Muthena Paul Alkazraj takes a culinary tour of Bradford
On the steps leading down to the basement of The Kashmir Restaurant, Khadim Hussain refuses - with a wry smile - to tell me what spices he puts in his Vegetable Madras. The only insights I can glean from this resident chef of 19 years, is that one of the dishes on the menu is an effective aphrodisiac, and another would be good for my elbow joints.

Three minutes' walk from the Alhambra Theatre, The Kash, as it is affectionately nick-named by Bradfordians, is the city's oldest Asian restaurant. It began serving up its Kormas, Masalas and Vindaloos in the early Fifties to the swelling numbers of young Pakistani men, who emigrated here to work in the region's textile and manufacturing industries. Joined eventually by their relatives and friends, Pakistanis now form the majority of the 60,000-strong Asian community currently living in the city.

"The first generation of English students began eating here in the Sixties, when a curry was half a crown. They now return regularly with their grandchildren," says Mr Latif, the restaurant's owner, with an endearing glow of pride. A sit-down meal is still within the range of the most severely cash-strapped undergraduate.

Zafar Iqbal, known to staff as The Papa, tells me a typical story of devotion : "One man comes regularly from Edinburgh, loads up 20 curries for himself in a fridge in the back of his van, and then drives back."

Among The Kashmir's accolades is that of having produced the world's longest vegetarian kebab. A certificate - signed by Norris McWhirter - validating its 2889ft length, is proudly displayed in the window.

Across town at the ambitiously named Bradford Superstore, an Asian mini- market off Barkerend Road, I discover a trove of supplies of essential ingredients for the likes of The Kashmir. Mung and black-eyed beans; green, red, yellow and brown lentils; fresh dill, coriander, limes, mangoes, okra and chillis; as well as cumin seeds, garam masala and a range of spices: all sold at prices which make me vow never to buy a Schwartz refill pack again.

The shop is presided over by two brothers, originally from Kashmir. Their father, Abid Shah, came to Bradford in the mid-Sixties as a 12-year- old. He worked in a textile mill for 13 years before starting this family- run business.

Meanwhile, on rain-swept Listerhills Road, the Punjab Sweet House displays its rainbow of confectionery behind a gleaming glass counter. Neatly cut cubes of barfi - made chiefly from milk-powder - are laid out on trays, or stacked up in pyramids of green, pink, and white. Piled high on a separate counter, pre-packed boxes of ice cream, jalebis and gulab jaman await transportation to shops, restaurants and take-aways across the city - and further afield to Glasgow, Birmingham and London.

The shop assistant, Shiraz Hussainis, is strangely coy of revealing their sweet-chef's name. Apparently, rival manufacturers might attempt to snaffle him. "We call him stagi, which means the master: he has been making sweets for 35 years," he says. "Not a lot of English people know about Asian sweets; those that do come back for more," he adds. And with a mild grin, he gives me a Punjabi ice-cream screw-ball.

The Kashmir Restaurant: 27 Morley St, Bradford, West Yorkshire (01274 726513)

Bradford Superstore: 2 Gilpin Street, Bradford (01274 722896)

Punjab Sweet House,122/124 Listerhills Road, Bradford (01274 720308)

The Mela (bazaar) Festival takes place at Lister Park, Bradford on 6 and 7 July, with Asian dance and food. Admission free. The Bradford Festival takes place 28 June-13 July. Festival Office 01274 309199.

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