Kampala is a two-curry town. Ask any long term resident of the city where to get the best curry and you will usually get one of two answers. However, I may even venture to say it is a three-curry town.
My friend Thomas insists that Khana Kazana has by far the best curry in Kampala. But ask Daniel and he will tell you that the competition is not even close: Handi’s has the best curry in the city—probably in all of East Africa. Okay, I admit Daniel sometimes gets carried away, but he really likes spices!
If you ask me, that mutton rogan josh at Pavement Tandoori gives those two front-runners a run for their money.
Curry is a complicated dish to review. Unlike the simple ingredients that make a good hamburger (see “Best Hamburger in Kampala” June 2010), a curry can be made of many different ingredients and spices.
Considered a side dish by Indians, curry can be made vegetarian with an assortment of vegetables, cottage cheese or potatoes. It can also be made with every meat imaginable including chicken, fish, beef and goat. Cannot eat spicy foods? All curries can be ordered mild, medium or hot.
For the most part, people order their curry with rice, but it can also be eaten with naan (Indian flat bread). I suggest getting an order of both. Then follow your meal up with a tall glass of lasse (yogurt drink).
Khana Khazana is located on Acacia Avenue and boasts an open sitting area and waterfall in the dining room. It has an incredible menu complete with 103 different dishes you can order, of these an incredible 51 are curries. According to some unconfirmed reports, the eatery is one of the top Indian restaurants in the world—outside of India, of course.
On the advice of my waiter, I ordered the makhini chicken keseriya, which offers the meat in a thick gravy of tomatoes and other spices. It was exquisite. Served along with some steamed rice and butter naan, the curry was not overpowering and the spicing was rather complex. The meat could not have been more tender.
I ordered it medium spicy and I got medium spicy. Too often the only thing you can taste in a curry is hot. But the chef got the spicing perfect, making for a delightful lunch. I can only guess that the chef would also have gotten it perfect on any other the other 50 curry dishes. Thomas was right.
Handi’s is located on the first floor of a building on Kampala Road. The setting is a stark contrast to Khana Khazana, but do not let that scare you away. We sat by a window overlooking all the chaos that is Kampala Road, but once we got our food, all the noises and distractions evaporated.
Following a similar pattern to the previous meal, I ordered my steamed rice and naan, garlic this time. For my curry I went with the Fish Goan Curry made with local tilapia. This curry is succulently made with coconut milk.
After no more than five minutes, the steaming dishes were delivered to our table. My tongue was sent on a whirlwind tour of the Indian countryside, tasting every spice in the smooth, subtle sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and again a medium was a medium. Daniel was right.
Pavement Tandoori in the Kisimenti shopping area, is a much smaller more intimate setting than the other two restaurants I tried out and is definitely a more intimate dining experience. Wanting to try something different, I ordered the mutton rogan josh with steamed rice and chilli naan. Mutton can be a bit tricky to cook and I have often received some that was either so tender it fell apart or cooked too long that the meat is overly tough.
It was perfect. Leave it to the Indian chefs—they really know how to cook their meats. The stronger taste of the mutton was perfectly matched with their menagerie of spices. A medium was a medium and this time Ole was right.
So I guess there is no clear winner for the best curry in town. With three great curry restaurants, the curry fans of Kampala are the real winners.
By Ole Tangen Jr.