Some Pilau Talk With ... Tam Cowan!

Everyone in the TATTGOC brotherhood loves curry – we even have an award that says so! But surely we could still learn a thing or two from other prominent curry lovers? And maybe even go round to their house for tea? In the special summer series we're calling Pilau Talk: The Legends, Trampy and The Tramp will be asking well-kent faces to recommend some of their favourite curry haunts and recall some of their most memorable spicy experiences. Next up is Tam Cowan, the journalist and presenter who, as well as hosting the hilarious Off The Ball every Saturday on BBC Radio Scotland, is also the Daily Record's veteran restaurant reviewer, so he's seen some curries in his time. Over to Tam ...

What are some of your favourite Glasgow curryhouses, past or present?
Past: The Taj Mahal just off Charing Cross on Sauchiehall St. RIP.

Present: Any of Balbir’s three outlets, also Assam’s, Urban Pind (or Spice Garden if we’re looking at a very late-night curry).

And your favourite Glasgow curry takeaway?
Rarely get a takeaway curry as, by the time you get home, whatever bread you’ve ordered is always soggy and nothing like you’d get in the restaurant. At a push, though, I’d say Cafe Salma just down from the dearly departed Taj Mahal. My missus loves their South Indian Chilli Garlic chicken.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish, the one to which you always return?
Keema (mince) peas – extra hot – having just finished a wee veg pakora.

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
Plain, well-fired paratha. Never rice – bags you up and you leave half the curry.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
My mate Sandy once saved a woman’s life while we were having a curry at the Taj Mahal. She was choking on a chunk of something (a tandoori prawn, I think) and Sandy went into the full Heimlich manoeuvre. She was so embarrassed at causing such a scene that she didn’t even say thanks or send over a drink for our table. The miserable boot.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
At an Indian restaurant called Gaylords (not to be confused with the excellent London branch) in the Rio casino/hotel in Las Vegas. Never again. Nothing like the real thing. But I just couldn’t resist. I was on holiday and hadn’t eaten a curry for nearly a week.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
No, of course not. Nobody can. Although I did once have a topping homemade curry. But that’s because it wasn’t my home – it was Charan Gill’s (and his wife Parminder was doing the cooking).

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
So, no ... but you’re welcome for roasted cheese (note: always “roasted” never “toasted” – it's a Lanarkshire thing).

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and Karen Carpenter – more curry for me!

And finally, football: we know Nottingham Forest sometimes had both David Currie and Brian Rice on their teamsheet, but are there any particularly spicy Scottish players?
What about former Celtic and Aberdeen midfielder Poppadom Sullivan and the Celtic full-back Anton Rogan Josh?

Cheers Tam! The Tramps have had their eye on Cafe Salma for a while but were concerned that the full heft of the brotherhood might struggle to fit in the modest premises – but maybe we'll give it a go. Look out for another Legend in a fortnight!

PREVIOUSLY ON PILAU TALK: THE LEGENDS
Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec
Roy Beers
Iain Banks
Norman Blake

Some Pilau Talk With ... Norman Blake!

Everyone in the TATTGOC brotherhood loves curry – we even have an award that says so! But surely we could still learn a thing or two from other prominent curry lovers? And maybe even go round to their house for tea? In the special summer series we're calling Pilau Talk: The Legends, Trampy and The Tramp will be asking well-kent faces to recommend some of their favourite curry haunts and recall some of their most memorable spicy experiences. Next up is Norman Blake, founder member of Teenage Fanclub who recently released the amazing album Shadows. The band are touring the USA and Europe over the next few months, finishing up with a sure-to-be-raucous hometown show at the Barrowlands on December 12. Over to Norman ...

What are some of your favourite Glasgow curryhouses, past or present?
The original Wee Curry Shop on Buccleuch Street has always been great, that and Mother India would be my current favourites. Used to frequent the Shenaz next to the Mitchell Library quite a bit. We were quite friendly with the people who owned that for a while and held some band meetings in there.

And your favourite Glasgow curry takeaway?
The Sheerin Palace on Allison Street in the South side have incredibly authentic dishes. The chickpea dish in particular is very good. Most of their dishes are very hot in the spice department. It's very small and I usually just get the takeaway. It has a growing reputation and I love it.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish, the one to which you always return?
Chilli Garlic Chicken is a great favourite of mine. I like the cleanness that the combination of garlic and chilli brings to the dish – also, they don't overpower the chicken.

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
Rice every time. Although I am partial to a peshwari naan.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
Sadly I can't bring one of my own to mind. I remember Raymond from the band telling me that he once saw a guy in the Shenaz asking the waiter for "a meal". When the waiter asked him if he would prefer chicken or beef or something spicy or mild, the guy said "look, just bring me a meal". That has always amused me.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
I'm thinking that it would have to have been on the island of Hawaii when we were touring around 1993.

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
No. I have tried on numerous occasions but just can't seem to get the spice and seasoning blend right. As an aside, Alan McGee's sister makes a very, very decent curry.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
I can throw together a decent pizza if that would be an acceptable alternative.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Napoleon Bonaparte. He would have a tale or two to tell.

And finally, we know that Teenage Fanclub split songwriting duties equally – but are things just as democratic when the curry bill arrives?
Absolutely! I have enjoyed numerous Chilli Garlic Chickens on the group's coin ...

Cheers Norman!
There are still a few legends to go in our celebratory series ... who will be next? Find out next Thursday ...

PREVIOUSLY ON PILAU TALK: THE LEGENDS
Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec
Roy Beers
Iain Banks

From Our Foreign Curryspondent … Dateline: Colorado!

(The TATTGOC brotherhood extends around the globe, and we welcome reports of curry expeditions beyond Glasgow – here TATTGOC’s first Texan, Savvy Saag, reports on her big feed under the gaze of Bigfoot in the town of Golden, Colorado, USA)

Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center

Your Foreign Curryspondent: Savvy Saag

In Attendance: Savvy Saag and her two boys that probably don’t meet the facial hair requirements of TATTGOC. One of them would quite like to be referred to as "Yak Attack".

Décor: When you first walk into the Sherpa House, it’s so peaceful, you wonder if you have actually been transported to the Himalayas. While I would rank creek-side dining in Golden higher, you will rarely find anyone eating inside the restaurant on a summer night. The best part though, has to be the resident yeti that somehow blends into its surroundings so much so that I missed him probably the first 12 visits.

Himalayas. Rockies. Same thing.



The Experience:

It was during my stint working in Scotland in 2007 that I was first introduced to curry. But I’m embarrassed to say that at first I didn’t find it pleasant or all that enjoyable. That was until I discovered saag, at the suggestion of a coworker. It was my gateway curry. Previously, I just sustained on naan whenever we were “going for a curry.” It was a whole new experience for me – it felt like I had been deprived for far too many years. But if you kids over there have it good when it comes to curries (and bangers, and sticky toffee, and Belhaven), I can take you any day on Mexican food, buffalo and peach cobbler.

Colorado’s state dish is apparently pork green chili, which makes appearances as soups and sauces on any upstanding menu. The good people of Colorado also take pride in their buffalo and elk meats, goat cheese, peaches from the western slope (of which I might have bought upwards of 60 pounds – almost 30kg – last summer), local farmers, and organic foods. That said, Colorado also does a fine job on international cuisine compared to my old stomping ground of Texas. You essentially cannot go anywhere without running into a curry house, and the Sherpa House is my favorite.

The Sherpa House is legit – family-owned from Tibetan ancestry. The menu blends Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan food beautifully and the staff are nothing short of lovely. On this particular night, we started with the vegetable momo with fresh tomato sauce, garlic naan that left us with breath that could fend off swarms of mosquitoes, and a Caesar salad. Obviously someone wanted to up his veg tally for the day, but this starter was wonderfully written up as “scissor” salad on the ticket. Regardless, all these dishes were fabulous.

While the Sherpa House does the best Chai tea this side of the Mississippi, we all opted for alcoholic beverages on our happy hour. A recent change to the menu is that the only beers that grace the tables are from the microbreweries O’Dell’s and Golden City Brewery (lovingly known as the second largest brewery in Golden and hands down my favorite). These might not be Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese, but then they’re thankfully not Coors (the other brewery in town) either, and they taste mighty fine. Other drinks offerings include a variety of lassis and sodas.

New to the Colorado scene of meats is yak, which we all decided to try. The boys opted for the yak sizzler. The Texan in me wants to describe this as the Sherpa version of fajitas: Texas-size portions of the red yak meat marinated in house-made yogurt, grilled onions and peppers, daal, and rice served on a – yes! – sizzling skillet. I have yet to meet someone that can turn down that kind of deliciousness. Trying to live up to my Foreign Curryspondent duties, I gave the yak curry a shot for the first time, as it isn’t always on the menu or is sometimes sold out. I’m hopelessly in love with the Sherpa House’s tomato-based curries and was immediately sold on this dish.

If you’re feeling especially brave, you may ask for the hot sauce, which makes an unnamed member of our Curry Club cry every time – in the manliest way possible, of course.

Sadly, our bellies were too stuffed for desserts. But as always, the overall experience was wonderful.

Highlights: The yeti and never-disappointing food.

Lowlights: None. Ever.

The Damage: $75.35 (plus tip: about 15 bucks)

Cheers Savvy Saag! If you have a global curry tale you'd like to share, drop us a line at trampyandthetramp@gmail.com. And prepare thyself for the return of Pilau Talk: The Legends next week ...

Some Pilau Talk With ... Iain Banks!

Everyone in the TATTGOC brotherhood loves curry – we even have an award that says so! But surely we could still learn a thing or two from other prominent curry lovers? And maybe even go round to their house for tea? In the special summer series we're calling Pilau Talk: The Legends, Trampy and The Tramp will be asking well-kent faces to recommend some of their favourite curry haunts and recall some of their most memorable spicy experiences. Next up is Iain Banks, the bestselling author who will celebrate a prolific 25 years of writing with a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 16. His most recent book, Transition, recently came out in paperback (it also has its own iPhone app, and even made a brief cameo in Sherlock the other week) while his next science fiction novel Surface Detail – another tale of the near-utopia Culture – will be published in October. Over to Iain ...

What are some of your favourite curryhouses, past or present?
Past: the old Bangalore in Greenock, Koh-i-Noor in Glasgow, Star of India in London, the Rajdoots in Manchester and Dublin and Khushi's and the Veranda in Edinburgh (recent past, Roti in Edinburgh).

These days: Mother India in Glasgow, Veeraswamy in London, and – past and present – the Omar Khayyam in Edinburgh, where I've been going for about 20 years.

And your favourite curry takeaway?
We rarely get takeaways.

What’s your all-time favourite curry dish?
Can't argue with the statistics; the Omar Khayyam's chicken jaipuri, hot. Or maybe tarka dall/dall tarka, which is kind of my reference dish, the one I order every time in new restaurants to see what their take on it is (if it's thin and watery and basically the dall soup, the brow tends to furrow).

And if you had to choose just one accompaniment, would it be rice or naan?
That would be the aforementioned tarka dall, or a potato dish – bombay potato, for example. Forced to choose between rice and naan I'd go for a naan (probably peshwari) and then not eat three-quarters of it.

Could we trouble you for an anecdote – a beloved curry-related memory?
The genuinely interesting ones are far too scurrilous. The most repeatable involves the hi-tech designer sink in the gents at a certain London curry joint just last year, and a drunken but – I still maintain – perfectly understandable mistake ... However, I've said too much already.

Where’s the most exotic place you've had a curry?
I had a naan on my head once, worn as an attractive hat, in a curryhouse in London whose name escapes me. Oh, see what you mean; Manhattan, probably (though the curry itself was predictably bland). Or possibly Lerwick (pretty good).

Can you actually make a decent curry yourself at home?
No. I can follow a recipe but I just don't get any pleasure from cooking.

Can the TATTGOC brotherhood come round for our tea?
See above.

If you could enjoy a curry dinner-for-two with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
My smashing girlfriend, thanks. Eating with a dead person might make the conversation a little one-sided.

And finally, we know the Culture is a near-utopia where humans can choose to live forever, swap sex on a whim and synthesise mindbending drugs to release directly into their bloodstream, but what are the curries like?
I've never thought. But very good, I'm sure.

PREVIOUSLY ON PILAU TALK: THE LEGENDS
Tom Shields
Fred MacAulay
Ian Cowie aka Mr Snax
Diner Tec
Roy Beers

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