A succulent Indian delivery meal from Foodshop 45 ready to be devoured. VNS photo Amanda Carlea
By Peter Cowan
It says a lot about the global reach of Indian cuisine that a good curry is what someone from Northern Ireland craves when he’s missing home.
There are few things that can bring people from across the UK together these days, but I think it’s safe to say we all have our fond memories of nights out or in, accompanied by spicy, rich curries and good company.
Portadown doesn’t have much in common with Mumbai and curries from Portadown have even less in common with curries from Mumbai, but authenticity matters little when it comes to satisfying the pangs of nostalgia.
The latest resurgence of COVID-19 meant heading out for an Indian wasn’t possible, but no matter as really, isn’t curry best enjoyed at home with ready access to milk to cool the tongue and a sofa to collapse on post-meal?
My favourite Hà Nội curry house has long been Foodshop 45, and seeing as it’s been around since 2002, it’s safe to say plenty of other people feel the same way.
In fact Foodshop 45’s excellence puts another dent in what used to be the Holy Grail of food writing: authenticity.
That’s because it’s Vietnamese-run and the head chef is Vietnamese instead of Indian, but that doesn’t put off the droves of punters that can be found inside (pre-pandemic of course) its doors, including Indian expatriates.
So how important can ‘authenticity’ be if Foodshop 45 can make a reasonable claim to being the top Indian restaurant in town? And for that matter, who decides what’s authentic anyway?
Those are perhaps questions for someone more versed in the history of food and recipes than me, and they certainly weren’t questions I was bothered about when my order arrived.
Foodshop 45, like virtually every Indian restaurant I’ve eaten at, has an extensive menu that to the newcomer can be overwhelming, but rest assured, whatever you order you can’t go far wrong.
Spoilt for choice though my partner and I may have been, we went for an old reliable order and opted for a chicken vindaloo (VNĐ105,000), paneer kulcha nan (VNĐ45,000), steamed rice (VNĐ20,000), chicken ustani kebab (VNĐ110,000) and the restaurant’s signature chicken 45 (VNĐ100,000).
The fiery chicken vindaloo with rice to accompany it. VNS photo Amanda Carlea
When it comes to vindaloo, that old authenticity chestnut pops up again, as while the dish may be a synonym for extremely spicy in the UK, the original dish from Goa is far less likely to blow your head off.
Foodshop 45’s vindaloo does exactly what it says on the British tin and packs a powerful punch with rich flavours, but the key ingredient was enough heat to take the dining experience up a notch and leave me scrambling for a second glass of water, which was exactly what I was craving.
My nostalgia for home was properly sated by the couple of potato chunks that made their way into the dish, though I must admit they weren’t made the way my family prepared spuds when I was growing up.
The signature chicken 45, made with garlic and marinated in yogurt and spices before being deep-fried, was a crunchy, rich delight that made my mouth water with decadent pleasure.
The ustani kebab, on the other hand, tastes perhaps just as delightful but without the “my waist will regret this” feeling. The melt in your mouth chicken and cottage cheese was roasted in a tandoor oven to perfection, and went down well with the cottage cheese and potato-stuffed nan.
The chicken ustani kebab, drizzled with mint sauce and served with paneer kulcha nan . VNS photo Amanda Carlea
While Foodshop 45’s lakeside location is one of the more picturesque settings for a meal in Hà Nội the food still travels well, and if like me you’re missing the taste of home, or at least what your taste buds are convinced is home, it sure hits the spot. VNS
59 Trúc Bạch Street
Tel: 024 3716 2959
Opening hours: 10am-10.30pm
Price range: Mains at around VNĐ100,000
Comment: Truly satisfying Indian cuisine