Indian Food Facts & Origins

Food is our common ground, a universal experienceJames Andrew Beard, an American cookbook author who had mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts

Everyone loves food, in some form or the other. Not only is it a basic necessity in life but it is something that can bind people together. Also food is something that is invented, reinvented and shared throughout history and throughout the world.

Indian cuisine is unique and different from rest of the world not only in taste but also in cooking methods and ingredients. India is famous and quite unique for its diverse multi cuisine which symbolizes or is suggestive of the unity in diversity of our country. Cuisine of India has been greatly influenced by the Indian history, various civilizations prevalent in India from time immemorial, religious and cultural choices and traditions and has contributed to the development of a unique set of dishes using diverse ingredients for each region. Each state in India exhibits a different cuisine depending on the diversity in soil type, climatic condition, culture, traditions, ethnic groups, occupation, geographical locations and economics. Indian cuisine is also greatly influenced by locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, fruits, sea food, cereals and food grains etc.

Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations and colonialism have played a major role in introducing certain ingredients and food to our country.

Here are some interesting facts about Indian cuisine that we Indians may or may not be aware of.

Indian food system classifies food into three main categories

indian food classification

  • Saatvic food – includes fresh fruits, vegetables and juices, leads us to higher states of consciousness.
  • Raajsic food – includes oily and spicy food, is said to be the foundation of activity and motion.
  • Taamsic food – includes meat and liquor, this brings out the negative feelings.

Indian food is said to be based on six kinds of tastes (rasas)

6 tastes

  • Sweet (madhura)
  • Salty (lavana)
  • Sour (amala)
  • Pungent (katu)
  • Bitter (tikta)
  • Astringent (kasya)

A proper Indian meal is a perfect balance of all six flavors, with one or two of them predominating. So next time we have a meal, we can easily identify which flavor is standing out.

Mithais or sweets are important part of Indian cuisine and celebrations.Sweets signify prosperity, happiness and affection. It is believed that any meal in India is incomplete without any sweet. Payasam, one of the favorite sweet dishes in South India is a must in important ceremonies. Payasam is also an important ritualistic offering in South Indian temples.

India is rightly called the Land of Spices

No country in the world produces as many varieties of spices as India. Every single spice used in Indian dishes has some or the other nutritional as well as some medicinal values or properties.
indian spices

Pepper is known as the king of spices as it goes well with any and everything.

The three forms of Indian spices are fresh spices, whole dried spices and roasted or ground spices.

Spices give very distinctive and different tastes when fried and when boiled.

For example Wazwan, a traditional Kashmiri multi-course meal reflects strong Central Asian influence. The unique thing about this technique is that the spices are boiled instead of fried to give a distinct flavor and aroma.

India is also home to bhoot jolokia or ghost chilli, also known as U-morok, ghost pepper, red naga, naga jolokia; which is grown in North Eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur. They are considered to be the hottest chillies in the world. They are more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

Global Influences & Imprints

Portuguese

Staple ingredients of Indian cuisine like Potato, Tomato and Chilli were brought to India by the Portuguese around the 16th and 17th centuries. It is believed that the Portuguese introduced over 300 new plants to India.

Even refined sugar was introduced to India by the Portuguese. Before that fruits and honey were used to sweeten Indian food. Other plants brought to India by the Portuguese are tobacco, pineapple, papaya, guava, cashewnut etc just to name a few.

Mexico

Rajma originally belongs to Mexico and is a staple food there.

Asian Region

  • Naan is also said to have been brought to India by the Mughals and it has Central and South Asian roots.
  • Jalebi was called Zabiya( Arabic) or the Zalibia( Persian), Zulbia and is popular sweet in countries of South Asia , West Asia, North Africa and East Africa.
  • Gulab Jamun originated are in Persia and the Mediterranean , where its equivalent, Luqmat al Qadi, much before they came to India.
  • The Samosa is claimed to have originated in the Middle East, where it is known as the Sambosa prior to the 10th century. It was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th or 14th century by traders from Central Asia.
  • Daal Chawal or Daal Bhaat is actually said to have originated in Nepal.
  • Coffee was brought to India by a Muslim saint Baba Budan , while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Baba Budan smuggled seven coffee beans ( by tying it around his waist) from Yemen to Mysore and planted them on the Chandagiri Hills. This was the beginning of coffee industry in India.
  • India produces unbelievable variants of rice ranging from white, red, brown, sticky and even black. Black rice is found only in India and China and is also known as forbidden or magic rice.
  • Earliest evidence of outline of modern Indian food goes back to 3000 years ago, when we find evidences of charred remains of grains and husk impressions in Lothal , Gujarat.

 

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