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Dish Of The Week: Zaika's Lamb Handi

Jonathan Schofield gets handi relief but also bothered by faux authenticity

Written by . Published on July 26th 2011.

Dish Of The Week: Zaika's Lamb Handi


A lamb handi.

How much?



Zaika, Great Northern Tower, Watson Street, City centre,
0161 839 5111

What's so good about it?

It's a ballsy full-on bit of cooking. The lamb is cooked on the bone,usually in a deep cooking pot, to let all the minerals in the bone leach out into the meat and the stock enriching both. Together with the herbs and spices - coriander, ginger, cardomom, chilli and so on - this produces an explosion of warming, huge, flavours. It's a big hearted dish that can be clever as well: a good companion that makes its presence felt but doesn't shout anybody down.  Accompany it with a good mango lassi and it's a right love. Or a big heavy red. 

It's origin?

The north of the Indian subcontinent but that really doesn't matter.

What do you mean?

I was talking to Bob - yep he's anglicised his name - who owns the place. He's been here since the 1970s and has run restaurants ever since, including one that's till going on Burnage Lane. We were agreeing about he silliness of seeking absolute authenticity. 

Oh yea. Carry on.

This came about because if I get talking to say Pakistani taxi drivers I often ask them for their favourite Indian Subcontinent restaurant in Manchester. Nine times out of ten they'll say they don't eat in any, because it's not like the 'real, traditional, authentic cooking'. At the same time many British food snobs will insist on 'authentic' food whether it be British, Malay or Zambian. 

And your point?

My point is that there isn't much point in going on about 'authentic' or 'real' or 'traditional' cooking, there are styles which can be guides to cooking - such as the blend of spices, liquids, meats and so on which constitutes much of Northern Indian cooking - but that's it. The world's so merchanted up, and has been for centuries that it's hard to find authentic food outside a Mongolian nomad's tent. The heat that chili can provide in Indian grub comes from the discovery of America from around 400-500 years ago that brought chilis to India. Real traditional Indian wouldn't have had it. Giles Coren was good on this in The Times on Sunday. He was reviewing a pub, The Penny Black, which beats on about its real British cooking, so does this mean, wrote Coren, they are 'determined to distrust such stinky new arrivals as potatoes, raisins, pepper, oranges and sugar'? Those taxi drivers should forget about their impossible authenticity and start visiting restaurants.

But this handi dish is authentic and all that isn't it?

It's authentic in its style of cuisine, but it's made in Manchester for a Manchester audience, and it's been influenced by movements of peoples across the globe. In fact this type of stew was probably adapted from dishes further west brought in as Muslim influence spread east across Asia. Anyway enough of that, this Zaika example is worth diverting from whatever lunch or dinner you had planned tonight and making you way over for a sampling. And a debate with Bob about authenticity, or indeed anything, he's a good host.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJuly 26th 2011.

I think you're missing the point, Jonathan. The British food snobs you refer to are snobbish about what they perceive as 'authentic' in other peoples' food, the Penny Black example excepted. Most of the taxi drivers have grown up enjoying food at home that is very different to what is served in the "Indian" restaurants here. They generally don't want to pay to eat food that is different to what they know and they like. They are not seeking out 'authenticity'- they just enjoy their home comforts and do not come from a culture of eating out. That is different to seeking out food that is 'authentic' to a different culture which is rightly derided.

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

Not specifically about the dish,more a review of Zaika.We attended on a miserable Sunday afternoon ,the place was empty and I am not surprised the food was very very average,nice place ,no yes ,but I could have made better .Sorry Zaika not for us again.

Calum McGDecember 7th 2011.


Calum McGDecember 7th 2011.


John CommonsDecember 8th 2011.

Zaika is a brilliant place to take your friends and so I often do. The meals and the service have always been exceptional and very enjoyable. Long live their Lamb Handi where ever it originates from.

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