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.

 

Indian Folk Arts that can add Colour and Culture to your house

India is very rich in its art and culture, and many of the finest forms have flowered in villages and tribal settlements where they have long served as modes of creative expression and communication. One of the challenges we face today is keeping these Indian folk arts forms alive but with support from government organizations, patrons of art and artists’ support groups there’s been a revival in recent years. Fortunately, the growing popularity of these art forms is helping in the upliftment of the local artisans.

Four particularly exquisite folk art styles are Madhubani, Warli, Gond and Pattachitra. They have several things in common – all use natural dyes for painting and even the brushes are made from natural materials like bamboo and twigs. Completely hand-drawn and painted, fully ecological, these works of art take time and effort, and therein lies their value.

Madhubani Painting, Bihar

madhubani painting
Madhubani painting originated in a small village, known as Maithili, of the Bihar state of India. Initially, the womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home, as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. With time, the paintings started becoming a part of festivities and special events, like marriage. Slowly and gradually, the Madhubani painting of India crossed the traditional boundaries and started reaching connoisseurs of art, both at the national as well as the international level.
madhubani painting
The brush used for Madhubani paintings of Bihar was made of cotton, wrapped around a bamboo stick. The artists prepare the colors that are used for the paintings. Black color is made by adding soot to cow dung; yellow from combining turmeric (or pollen or lime) with the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusam flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder and orange from palasha flowers. There is no shading in the application of colors. A double line is drawn for outlines and the gap is filled with either cross or straight tiny lines. The linear Maithili paintings do not even require application of colors; only the outlines are drawn.

Warli Art, Maharashtra

warli art
Warli art is a beautiful folk art of Maharashtra, traditionally created by the tribal womens. Tribals are the Warli and Malkhar koli tribes found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India. This art was first explored in the early seventies & from then it was named as “Warli art”. Tribal people express themselves in vivid styles through paintings which they execute on the walls of their house. This was the only means of transmitting folklore to a populace not acquainted with the written word. Warli paintings were mainly done by the women folk.
warli art
The most important aspect of the painting is that it does not depicts mythological characters or images of deities, but depict social life. Pictures of human beings and animals, along with scenes from daily life are created in a loose rhythmic pattern. Warli paintings are painted white on mud walls. The paintings are beautifully executed and resembles pre-historic cave paintings in execution and usually depict scenes of human figures engaged in activities like hunting, dancing, sowing and harvesting.

Gond Art, Madhya Pradesh

gond art
Gond paintings are a form of painting from folk and tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India with whom it shares its name. Gond comes from the Dravidian expression, Kond which means ‘the green mountain’. While Gond paintings are considered to be from predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, it is also quite common in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh and Odisha.
gond art
Gond art has become so predominant that the Government of India has stepped in to preserve their art form for future generations to enjoy.Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness aboriginal art from Australia as both styles use dots to create the painting.

PattaChitra, Orissa

pattachitra
Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Odisha. The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture. Pattachitra is thus a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs and designs, and portrayal of simple themes, mostly mythological in depiction.

Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia – depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity.
pattachitra
Making the patta is the first thing that comes in the agenda, and the painters, also called chitrakars, go about their work in preparing a tamarind paste, which is made by soaking tamarind seeds in water for three days. The seeds are later pounded with a crusher, mixed with water, and heated in an earthen pot to turn it to a paste, which is called niryas kalpa. The paste is then used to hold two pieces of cloth together with it, and coated with a powder of soft clay stone a couple of times till it becomes firm. Soon as the cloth becomes dry, the final touch of polishing it with a rough stone and then a smooth stone or wood is given, until the surface becomes smooth and leathery, and is all ready as a canvas to be painted on.

Extraordinary Indian Villages – Curious & Notable

Indian villages always have been carrying a unique nostalgic charm for fellow urban Indians, and treasure islands to discover for newcomers. स्वच्छ हवा (clean air), ধানের জমি (paddy fields), தேயிலை தோட்டத்தில் (tea gardens), કાદવ ઘર (mud house), നദിയുടെ മത്സ്യം(river fish), ਰਾਈ ਖੇਤਰ (mustard fields) – these are among the pretty and wonderful memories we associate with our villages. Unfortunately some of these feelings are waning off slowly, mostly because of bad and biased media paint.

But here is a little fact file. Some of the गाँव are way better than any metros. And these instances are to prove that.

Mawlynnong – Cleanest village in Asia

With 500 residents, literacy rate more than 90%, located around 90 kms from Shillong in the state of Meghalaya, Mawlynnong is famous for its cleanliness and sanitation. Visitors claim they haven’t seen a single plastic bag in the vicinity.
Mawlynnong

Dharnai – First fully solar powered village

With the aid of Greenpeace, Dharnai, a village in Bihar, declared itself an energy-independent village. With more than 2400 residents not at all dependent on regular electricity supply, Dharnai has been a role model for many of those high profile claimers.
Dharnai

Hiware Bazar – village with 50 millionaires

Statistics: in 1995, only a tenth of the village’s land was arable and 168 of its 182 families were below the poverty line. By 2010, the average income of the village had increased twenty-fold – 50 of the villagers had become millionaires (in Indian rupees), and only 3 families were below the poverty line. The grass harvest increased from 100 tonnes in 2000 to 6,000 tonnes in 2004, and the milk production rose from 150 litres a day in the mid-1990s to 4,000 in 2010. Meet Hiware Bazar, a village located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
Hiware Bazar

Kokrebellur – village of bird lovers

The uniqueness in Kokkarebellur is the long established bonding between the spot-billed pelicans and the villagers who have adopted this bird as their heritage. The benefits derived by the villagers from these birds are basically in the form of phosphorus and potassium rich manure obtained from the bird droppings (also known as guano). Further, over the years, the popularity of this uniqueness has also attracted tourists to the village to watch the birds.
Kokrebellur

Shani Shingnapur – village with no locks

Touted as the safest village in India, this place is known for its lack of doors to houses, even some houses have doors, absolutely none of them are locked. Not just that, there is no police station in the village. And, no report of theft or burglary etc. Believe it or not, even the banks do not have locks in their premises! Pioneer!
Shani Shingnapur

Punsari – WiFi, CCTv, AC Classroom, and more…

Located around 80 kms from Gandhinagar, Gujarat, Punsari would put many metros to shame. With almost all the houses having private broadband internet connection, schools are all AC classrooms, CCTv put across all the roads & lanes; but still people are grounded and humble. Example of adopting modernization, but not urbanization.
Punsari

Pothanikkad – 100% literate

This village is Kerala has one hundred percent of literacy rate – it is the first village in India to achieve this feat.
Pothanikkad