Monday, August 18, 2008

The Great Indian Spice Journey....

The cuisine of India is characterized by its sophisticated and subtle use of many spicesand herbs grown across the Indian subcontinent and also for the widespread practice of vegetarianism across its society.

Considered by some to be one of the world's most diverse cuisines, each family of this cuisine is characterized by a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques.
As a consequence, Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse subcontinent. Indian cuisine is generally divided into two main categories: North Indian cuisine and South Indian cuisine.

Both of these cuisines vary significantly on the usage of the types of spices and food preparation, however both also share several other commonalities.

India's religious beliefs and culture has played an influential role in the evolution of its cuisine. However, cuisine across India also evolved due to the subontinent's large-scale cultural interactions with neighboring Persia, ancient Greece, Mongols and West Asia, making it a unique blend of various cuisines across Asia.

The colonial period introduced European cooking styles to India adding to its flexibility and diversity.Indian cuisine has also influenced cuisines across the world, especially those from South East Asia.

As a land that has experienced extensive immigration and intermingling through many millennia, the subcontinent has benefited from numerous food influences.

The diverse climate in the region, ranging from deep tropical to alpine, has also helped considerably broaden the set of ingredients readily available to the many schools of cookery in India.

In many cases, food has become a marker of religious and social identity, with varying taboos and preferences (for instance, a segment of the Jain population consume no roots or subterranean vegetable) which has also driven these groups to innovate extensively with the food sources that are deemed acceptable.

One strong influence over Indian foods is the longstanding vegetarianism within sections of India's Hindu and Jain communities.

At 31%, slightly less than a third of Indians are vegetarians.

Over time, some segments of the population embraced vegetarianism, due to ancient Hindu philosophy of ahimsa.

This practice gained more popularity following the advent of Buddhism and a cooperative climate where variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains could easily be grown throughout the year. A food classification system that categorized any item as saatvic, raajsic or taamsic developed in Ayurveda.

Each was deemed to have a powerful effect on the body and the mind.

Later, invasions from Central Asia, Arabia, the Mughal empire, and Persia, and others had a deep and fundamental effect on Indian cooking. Influence from traders such as the Arab and Portuguese diversified subcontinental tastes and meals. As with other cuisines, Indian cuisine has absorbed the new-world vegetables such as tomato, chilli, and potato, as staples. These are actually relatively recent additions.

Islamic rule introduced rich gravies, pilafs and non-vegetarian fare such as kebabs, resulting in Mughlai cuisine (Mughal in origin), as well as such fruits as apricots, melons, peaches, and plums. The Mughals were great patrons of cooking. Lavish dishes were prepared during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

The Nizams of Hyderabad state meanwhile developed and perfected their own style of cooking with the most notable dish being the Biryani, often considered by many connoisseurs to be the finest of the main dishes in India.

During this period the Portuguese and British introduced foods from the new world such as potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and chilies and cooking techniques like baking.

Britain has a particularly strong tradition of Indian cuisine that originates from the British Raj. At that time there were a few Indian restaurants in the richer parts of London that catered to British officers returning from their duties in India. Currently, the favourite dish in the United Kingdom is supposedly Chicken Tikka Masala, even before fish and chips.

In the 20th century there was a second phase in the development of Anglo-Indian cuisine, as families from countries such as Bangladesh migrated to London to look for work. Some of the earliest such restaurants were opened in Brick Lane in the East End of London, a place that is still famous for this type of cuisine.

Leicester has become well known for its curry houses, being increasingly known as the curry capital of England.

In the 1960s, a number of un-authentic "Indian" foods were developed, including the widely popular "chicken tikka masala".

This tendency has now been reversed, with subcontinental restaurants being more willing to serve authentic Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani food, and to show their regional variations.

In the late twentieth century Birmingham was the centre of growth of Balti houses, serving a newly developed style of cooking in a large, wok-like, pan, with a name sometimes attributed to the territory of Baltistan, (however, the Hindi word for bucket is also Balti). Indian food is now integral to the British diet.

There are now 8,000 Indian restaurants in Britain, turning over in excess of £2 billion and employing 70,000 workers.

Are we indirectly taking over the world with our cuisine... as they say "the way to a mans heart is through his stomach".... now thats food for thought....

1 comment:

PreeOccupied said...

Interesting piece of information.