baked potato? Curry jacket potato, yes please! Chili jacket potato, yum! Cheese jacket potato, yes! Tuna jacket potato……..what?!?
Loveliness! That’s all I need to say. In the US, I was used to the dry, hard, triangle shaped scones served at Starbucks that definitely must accompany a drink, but are good none the less. Here, scones are much lighter, softer, and just plane delicious. They remind me more of a sweet biscuit, which Britain doesn’t really an equivalent of. Biscuits & gravy is a crazy concept to them, because what they call biscuits we call cookies (or tea biscuits), and they don’t often use a white gravy. I was so happy to introduce that recipe to the Miller family! Nana & Pops, you would be well received in their house!
The British love sauces and spreads! At the grocery store, a full isle will be dedicated to fruit preserves, chutneys, and other sauces. At a really nice restaurant we went to for Rachel’s birthday, once they delivered our meals the server came back with a plate full of spread & sauces for us to put on our plate. Oh, and they have marmite, which is a dark brown, sticky, salty, & savory spread made from yeast extract. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s common knowledge that you either love it or hate it.
Pudding (which refers to dessert in general & not just the milk-based food) is often served with a custard, yoghurt, or other sauce to pour on top. It doesn’t matter if it is cake, pie, brownies, or sometimes fruit…drench it! I personally love this, since brownies in a bowl of milk and tres leches cake are some of my personal favorites. Ambrosia is a popular brand of rice puddings & custards that I love.
10) Italian-Style Pizzas
Although there are some US chain pizza restaurants (Pizza Hut & Dominos), I think Italian-style is more popular. By Italian-style, I mean thin crust and amazing toppings. I think I prefer it this way, because the toppings are usually fresh & the main attractions, as opposed to focussing on lots of crust, sauce, and cheese. But I also miss stuffed crust…which in my book reigns supreme.