Food is just one of the aspects of Indian culture that has been taken to the hearts of the British people. At one point, the most popular dish in the UK was a curry. However, in recent years the number of curry houses has been dropping, due to a variety of reasons.
So what does internationally-recognised master chef Oli Khan decide to do about it? He sets his heart on breaking the world record for the world’s largest onion bhaji. Globalindianstories.com was on hand to witness the attempt, and taste the results of his years of preparation.
“I had the inspiration years ago when I was opening a restaurant,” he says. “I found that an onion bhaji was the most popular starter on the menu. Every group that came in would have at least one or two people who would order it. So I decided to try that.”
This led to some research on the internet which found that the record at the time was 102.2kg, set on 28th September 2011. However, it took years of planning to bring his dream to fruition. Not least was the problem of how to cook an onion bhaji of that size.
“There are health and safety concerns to contend with. Rules and restrictions that must be followed,” he explains. “It took 4 months to custom build the fryer and it had to be made compliant so it could attain a CE mark, for it to be safely used.”
Then there was the issue of finding a venue for the attempt. Oli had previously tried to break the record in a park in Luton. Sadly, the onion bhaji broke, thereby ruining the attempt, but it was the legislation that prompted him to look for a different site for his world record attempt.
In the end, it was the London Muslim Centre on Whitechapel Road which had a big enough kitchen where the attempt could be made safely. To show his gratitude Oli donated an undisclosed sum to the East London Mosque Trust, as well as allowing all the evening worshipers to have a portion of his world-breaking bhaji.
After an over an hour of emptying buckets of pre-mixed onion bhaji ingredients into a giant cage and building the enormous uncooked delicacy, Oli and his team took a moment to say a prayer before it went into the fryer.
Tensions ran high as the bhaji was slowly brought out of the fryer and moved into the Main Hall of the London Muslim Centre. Everyone took great care. Fortunately everything went smoothly and, after some measurements were taken, the official adjudicator from the Guinness World Records stated that this was indeed a new record of 175.7kg, whereupon a large cheer went up.
“I am over the moon and honoured,” Oli said afterwards. “I am representing the UK and this record is for the UK. I would like to thank my whole team and all the others who worked behind the scenes.”
We asked him what his hopes had been, apart from securing the world record. “Curry houses have been closing down. This will remind people of curry houses and hopefully encourage them to go to one. And if they do then they will definitely now want to try an onion bhaji,” he said.
Oli Khan has won many awards over the years, including ‘Best Caterer of the Year’ at the Golden Jubilee of the Bangladesh Caterers Association UK. He is one of the founders of the British Bangladeshi Business Forum UK and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.