The Covid crackdown on moving around and meeting people has inflicted heavy damage to sectors including the arts, hospitality and travel. For those working in ethnic minority-owned takeaway food businesses the picture is particularly grim where an estimated eight out of ten takeaway operations have either seen applications for financial support rejected or unanswered. Ali Askir, founder of the Irish Curry Awards, says takeaways across Northern Ireland are closing down at a rate of at least one a day.
The absence of the £300 weekly support promised to takeaways last month is now a matter of life or death for these businesses. Mr Askir believes the sector has been left behind largely because of policy maker misconceptions about its reliance on late night opening.
"It's definitely not about feeding house parties because our records clearly show that orders for late night suppers up until 3am were from individuals and small family groups of three or four people, and we have lost this business because of the imposition of an 11pm curfew," he says at the time of writing.
The answer is for takeaways to operate remotely on a click and deliver only basis, he maintains. "That way, human contact is reduced to zero. Payment is made online, food is left on the doorstep."
Which brings our attention to three award-winning takeaways who deliver and could do with your support. They cover a range of traditional food styles from Pakistan to the southern tip of India and they have proven themselves to the point of becoming part of their community fabric.
Bithika on Belfast's Lisburn Road ("chicken korma, chana bhuna, fish fingers or kebab on chips delivered to your couch") marks its 33rd birthday making it one of the oldest Indian takeaways in Belfast.
There's nothing old-fashioned about the food, though, and among the staple masalas, jalfrezis and vindaloos there are exciting hogie kebabs featuring BBQ chicken, spiced chicken fritters, sliced BBQ lamb and a handful of chips on naan bread, Scottish style.
And that naan bread is beautifully fluffy, light and the size of a single duvet. The pilau rice which accompanied a decent and hugely proportioned chicken tikka chilli masala may be dotted with the traditional day-glo orange and green rice grains but the flavour pulling through with the bayleaf and other herbs is fresh and engaging. The sheer portion sizes mean a single tub easily serves two people. Never mind the quality, feel the weight of that.
Zora's on Derry's Strand Road takes the world food theme further than anyone and the menu will take you from Italy to India via North America. So brace yourself for hot dogs, pasta and fish & chips among the kormas and makhanis.
I'm never fond of fusion restaurants because they end up being neither fish nor fowl but in Zora's defence, if you're going into the takeaway business, do it well and give the public what they want. Interestingly the curry menu includes "buffet portion" dishes which are cheaper than the "full portion" versions and 20% smaller. So you can indulge in rogan joshes, special Punjabi chilli beef keema, kormas and the rest of it, safe in the knowledge that your New Year's resolution remains intact.
Asha in Bangor has won many awards not least the Irish Curry Award for best Indian takeaway in Ulster.
Here you will find the unusual and lesser known regional dishes from Bengal and elsewhere. There are khazanas, hariyalis, shashliks and the amazing mustard-based rezelas but if you're going to try this place for the first time go for Asha 21. This is the dish which clinched the best takeaway award for its richness, balance, heat and depth of flavours.
Chicken marinated in cumin, ginger and curry is cooked in scallions, curry leaves and garlic to create a creamy dish of such magnificence as to remain firmly lodged in my and the other judges' minds for ever.
Bithika: hogie kebab £6.50
Zora's: buffet portion jalfrezi £8.15
Asha: Asha 21 £8.45
Order online from www.bithikabelfast.com
Order online from www.zorastakeaway.com
Order online from www.ashaindian-bangor.co.uk