WHEN IT COMES TO THE BEST CORNISH FUSION DISHES WITH INDIAN CUISINE, UNIQUE FALMOUTH RESTAURANT DAAKU IS LIKE NO OTHER EATERY IN THE DUCHY. THIS IS A PROMOTIONAL FEATURE
Indian and Cornish? Together? In the same dish? Nah, it just wouldn’t work… would it? Well, actually it already has and keeps on working every time Falmouth restaurant Daaku creates another stellar Indian-Cornish fusion dish. Daaku, in fact, could be touted as the best Indian restaurant in Cornwall on its authentic dishes alone but add the constantly rolling menu of fusion creations and you’ve got one of the most experimental eateries in the Duchy. Owned and run by husband-and-wife Jasmine Sharma, originally from Rajasthan in India, and local Cornishman Ben Martin, the restaurant in Bells Court, which offers both sit-in and takeaway (or, as we call it, Daaku-way) options, comes highly recommended for its uniqueness.
Daaku, which is Punjabi for ‘outlaw’, sits on the seafront near Falmouth Art Gallery. In April 2022, it moved from its original home in nearby Penryn, where it had been since 2018, following a challenging period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharma and Martin say that the move to Falmouth has been a success and they’ve been able to improve their menu, which changes weekly and always uses seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, especially where the fish and meat are concerned. The couple offer a ‘really small menu’ as well as ever-changing specials and gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. They focus on authentic Indian cuisine and, of course, fab fusion creations.
Sharma calls Daaku‘s experimental dishes ‘Cornish fusion’, however technically should be ‘Indian-Cornish fusion’. But whatever you call it, the effect is the same. These are dishes that take the best of the Cornish and Indian cuisines and styles and create something new, exciting and tasty. And we choose our favourites below but FYI: all of these dishes are not available all of the time. Most of them are specials that are only served occasionally due to the availability of the ingredients. Always call ahead to find out what’s on the menu as it changes and evolves daily. By the way: our list below is made up of our particular ‘Cornish fusion’ faves but local ingredients run throughout the restaurant’s menu, from its MmDaaku butter chicken to its walnut halva with Cornish clotted cream. So step this way and discover Daaku‘s delicious and devious twists to our own homegrown Cornish cuisine…
Welcome to Daaku‘s signature small plate. It’s as if the revered Cornish hog’s pudding was made for Indian cuisine as this local pork, fat and suet sausage is always spicy on the tongue thanks to its helpings of black pepper, garlic and cumin. This Cornish fusion dish of crispy pakora fritters bulging with sliced hog’s pudding and some secret ingredients is supremely popular, so much so that it’s on Daaku‘s menu all-year-round. It’s mildly spicy and comes served with a piquant green chutney, laying bare the best of both cuisines in one simple golden bite.
Daaku cooks up this Cornish fusion special from time to time to the delight of diners who want a spicy take on Cornwall’s most famous dish. Of course, the Cornish pasty is an institution and this take on it, with its crimped, curved side and its golden sheen, looks as traditional as it can be. But, ah, then you bite into it and discover sweet and sour curried pumpkin in place of the beef, turnip, potato and onion. Served next to a bed of micro fennel and macerated grapes for anise and sweet notes, this Daaku masterpiece makes us groggy for curried oggy.
Whelks aren’t to everyone’s taste due to their, shall we say, chewy quality but do you know what a spicy curry does to that rubbery texture? It softens it all up and allows the local sea snail to soak in all the rich broth without losing any of its briny sweetness. Combine the Cornish whelk with a spicy Goan curry that’s full of fresh garlic, ginger, red chilli and coconut flavours and spread it delicately over basmati rice and you’ve got a seasonal house special that’s just as at home sitting on a Falmouth beach as it would be on a hot stretch of sands in Goa.
Yet another fusion special that takes an iconic Cornish ingredient, cooks it in a local style and then puts it all in a typically sweet and spicy Indian curry, creating a symphony of flavours and a fusion favourite all in one fell swoop. The Cornish crown prince pumpkin (some call it a squash) is a large fruit with a bright orange flesh that’s as nutty as it is honey-sweet to the taste. It works in harmony with both the green grapes and Daaku‘s signature spices here to create a sweet-to-the-touch seasonal harvest favourite that’s available in the autumn.
Seriously. Just look at that picture. You can see those creamy lentils soaking up all those foraged sea vegetables to create an absolute belter of a vegetarian dish. If this creation was just combining local veg with the classic north Indian spicy ‘n’ creamy lentil dish, then we wouldn’t call it fusion per se. But it’s not. It’s actually taking locally foraged sea kale, kelp and oarweed and creating a subtle take on tarka daal in the same way a local Cornish family would create a traditional stew out of the dish. That’s fusion, we say. Frankly, that’s a culinary masterpiece.
In much the same way as the previous tarka daal dish, this Indian-Cornish fusion creation takes Cornish summer vegetables and fashions a delicate coconut curry around their flavour profiles. Green beans, baby courgettes, carrots and potatoes dominate the early summer version of the curry but as the season progresses, earthier additions like celeriac and golden beetroots join the fray. It’s all locally grown and the fresh tastes are only further enhanced by the coconut in this masterful fusion creation.
We did whelks earlier and now it’s time to turn to the Cornish mussel. Many local traditional recipes would have the bivalves soaked in cider or ale but Daaku takes them and creates a coconut curry sauce that takes the place of all that alcohol. The whole ensemble becomes lighter and fresher this way, with the mussels being highlighted as the stars of the dish and with the coconut curry only adding sweetness to those briny tastes. If Cornwall was in India, this would be your local dish.
To complete but a slice of Daaku‘s Cornish-Indian fusion creations (and you can bet your bottom rupee there’ll be plenty more over the coming months), one of Cornwall’s greatest seaside dishes is given an enigmatic twist. Fish and chips at this restaurant becomes Cornish pollock done in ‘Amritsari Macchi’ style, which originated in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, a place that’s proud of its locally caught fresh fish. The secret of the supremely light batter is its handful of spices like carom seeds and it goes great with the coriander mint chutney, a fresh sprig of mint and some chips. Yes, you can learn about those chips when you visit…
And now for our favourite non-fusion Daaku dishes that are equally loved by guests…
This dish and the others below are not exactly Indian-Cornish fusion but they nevertheless still pack the local ingredients in there. This rich, creamy lamb rogan josh, for instance, uses dairy produce and meat from across the Duchy. It’s a hearty Indian lamb curry that boasts a heady combination of intense spices all whipped up in that thick tomato curry sauce. The meat is fall apart tender and the spice packs enough punch to dance rings around the palate. This is a special Indian dish that’s fast becoming a firm Falmouth favourite.
Billed as chef Ben Martin’s ‘favourite dish of all time’, the paneer shahi is another favourite in the seaside town. This fairly mild, vegetarian and gluten-free dish puts Indian paneer cheese at the front and centre and serves it in a ‘delicately aromatic but rich tomato and cashew nut sauce infused with cinnamon, cardamom and fenugreek leaves’. As both Martin and Sharma admit, the ensemble of deep orange colours with creamy white swirls encircling the paneer chunks is indeed ‘truly delicious’.
Lovers of both pulled pork and sweet, tangy flavour profiles: you’re in for a treat. Tamarind hails from the fruit pulp of a tree that’s indigenous to tropical Africa but was introduced to India many, many moons ago. The fruit and leaves have become a soulful part of Indian cooking and add a rich, deep and tangy-sour flavour to dishes like this pulled pork masterpiece. It’s thick, it’s hearty, there’s a decent level of spice in there and the whole creation goes from sweet to sour to tangy to earthy and back again with every delicious mouthful.
On the face of it, this dish should just be a carbon copy of the previous entry because imli pork is, in fact, pork in a tamarind sauce. ‘Imli’ just means ‘tamarind’ in Hindi. But this version at Daaku is actually a totally different creation as you can see from the image because it goes less on the rich tangy sauce and more on the natural flavours of the pork that are simply sun-kissed by notes of tamarind. These are prime pieces of local hog and they come served with green chillis, onion and slices of paretha flatbread.
We’ve just done ‘imli’ and now this is ‘idli’. The last dish we’re recommending that you just don’t miss at Daaku (when it’s on the specials board, that is) is the masala fried idli. What’s ‘idli’, you say? For the uninitiated, this is an Eastern and Southern Indian savoury rice cake that’s made by steaming fermented black lentils and rice into a fried batter. Add the restaurant’s secret masala blend of spices and you’ve got a dish here that you’ll come back for time and again, especially if you enjoy it alongside some of those fab hog’s pudding pakoras.
Dine in or pop in to pick up a ‘Daaku-way’. Either way, you’ll want to meet Jasmine Sharma and Ben Martin at the unique Daaku. The couple, who met at Falmouth University’s Penryn campus after Sharma moved to Cornwall in 2008, have learned to cook from the ground up by constantly experimenting, exploring local ingredients and taking on new Indian cooking techniques together. They have a young son, Isaac, who’s also a big fan of the Cornish fusion creations here. Click the ‘Read More’ button below and discover all the finer details about this award-winning restaurant on the Falmouth seafront.