Guy Dimond heads to south London for fresh mangoes, tasty samosas and some of the best curry in London.
Tooting is rightly famous for its ‘curry corridor’ running between SW17’s two tube stations (Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway). But it’s not the number of restaurants, it’s the diversity of the Asian populations and their regional cuisines that makes Tooting extraordinary. It has a mix of Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Gujaratis and East African Asians all bringing their masalas to the mix.
The best way to explore is by walking down the Upper Tooting Road from Tooting Bec tube towards Tooting Broadway. Just past the handsome Sikh Gurdwara and opposite the mosque are a couple of excellent fruit and veg shops - Nature Fresh ? (126 Upper Tooting Rd) and Daily Fresh Foods  (152-156 Upper Tooting Rd) - where you’ll find good Indian and Pakistani mangoes, plus esoteric ingredients such as karela (bitter gourd) and fresh tamarind pods.
The colourful Indian sweet shops are more than just eye candy. Pooja  (168-170 Upper Tooting Rd) is an excellent place to get vibrantly coloured Indian sweetmeats such as barfi or halwa, while just across the road, Shivdarshan  (169 Upper Tooting Rd) is the place for Gujarati savoury snacks such as ganthia (the fried chickpea noodles used in Bombay mix) or samosas.
Pass the halal butchers and sari shops, and you hit a long run of Pakistani restaurants. There’s not much to choose between them these days, as they all produce decent versions of grilled and karahi-cooked meat dishes.
Beyond Tooting Broadway tube down Tooting High Street, the South Indian and Sri Lankan influence is clear. The best choice is Dosa n Chutny  (68 Tooting High St), which serves brilliant dosas (filled rice pancakes) and idlis (steamed rice cakes). Towards Colliers Wood you find Apollo Banana Leaf  (190 Tooting High St), another bargain-hunter's delight with home-style Sri Lankan Tamil dishes - stick to these, order the mildest versions, and you won’t go wrong.
Top tip: Pop into Patel Brothers  (189 Upper Tooting Rd) for charming knick knacks, at (almost) Indian prices.
Take the Northern line to either Tooting Bec or Tooting Broadway.
Take a look at the best Indian restaurants in London.
Illustration: Matthew Hams