Food is a universal language
One we all speak on a daily basis. We indulge in its savory, sweet, salty, sour or spicy flavors depending on our cravings of the day. Its tantalizing flavors draw us in and delight our taste buds. With each region of the globe creating its own unique cuisine, there are numerous delicious journeys you can take. So let’s embark on a culinary adventure as we explore delicious faire from around the world. Today’s stop is India.
Dakshin Indian Cuisine Channa Masala
The Land of Spices
Indian food is known for its spices. They are the foundation of every dish and only India can claim it produces the most varieties of spices worldwide. Not everyone has had the pleasure of tasting the exotic flavors of Indian cuisine so we will dive into a little background about its origin and perhaps surprise you with some facts.
Indian cuisine can typically be divided into the styles of Northern and Southern India.
There are 28 states making up the country, each with its own culinary style; however, there has been a lot of influence from the outside world due to the colonization of India as well as through trade. Greek, Roman, and Arab traders can be credited with many of the foreign flavors found in Indian cuisine, including importing saffron.
Many of the staples we now come to associate with Indian food have been introduced from abroad. The Portuguese brought potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, and refined sugar to India. The very popular dish Tikka Masala, consisting of roasted chunks of chicken in a spicy orange-colored sauce, is said to have been invented at an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. Naan, another popular item, hails from Persia, where the first naan bread was created in the 12th century. Chickpeas found their way to India from the Middle East with an origin in either Turkey or Syria. As for Chai, it originally came from China. The British helped popularize tea in India as they competed with China in the tea trade. Rice has to be from India, right? Sorry, it was actually imported from Thailand.
If so many outside factors have shaped Indian cuisine, where can we find its true origins?
Let’s travel back 5,000 years to the Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley where meals consisted of mostly barley, wheat, rice, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables and legumes. Traditional Indian food has a basis in Ayurveda, which is a system of Hindu traditional medicine. Ayurveda defines food as either Saatvic, Raajsic or Taamsic. The Saatvic food group made up of fresh vegetables and juices leads you to higher states of consciousness. The Raajsic food group comprised of oily and spicy food is the foundation of activity and motion. Taamsic food which includes meat and liquor produces negative feelings. These principles where long ago infused into traditional recipes, and while the medicinal properties of the herbs and spices used are no longer as well known, their benefits have been locked into the foods we enjoy today.
What about curry, you ask?
Curry and Indian food are synonymous even though it may be surprising to learn that in India there’s no such thing as curry. The word ‘kari’ comes from 15th century Tamil literature and means sauce or gravy. Over time its meaning morphed to reference the dishes we know and love today. Curry is made from blend of spices referred to as ‘garam masala’ and is typically comprised of tamarind, cinnamon, black and white pepper, cloves, cumin, and cardamom. It gained popularity in Britain during the mid-19th century and since the mid-20th century has continued to expand internationally as different countries have adopted and modified the original recipes to their tastes.
Whether you love samosas, tandoori chicken, kulfi or mango lassi, we’ve assembled a gallery of mouth-watering Indian cuisine for you to dine on.
- Are you a burgers ‘n’ fries person, or will you be joining us on our journey through world cuisines?
- Do you have a favorite Indian dish?
- What is your favorite cuisine or dessert?
- Can you describe the best dinner you ever had? Was the occasion romantic, celebratory or simply surprisingly satisfying? Do you remember each menu item?