Necessity is the mother of invention

Have you been watching the Big British Asian Summer? All August, the BBC is putting the stories of Asians in Britain and worldwide front and center, through innovative new TV programmes and series.

Here at Red Rickshaw, shows like Recipes that Made Me, where Nisha Katona travels the UK interviewing home cooks to discover the Indian family recipes passed down through generations, have really inspired and moved us. And we can't wait for Wednesday to watch My Asian Family, a 'musical documentary' celebration of the Thakrars, one of many Ugandan Asian families who made a new life for themselves in Britain after the expulsion of 1972. 


 So we thought that this week we'd talk about a few culinary symbols of survival, ingenuity and adaptation, in tribute to Asians in Britain and around the world who have not only made the best of a situation, but planned and worked for an even better tomorrow.

A starchy variety of banana harvested while still a deep green colour, this native Ugandan food lends itself to boiling, steaming and being broken down into a comforting, glossy mash, perfect as the weather turns colder. Multiple generations of immigrants carry the memory of all the ways Indians in Uganda put this savoury fruit to use in their home cooking, meaning there's an endless amount of great matoke recipes out there.

unripe plantains (matoke)
Ching's Schezwan Chutney

Isn't it spelt 'sichuan'? Not when you're dealing with Desi Chinese food, where this unusual spelling is a precursor to some unusual culinary mash-ups! Appreciation for Chinese ingredients in India is growing rapidly, and after tasting this pungent mix of garlic, chilli and sichuan pepper, we can see why. Why not use it to give your favourite recipe that extra edge, a secret ingredient that will enchant and baffle your friends and family?

We love Michuzi sauces and the creative brilliance of chef Bimal Parmar, whose spicy concoctions are inspired by his childhood experiences in Tanzania and Kenya. African techniques and ingredients, Indian spices, a whole lot of chilli, and it all came together here in Britain.

Michuzi Simba Pili Pili Hot Sauce
tilda basmati rice

Just rice? Humble, plain rice? It might be everyday food, but there's a remarkable true story behind Tilda. It's the story of a successful family in Uganda having to start their business from scratch after fleeing Idi Amin. Realising that British rice was poor quality, Tilda exploited a gap in the market and brought pure Himalayan basmati to the UK for the first time. Thanks to the brand loyalty of the Asian community, the whole country eventually took to this noticeably tastier rice.Decades later, and many of us in Britain, Asian or not, have grown up with Tilda, taking it for granted, not realising the work that goes into producing those

uniquely fragrant and fluffy grains, or just how recently it was brought to this country thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of a family of enterprising immigrants. Tilda rice is a reminder that, no matter how simple it seems, behind all good food there's a good story, and behind all good stories, there's always some good food.

So, what kind of story will you cook up today?

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