Curries have become a staple of British food culture, but as most people know, they originated in South Asia. You have favourites like naan, korma and saag, but Indian food is much more than your local takeaway! It has had a very long history, and like Chinese food, cooking in India varies hugely depending on the region. Indian food differs from many other types of cooking, not only because of its unique use of spice, but also because vegetarianism has been prominent for thousands of years there. This is because it is a major part of Hinduism.
If you go on the internet and search for “Indian food”, thousands of different results will come up. As well as your local Indian takeaway, you’ll also notice that there are over 30 different types of Indian cooking. These have been influenced by invading powers over the years, notably by the British and the Portuguese. The Portuguese introduced potatoes into the Indian diet – but can you imagine your favourite curry without a side serving of aloo? They also introduced chilli. Now try and imagine a curry without chilli – you can’t!
In ancient times, as in most other places. Indian food was very simple. People lived on a diet of fruit, vegetables and grains. Sometimes, people ate meat and fish, but as Hinduism spread vegetarians became more common. It was at this point in time when eating beef became extremely unpopular – cows are considered sacred in Hinduism, and they must not be harmed.
One famous kind of Indian cooking is Gujarati cooking, which is mostly vegetarian. It has dishes like roti and daal. Then, there’s Kashmiri cuisine, which includes delicious curries like Rogan Josh. Kerala is a place also famous for its curries, and it’s particularly diverse because it’s at the very tip of India, where many traders came and brought over different influences.
Punjab and Rajasthan have been particularly important to British-Indian food. Tandoori originates from the Punjab region, and things like naan bread and many paneer-based dishes have been based on Punjabi cuisine.
If you’ve heard of biryani, a rice dish with various things in it, it comes from Hyderabad in the middle of India. You might also have been to an Indian restaurant run by Bengali people, which has also influenced a fair few British-Indian dishes.
When you think of Indian food, you might think of it as solely Indian, without influences from anywhere else. However, did you know Indian food has influenced many other countries, particularly in Asia? Many Chinese dishes like Chow Mein have been influenced by Indian cooking, and likewise in India, there is a noticeable use of more Chinese-style ingredients in some recipes.
Wow! That was a lot to get through. Although food history is incredibly interesting, studying it does have a tendency to make you hungry. Go and treat yourself to something, or maybe try and find a recipe for some of the goodies mentioned here and try to make them for yourself – it’ll be thoroughly rewarding, I promise!
Image from: https://www.pureindianfoods.com/ghee-recipes-a/266.htm