Mystery Meat

I am not a particularly fussy eater.

If we are going out to eat, Chinese, Thai or Mexican food are big favourites. I also love good traditional pub food or a nice carvery, or if we are feeling more adventurous I will happily venture to a Vietnamese, African, Caribbean, Mongolian or Japanese restaurant.

But if we are out and someone says ‘where do you want to eat?’ my standard answer is invariably Indian; and few weekends go by when I don’t have an Indian takeaway.

I love curry.

And if I am eating curry I prefer red meat. I have nothing against chicken or prawn or even, if I must, vegetarian, but personally I prefer the texture of red meat in curry.

Once again, I am not too fussy. Obviously the norm for a curry would be lamb, or in a pub you may get beef, but it wouldn’t concern me in the slightest if I got goat (I love goat in African or Caribbean curries) or even horse. As long as the meat is healthy and intended for human consumption, then that is fine by me.

However, I do get concerned about the often unspecified nature of the meat on an Indian restaurant menu: you often have the option of curry with ‘chicken, prawn or meat’.

This is the case with my local Indian takeaway, but when I phone through my order I always ask for lamb and that normally works fine.

The other weekend, however, I had the following conversation:

Me: “Hello, I’d like to order a lamb pathia please.”

Indian takeaway (IT): “I’m sorry sir, we don’t do lamb pathia, we do meat pathia.”

Me (with some trepidation): Ummm… okay… I’ll have a meat pathia please.”

Thirty minutes later I arrived at the takeaway to collect my order and, having introduced myself and paid for the food the conversation continued:

Me: “Can you tell me what the meat is in your meat pathia please?”

IT (after some confusion due to language difficulties): “it is lamb.”

Me: “but when I ordered I was told that you don’t sell lamb pathia, only meat pathia.”

IT (after more confusion): “no, it is lamb.”

This is not the first takeaway in which I have had this conversation.

My question is, if it’s lamb, why don’t they state that on the menu? And if it’s not, what is it and why are they so coy about it?

It seems worryingly like there may be a trading standards reason that they can’t call it lamb. Is this because it is mutton – can that legally be called lamb?

I have seen reports that curries and kebabs claiming to be lamb often actually contain a mix of cheaper meats like chicken, pork or beef, in which case maybe even the people working in the takeaway or restaurant are unaware of the true ingredients as they may object on religious grounds.

None of this particularly concerns me as long as it meets my none-too-demanding standards of being healthy, intended for human consumption and isn’t someone’s pet dog, cat or rabbit, but I feel there ought to be some clarity on the matter.

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About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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