Today, January 16th 2017, the whole world will be celebrating spicy food during International Hot and Spicy Food Day. Whether you’re from the spice capitals of the world or are simply just an adopted fan, it’s a time to consume as much eye-wateringly hot food as possible.
So, where did this day all come about? Well, nobody truly knows, but it’s thought to stem back to the times of Christopher Columbus. The famous explorer stumbled across chillies on his voyage to the Americas, and it was on this day in 1493 that he set sail for Spain where he announced his discovery.
Since then, the number of cultures specialising in hot and spicy food has grown, and according to experts, it was the British who spread spice across the world. The Portuguese discovered India, then Britain followed up before taking the heat to all corners of the planet.
It’s no surprise that spices used to be worth their weight in gold, especially during the Roman Empire. Chilli peppers have been wowing our taste buds for centuries, but where does the fiery flavour come from? It’s all down to something called capsaicin.
The active component found in all chilli peppers makes our brains believe our bodies are overheating, which in turn, creates that burning sensation. And although this can mean sweating profusely, did you know it helps us lose weight as it increases our metabolism?
Most of us have sampled enough hot and spicy dishes to know we love the heat, but why? Some say hot foods release endorphins; others say we’re just slightly bonkers. Either way, we asked Daawat’s award-winning Head Chef Asharaf Valappil for his expert opinion.
He said: ‘I honestly don’t know why we love hot and spicy food so much. I often see in winter that people like the heat. Sometimes guests order food that would make me sweat. It could be to do with the warmth that the food gives you or possibly a balance for the drinks with the meal, but it’s tough to say!’
Here at Daawat, we’re privileged to have Chef Asharaf running the show. Guests are treated to all the classic Indian dishes, alongside a few exclusive recipes for the cuisine’s connoisseurs. In fact, Chef Ashraf believes the key ingredient to the restaurant’s success is down to a homemade recipe.
‘We make one dish that’s unique to the Daawat restaurant – Grandma’s Kodi Kura (Grandma’s Chicken Curry). In India, to make the paste for this recipe, they use a stone grinder as opposed to a blender, and there is a definite difference in taste. We use the same spices and paste from India, so lots of recipes come from this. It’s the homemade spice we cook in the same sauce,’ he said.
‘People come in and say they want only that sauce, which you can have with a chicken or lamb dish. If it ever tasted different, I would call my grandma and check to see how to change it!’
On top of the sublime Indian main dishes, we also have a unique Indian afternoon tea experience. The daily chef’s selection of lightly spiced nibbles includes Bombay Burgers, Lamb Samosas and sweet Indian pastries make up a delicious 4 pm treat.
‘What makes our restaurant unique is the Indian afternoon tea. You can go to other Indian restaurants and find they make the same main dishes – lamb curry, for example – it’s just the spice balance will be different. However, the afternoon tea is a mixture of Indian street food and tea originating from the south, north and northeast India – something very few people do,’ Chef Asharaf said.
‘It’s going very well; people have liked it, and I’ve been getting good comments about it. In March, we’re taking the afternoon teas to another level with more savoury options, while also sticking to the current menu, including Masala chai made in-house – which people love to combine with lemon scones.’
Finally, if you need your hit of spice during the day, then we have an Indian light bite and lunch option. With tasty mains and a selection of two-course options, it’s a great place to visit on your hour break.
Chef Asharaf said: ‘The light lunch option is similar to the afternoon tea; people like to have lighter options on their hour breaks from work. It’s offering smaller portions but with all the great Indian taste before you head back to work.
‘There are dishes from the à la carte and express Thali menus – which you can enjoy during afternoon tea over one or two hours, or for a light lunch. The light lunch is quicker to prepare, but both are very much a sharing experience.’
If you’re looking to celebrate this year’s International Hot and Spicy Food Day in style, then reserve your table by either calling 020 7379 4737 or use the booking calendar on the Daawat page.