Now, I have long been shy in my consumption of Indian food. But in the UK, curry is practically the national dish. I knew the group would want to eat Indian while we were at the show, and our second night in Birmingham provided the opportunity for a meal that I wasn’t expecting to savor, but enjoyed immensely despite my own curry reservations.
We had the executive banquet at Blue Mango Restaurant and Bar, right in the heart of industrial Birmingham. And it started with this:
The chicken, salmon and paneer tikka were all fabulous. Not stinky like I perceived curries to be, but fragrant, fresh, spicy and mellow in turn. I loved the mango chutney and mint sauce that came with the naan – the mint sauce acted as a palate cleanser of bright herbaceousness, and the naan was unforgettable – crispy and chewy, charred and doughy. The lamb starter was the spicy member of the gang, providing a punch of chili flavor without overwhelming or blowing out the palate, while the tikkas all balanced creaminess with mild tingle and complex savory spice flavors. The salmon tikka in particular was addictive, even though I don’t usually groove on that fish’s robust flavor.
Let’s talk a quick sec about pulao rice, which is something I’ve loved with abandon from the moment I first had Indian food several years ago. This mix of basmati rice, crispy fried onions and saffron totally kicks the ass of any rice pilaf concoction Uncle Ben’s is peddling. It’s fluffy and light, with earthiness and personality. So, so good, and a great accompaniment for all the rich, complex dishes to come.
Pilaf, my ass
I know chicken tikka masala is sort of the whimp’s Indian dish, but Blue Mango’s version really was completely addictively delicious. The red curry sauce was tempered with a generous amount of yogurt, resulting in a creamy, thick, unctuous sauce clinging to the tender chunks of chicken. I couldn’t stop eating this, even though I also adored the palak paneer AKA spinach and cheese with cumin and garlic. If I were a vegetarian, I would eat this weekly. Hell, I may do so anyway, and I am most decidedly NOT a vegetarian.
Masala, not marsala. I love them both, but they are very different.
Dessert? Oh dessert was special. When I say milkballs to you, I assume you’re thinking Whoppers, right? How about fried milkballs in cardamom cream with pistachios. Yes, they were sweet, but also moist, almost crispy, and a little savory. I tasted autumnal spices, whisper light dairy and that very Indian otherness that comes with the cardamom. Yum!
The enjoyment of this meal was total, without reservation, without my usual curry-itis. I was kind of proud of myself; I will always go to any restaurant that my party wishes to visit, but my own curry hang-ups had me less than enthusiastic about this meal at the start. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I'm giving Blue Mango an 8 on the BHS scale, and I do recommend it if you ever have occasion to visit Birmingham. It was fabulous, and I am dying to have more! And that’s the point of travel, isn’t it? To open our hearts (and our bellies) to new worlds and new experiences. But even if there’s no foreign travel in your plans, you can try something new this weekend. Grab your honey and make a reservation at your local Indian joint. Order the palak paneer and a basket of naan, and go to town! My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!