The United Kingdom is a veritable melting pot of different cultures and people. In this relatively small island you can find people from all over the world, which has inevitably changed the food they eat.
It all Started with…The British occupation
Historically speaking, the British have occupied many different countries around the world. This meant that they were exposed to different cultures and foods. Some of these dishes were then later brought back to Britain. For instance, as the crown occupied Hong Kong from 1842 right up until 1997, it is not too surprising that one can find Hong Kong inspired dishes in England. Many small restaurants serving dishes from the oriental countries have been established in Britain, though some of the foods that are served have been adapted to appeal more to the Englishman’s palate. Plenty of Indian foods such as curry, biryani and tikka masala are also now favorites of British people. This was largely due to their occupation of the Indian subcontinent. Few countries in Africa were also under British rule for many years, including South Africa and Botswana. So, it’s safe to say that the British and African countries have all influenced each other in terms of cuisine.
The impact of immigration on food
When these immigrants arrived in the UK, they brought with them many of their traditional culture and dishes and recipes that could typically be found in foreign countries started to make their way into British cuisine. Before the influx of immigrants and before the British returned from the occupation of India, much of English food was based on local ingredients and was mainly composed of potatoes, root vegetables, breads and stews. In Britain there is a tendency for people to experiment and try out new flavors and foods. Larger cities, such as London, attract people from all over the world so the impact of immigration is particularly noticeable. Especially in the capital, one can find the influence of food from the Indian subcontinent, but also from Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, with dishes like fried rice, lasagna and ackee and saltfish becoming part of norm.
Traditional British food is still popular
The presence of other cultures and non-English people does not mean that the British have lost a taste for their traditional dishes and that people do not find them delicious. In fact, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash are still an integral part of their cuisine. There are also a lot of British restaurants around where you can find a traditional meal. It is simply that there are more establishments where food from other countries can be found. The rural areas of Britain are more likely to use locally sourced ingredients and use traditional food preparation approaches. Certainly, some people prefer traditional food of Britain and may find Indian food a little too rich and spicy. The conclusion one can draw is that history has had a strong influence on impacting British cuisine that we see today.