Growing up in Kenya I experienced my fair share of Indian food. Between Indian and Italian cuisine there is almost a monopoly on the Nairobi restaurant scene, much to my delight.
Although initially very, very bad at dealing with hot food I am now a seasoned pro (ahem, excuse the pun) and have come to know my limits with the spice. On one occasion where I still considered myself a novice, I was staying with friends who would always have a delicious mix of dhal and lentils on a Thursday night. Piling huge spoonfuls of each dish onto my plate, I picked a haricot bean off my plate and mindlessly took a bite. Within seconds I felt an explosion of pain and heat almost bursting out of my ears to escape, simultaneously realising what I had just done as my friend shrieked across the table “that’s a green chilli, what are you doing?!”
I have learnt two things from this experience. 1) It’s good to step out your comfort zone otherwise you really will never know and 2) there is no amount of spice that a healthy dose of yoghurt cannot fix!
Now that I have moved to the UK, I’ve had to find new local watering holes and snack spots, not least those which are affordable for the twenty something trying to make it in London’s competitive environment. There is a real art to hooking the millennial market – classy but affordable, unique but authentic, quirky but not trying too hard and all while maintaining your existing customer base. It’s a hard nut to crack but I will let you in on a little secret; Wah Ji Wah, in Manchester, is one such place.
And with a name like that you would expect nothing less. So intrigued by this catchy title I was, that I had to look it up – and fittingly, the loose translation suggests that it means “wow”. Wah Ji Wow if you will. The only complaint I have is that Wah Ji Wah is in Manchester and I am in London.
Tasteful in both interior and in flavours, with a mix of the traditional and authentic hearty meals to the more exquisite options you may not typically find at your local Indian – there is honestly something for everyone. I was recommended Wah Ji Wah by a friend who lives in the area and happened to be with my mum when we decided to sample the dinner menu. My dad always insists that we each order a dish and then share, which as much as I hate to admit it, is the way to do it with Indian food, unless you are Joey from Friends (or my housemate), who “doesn’t share food!”
Nothing annoys me more than pushy staff in a restaurant. It can make or break an experience, especially when they clear your plate away before everyone has finished eating. Frankly that is just plain rude. Thankfully the staff at Wah Ji Wah were quite the opposite, friendly and personable – encapsulating the restaurant name.
Mum and I perused the menu struggling to choose but finally settling on the Aloo tikki chaat and Paneer Tikka Anardana as our sides because I just cannot resist something that involves yoghurt. Just typing this now is making my mouth water!
Despite my earlier mention about branching out and trying new things it is also good to stick to what you know, and I know that butter chicken and Sally are a match made in heaven. Our main dishes were the Murg tikka butter masala and the Goan fish curry. The fish was mum’s choice and dare I say it, this was my favourite of the two, you just can’t go wrong with coconut. Naturally, we added plenty of naan breads to our order – coriander and garlic – delicious. It always seems to be an unspoken rule that when mum and I have Indian we never order rice but fear not – there were all sorts of different varieties to choose from, should you have wanted them! I am irrationally anxious about not ordering enough food because there is nothing worse than thinking ‘I already know I am not going to be full after this’ when it arrives on your table. Well, I can assure you that you will not leave Wah Ji Wah feeling hungry. 10/10 would recommend.
And what about drinks you may well ask? Well I for one am no beer drinker but pairing it with spicy food is one of my very few exceptions. It’s cold and refreshing, compliments the flavours and seems to strangely help with the burn. I am partial to a gin and tonic and would opt for one of those with any meal given half the chance but Wah Ji Wah also has a fantastic cocktail menu for the more adventurous visitors. Come to think of it there were plenty of other guests ordering cocktails in all shapes and sizes so they must have been going down a treat!
I have tried time and again to recreate delicious curries at home and just can’t seem to get it right. So, when guaranteed a fulfilling and delicious meal I will happily go out and pay for, or in this case hop on a train to Manchester!