Drop In: Curry Up!

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There is a trend in Krakow right now – which is mirrored in major cities all over Poland—of street food, served in unpretentious surrounds, typically with paper plates and plastic cups and cutlery. Usually populated by young, hip(ster) types who are searching for something new and different, these places tend to serve ethnic/oriental/eastern/vegetarian food, and at affordable prices. There’s a whole square in Kazimierz given over to food trucks of this type, selling various types of food from fish and chips to Mexican wraps. Being a foodie, and one who welcomes any addition to the typical Polish/Italian restaurant/generic chain hegemony in Poland, I applaud this development.

Curry Up!, opened last summer, is owned by Poles Rafał Suder and Rafał Arndt, two twenty-somethings who know a thing or two about Indian food, having spent time living and working there. Their aim is to serve up authentic Indian street-style food, whilst dispensing with the overheads and pretenses of a typical Asian-style eatery in this country. Being across the road from where I live made it inevitable that I’d drop in and take a look.

Curry Up! Is a small restaurant/takeaway style place in Kazimierz on Ulica Krakowska opposite Plac Wolnica. These tiny eateries designed for taking away are common in the UK but still a relative novelty here. There are only three tables, so at peak times it can get a little uncomfortably crowded. So far, by word of mouth, it seems to be doing very well, so that can be a problem if you like your space. Plan on taking away.

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The menu is written on a blackboard above the counter and changes slightly every now and then, but there are only three or four ‘starters’ which are labelled ‘street food’ and the same number of main courses, so it doesn’t take long to choose. Most dishes are Indian in origin, but there is some Chinese/Vietnamese influence and the owners don’t purport to sell exclusively Indian food.

I tried a couple of the street food options—onion bahji and something called Chicken 65. There were four large pieces of bahji, well-cooked and crispy as I like them, with a light batter, which came with a sweet, tangy sauce. They made for a great appetiser, and could serve as a fairly decent snack in their own right, if not a lunch. Extremely reasonably priced at 7zł, I had no quibbles at all. The reason why chicken 65 is so-called is unknown, and theories range from the dish requiring 65 pieces of chicken to it utilising 65 different types of chilli. Anyhow, it originates in Chennai, India, and is a popular Indian dish. It can serve either as an entrée or quick snack, and again is priced very reasonably here at 10zł. Basically it’s deep-fried crispy chicken flavoured with chilli, garlic, ginger and other herbs, and it comes with a spicy dip. I found it to be a great starter, and quite a generous portion for the price too. Excellent value.

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For the main, I went for Hoisin-style beef (19zł), which is a Szechuan Chinese dish. Hoisin sauce varies from place to place, but is usually dark, pungent, and spicy, typically containing garlic and chilli. This one was quite spicy, with a side order of very spicy chutney, and shovel-full of rice which pleased me. It also contained plum, so had a rather sweet taste also. The beef was shredded, tender and a bit fatty—how I like it, not at all chewy. The portion was huge—normally when I buy this dish to take away, it suffices for two meals. My only qualm is that it probably didn’t contain as many vegetables as most Hoisin beef dishes I’ve seen before. My partner had the Butter Chicken (17zł)—the signature dish of Curry Up!, and their most popular—they prepare a huge vat of this every day, and it sells like the proverbial hot cakes. I found it to be good but not great—spicy, tomato-ey and with the requisite amount of chicken. I like a creamier and slightly hotter sauce personally, but this is far from bad. Again, the portion is generous. My only comment here is that there is no naan bread available, and other condiments and side dishes typical of Indian cuisine is mostly absent—no pakora or papadum is present for example (there being no oven here to make it, presumably)— but a new Curry Up! Tandoori will soon be opened to rectify this on Ulica Starowislna according to the owners, so watch this space.

I concluded the meal with a mango lassi and Vietnamese coffee. The lassi (7zł) was smooth, creamy and fruity, as you’d expect, and the coffee (6zł) was just right—filtered slowly in the Vietnamese style: thick, strong, and delicious. I’d have liked a bit more choice, drinks-wise; personally I get very thirsty eating spicy food, and a long, cold drink would have been nice. For now, there is also no alcohol, so beer is also absent—usually my go-to accompaniment for curry. I do appreciate the lack of brand name drinks like Coke and 7-Up however, and the attempt to create authenticity by doing so.

Overall then, Curry Up gets a thumbs up from me. It does what it aims to do well: provide quick, tasty, unfancy Asian-style street food at affordable prices. You only need to look at how busy it is to see this. Additionally, it caters to vegetarians/vegans with several non-meat options like aubergine curry and chickpea daal—both, incidentally, very tasty also. I feel that the restaurant would benefit from concentrating on Indian food solely, as that is what they appear to do best. Hopefully, Curry Up! Tandoori will be even better and provide a more salubrious space for a proper sit-down evening meal. Well done then lads, the spice is right.

Curry Up!

ul. Krakowska 29
Daily 12.00 – 21.00
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