The Welsh chef who’s reinventing the Indian takeaway
When we think of what we typically order for an Indian takeaway, many of us might recipe in our head the infamous Gavin and Stacey line, “chicken bhuna, lamb bhuna and prawn bhuna, mushroom rice, bag of chips, keema naan and 9 poppadum’s”. Well, think again. Jubz Ali Mannan, 27, from the Sandfields in Swansea, is on a mission to reinvent the Indian takeaway from curry and chips into something that is new, authentic and delicious.
After leaving school with no GCSEs, Jubz turned to the hospitality industry to find success and to create something of himself, and in that time he’s curated the menu for the hugely popular Indian Street Kitchen, Madbuns and Table Treatz, and he’s even gone on to create his own social media platform, Grubz by Jubz. “My parents moved here from Bangladesh, looking for a better life for themselves and for our future,” Jubz said. “They were devastated when I left school without any qualifications, so I went into work pretty much immediately to try and make something of myself.”
You can stories from Swansea here. Jubz started out working as a waiter in an “old school” 1970s Indian restaurant in Resolfen, and he quickly progressed the ranks into the kitchen. “I fell in love with working in hospitality, but one thing I realised was that a lot of the Indian food we have here in Britain, whether it’s a restaurant or a takeaway, isn’t authentic Indian food.”
Jubz was taught to cook the authentic way – by his parents. “My dad is a retired chef, and my mother is a homemaker who’s always cooked amazing food for us, so everything I know about Indian food comes from them, really.”
A Grubz by Jubz favourite – honey glazed lamb chops with masala spiced mashed potato (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)
“In the Swansea hospitality sector, I have noticed a big shift away from traditional Indian food toward more westernised food like burgers, wraps, that sort of thing. My goal ultimately is to combine authentic Indian dishes and methods with British food and culture, because there’s nothing really like that in Swansea at the minute.”
Jubz’s first big British Indian food project was with the Indian Street Kitchen – a hugely popular Indian takeaway which serves Indian food with a British twist. “I developed the menu for the Indian Street Kitchen with that the goal to create genuine Indian food that merges with British food and culture. We started off in a food truck until we upgraded to the current premises in Blaen-y-Maes after the first lockdown.”
Popular sellers with the Indian Street Kitchen include tikka loaded fries, Bombay wraps, the pulled tikka burger, as well the more traditional Indian dishes such as biryanis, do-piaz curry and butter chicken. Jubz said: “It was quite a unique proposition that not many Asian chefs were on board with at first, because many of them were attached to keeping Indian food traditional.”
Indian Street Kitchen goodies including loaded fries, Bombay wings and traditional curries (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)
He added: “When we first opened the Indian Street Kitchen, we were very, very busy, and we were all working flat-out to get deliveries out. There were a lot of 12 hours days, but that response really taught me that there is a huge demand for a unique sort of Indian takeaway.”
This year, Jubz created a popular social media platform – Grubz by Jubz – to showcase his work, connect with others and build up his portfolio. He said: “I created Grubz by Jubz to showcase my food and as a creative outlet. A key reason I wanted a platform is to connect and network with other chefs and people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the UK.
We all have something to learn from one another, and food is the one thing we all have in common. Collaboration is key when trying to do something new like this.”
Loaded mini poppadoms, another colourful Grubz by Jubz creation (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)
Jubz has now left the Indian Street Kitchen for something quite different: Western smash burgers. As the head chef, he said: “We’ve just opened Madbuns on St Helens Road, which is a contemporary British American food outlet that sells everything from smash burgers to wings and milkshakes.”
It’s a far stretch from the typical Indian palate, but Jubz points out that if he’s going to combine both cuisines in a way that’s authentic, he needs to fully learn the ropes of western cooking, too.
Madbuns, Jubz’s most recent chef venture, uses locally sourced meats that marinated in a unique spice blend (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)In true American style, by Madbuns (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)
“With Madbuns, the goal is to get a closer look into the western palate and go from there. I’m networking a lot with small independent businesses and the local community, and I’m still close with the Indian Street Kitchen.” He points out that he’s not only trying to re-cater Indian food to meet the British palate, but he’s also trying to re-invent British food to meet the Indian palate.
“Madbuns is different from other burger outlets because we’re ultimately trying to cater western food toward the Asian Muslim market. We’ve done this by creating a decent menu of mocktails and milkshakes, because as Muslims, we don’t drink alcohol.”
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Changed your mind? There’s an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of every newsletter we send out. Jubz believes that the key to unlocking the full potential of Indian and British food is creativity, expression and experimentation.
One experimental project he has on the go at the minute is Table Treats, a contemporary catering service he’s currently running with the help of his sisters. “Table Treats is a fully bespoke catering service that I’m trailing with close friends and family. It’s gone really well so far and I’m hoping it’s something that I’ll be able to branch out across Wales – starting with Swansea, my hometown.”
Colourful burgers for a baby shower by Table Treats (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)Afternoon tea style crust-off sandwiches bursting with Indian flavours (Image: Jubz Ali Mannan)
“We’ve had a really happy client base with Table Treats so far, and I am looking to include more Grubz by Jubz fusion recipes there.”
Reinventing a traditional cuisine to meet a modern society comes with its challenges, as Jubz points out: “It’s a huge challenge because not many people have experienced a fusion of British and Infusion food, so some people can be a bit on the fence when first trying it. “It can be quite tough to deal with some people in the Asian hospitality industry who don’t really understand what I do, and they don’t like the direction I’m going in because I’m sort of moving away from traditional cuisine.
I’ve had quite a few messages saying ‘this isn’t Indian food’ or ‘this isn’t Asian food’.” He added: “I don’t mind, though. I do fish for criticism, because I take it on board and it improves what I do overall.”
“A huge drive for me, ironically, was leaving school with no GCSEs, because I felt a huge pressure to make something of myself. My parents were devastated, and I hated seeing that. I may not be great with pen and paper, but I have definitely found one thing I know I can do well.”
In the long-term, Jubz aims to settle down into a permanent restaurant base where he can fully showcase his work on the Grubz by Jubz platform, as well as catering for events with Table Treats.
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