Curry is a typically British version of Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, which has proved extremely popular over the years with migrant communities from the Indian subcontinent setting up successful curry houses up and down the UK.
However, in recent years the closures of these curry houses have been a cause for concern, with many Bangladeshi restaurateurs warning of skills shortages in the industry due to the difficulty of bringing in qualified chefs from the subcontinent. But a celebrated British Bangladeshi chef, Aktar Islam, believes that it in fact it may be time for the curries to evolve to the changing tastes.
Islam, born to Bangladeshi parents who moved to Birmingham in the 1970s, was recently awarded the prestigious Michelin star for his restaurant Opheem in Birmingham. It is conceived as a celebration of the culinary heritage of the Indian subcontinent and showcases Islam’s passion for progressive Indian gastronomy while delving into the country’s ancient culinary traditions. Opheem champions the subcontinent’s distinctive flavours, spices, textures, taste balances and applies modern techniques and flair.
“We’re striving to push the boundaries with Indian flavours,” explains Islam, who believes it is time for the curry model to evolve.
“Because to evolve and adapt is what makes us human, and cooking is what sets us apart from the animals,” he says.
Islam became a household name in 2009 when his skills in the kitchen put his former restaurant, Lasan, on the map as the first Indian restaurant in the UK to be selected as the "Best Local Restaurant" by Gordon Ramsay on Channel 4's ‘The F Word’. In June 2011, the chef cemented his culinary credentials by winning BBC’s ‘Great British Menu’.
Islam launched his first solo restaurant, Opheem, in Birmingham city centre in May 2018 as a celebration of seasonal ingredients, premium produce and traditional family favourites.
The popular chef recently announced the closure of one of his restaurants, the Italian diner Legna, with his focus now on a new Argentinian restaurant called Pulperia, set to open in Birmingham this year.