Visitors to London could be forgiven for thinking that they are seeing a quintessentially English city.
In fact, behind the picture-postcard facade of some of its most recognisable monuments, the English capital is one of the most multicultural places in the world.
More than a third of Londoners belong to an ethnic minority group, making the city of more than eight million people one of the world’s most linguistically diverse. According to 2011 census data, almost every borough is home to at least 100 different languages.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the city’s East End, an area that has experienced centuries of migration as the traditional first port of call for migrants. In fact, in the 19th century, London became the biggest city in the world thanks to immigration.
Food has played a crucial role in integrating these communities into British society: Migrants may lose their language, their customs, and even their religion, but rarely will they lose their food. One street in the East End – Brick Lane – above all tells this story.
With curry now ranking as one of England’s national dishes and Brick Lane the unofficial curry capital, we look beyond the curry houses to explore a lesser-known food history – that of the Jewish community that primarily arrived in the 1880s, fleeing persecution in Russia. We also explore the roots of today’s Bangladeshi community, the challenges they face, and how their food has become synonymous with Brick Lane.
Editor’s note: This film was first broadcast on Al Jazeera English in 2008.