Hot, hot, hot: My quest for Dagenham’s spiciest curry dishes
PUBLISHED: 15:17 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:17 14 October 2014
To celebrate National Curry Week, the Post challenged its news hounds to sniff out Dagenham’s hottest dish. Janine Rasiah was quick to volunteer for the flavour quest – but had she bitten off more than she could chew?
A whistlestop tour of the spiciest dishes at three of Dagenham’s curry houses sounded like the perfect way to mark National Curry Week.
It was only when I arrived at restaurant number one of my “currycrawl” – Dhaka Tandoori, in Goresbrook Road – that I began to question my eagerness.
Owner Muhammed Mannan was mid-way through preparing a chicken vindaloo, after explaining he didn’t think that I could hack his hottest dish, a phall.
Yet extra chillies had been added to the dish to up the heat levels and, when it was ready, I peeled back the lid of the takeway carton with some apprehension.
With all the kitchen staff peering at me, I dipped my spoon into the dish and prepared to feel the burn.
Sure enough, the heat was there, although it proved enjoyably bearable – and a good warm-up for what was to come.
I only had to stumble a few yards down Goresbrook Road for my next meal at Curry Mahal.
I was warmly greeted by waiter Moshorof Ali who ushered me and photographer Isabel towards a tucked-away table.
Only then did he admit he wasn’t sure what was being cooked up in the kitchen, which did little to calm my nerves.
I was wondering how to interpret the concerned glances of his fellow waiter Bozlur Rahman when a whole feast of dishes appeared.
A smoking chicken tikka jalfrezi, mushroom bhaji, mushroom rice and garlic naan were all laid out along with a hot lamb bhuna – with extra chilli.
With eyes bigger than our stomachs, we were only too happy to devour the lion’s share, perhaps forgetting we had another stop-off still to come.
Slightly hotter than my previous dish, the food had a deliciously hefty kick, without being overpowering.
I can see why the restaurant is still going strong, 34 years on since it opened as the borough’s first Indian.
After catching the 174 I was ready for my final meal at Royal Bengal in Parsloes Avenue.
The restaurant was almost full and I found myself feeling more than a bit jealous of my fellow diners – who were unlikely to be tucking into their third meal of the night.
Manager Muhammed Ali had prepared his hottest dish on the menu: chicken naga. It contains the naga chilli – which, it turns out, once held the title of the world’s spiciest.
Clearly, Muhammed had decided not to go easy on me.
Even he admitted he had never tried the dish before thanks to its suffocating heat, which didn’t fill me with confidence – but I was determined to give it my best shot, albeit with a Diet Coke and a large glass of water on standby.
Filled with trepidation, I loaded my spoon with a tiny piece of chicken along with a much larger helping of pilau rice.
I’d already managed to devour two of the borough’s spiciest dishes, I told myself. How bad could it be?
Mindblowingly hot, it turns out.
Along with the naga chilli, the dish also contains whole green chillies and curry powder, making for an eye-watering, although tasty, combination.
Trying to remain composed, I managed a few mouthfuls and a tight-lipped smile at Muhammed before making my escape to the bathroom to thoroughly rinse my mouth out.
I think it’s fair to say I had been defeated. In fact, I needed a little lie down when I got home to cope with the overexertion.
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