British Indian Restaurant style cooking, or BIR for short, is the cooking method used in most Indian restaurants and takeaways across the UK.
You may have bought yourself recipe books and tried to replicate the flavours of your favourite curry only to find that the taste is totally different to what you get from your local Indian restaurant or takeaway. This is because chefs in professional kitchens have developed different cooking techniques which produce the distinctive flavours of BIR style cooking.
What is the difference between traditional Indian style cooking and BIR style cooking?
Traditional Indian style cooking usually involves slow cooking dishes from raw ingredients with multiple stages of cooking. A typical curry can take well over an hour to cook.
BIR style cooking is the opposite – it’s all about speed and efficiency. Customers don’t want to wait an hour each time they order a curry. In restaurant kitchens, to speed up the cooking process, constituent parts of the curry are pre-cooked in advance, then combined and cooked together when an order comes in. This way a curry can be ready in less than 10 minutes. Although the final cooking stage only takes 10 minutes, breaking down the time required to cook all the components adds up to several hours, which creates the rich depth of flavour that can only be achieved with time.
Another big difference is taste, BIR style cooking has been adapted for a western palate with dishes tweaked or invented to appeal to a UK audience.
Is BIR cooking difficult?
BIR cooking is all about simplicity. Once you grasp the basics, it’s actually very straightforward. Most curries follow a standard process and with a bit of practice you will be able to cook a curry in minutes.
What do I need to get started cooking my own BIR curries?
Preparation is key for BIR style cooking. To cook BIR style curries at home you’ll need to have a few things ready:
Base Gravy – this is a mildly spiced, onion based sauce that gives ‘body’ to curry. An intense burst of heat is applied once the base gravy is added which helps caramelise the sauce and develop the rich familiar BIR taste.
A few spices – these provide most of the pungency and flavour in the curry. You only need a handful of spices, the most important being mix powder which is a chef’s own blend of common spices.
Precooked meat or veg – in restaurant kitchens there isn’t time to cook meat from raw each time an order comes in, it would just take too long. Chicken, lamb and veg are usually pre-cooked with light spices then added to a curry which is then ready in minutes. You can cook BIR style curries without pre-cooking the meat, but you won’t get the same depth of flavour.
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