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Desi Cuisine and food >> Restaurants >> Desi Cuisine

India is such a hot topic these days with India's rise as an economic giant. It is also hard to ignore what is one of the world's most important and influential cuisines. The British may have conquered India politically but India had conquered Britain with its food with 70% of British household having Indian food on a regular basis. In this section, we will present articles on Indian cuisine and food.

Indian food has evolved over centuries and has flourished under the many rulers that India had. Chefs vied with one another to create exotic delicacies for their rajah's. The result is centuries of patronage to the art of cooking and a large repertoire of delicious recipes. Indian Cuisine is becoming popular due to its exotic flavors and healthful preparations. The repertoire of Indian Cuisine is vast and the following are interesting aspects of the cuisine.

You may be interested in the following sections of GaramChai featuring interesting recepies: Dhal Recepies // Curry Recepies // Biryani and rice dishes

Contemporary Cuisine

Indian cuisine is gaining popularity all around globe. It is easy to prepare, tasty and it's mainstay is whole grains which is what people want today for health and environmental reasons. They want balanced meals with carbohydrates, have ample amounts of a variety of vegetables and contain complete proteins and sparse amounts of fat. (Note: Lentils and beans combined with rice or wheat form complete proteins that have all of the eight amino acids) Indian food provides this and more - it also has the health promoting properties of various herbs, ginger and spices. Yogurt, an accompaniment to Indian meals introduces good flora (acidophilus) into the digestive system. Many of our menus are vegetarian, which tend to be more alkaline than non-vegetarian menus. Fresh fruit follows Indian meals, which also contributes to an alkaline balance.

Indian cuisine saves time. Many items can be cooked in crock pots, in a pressure cooker or in electric pans. Beans can be soaked overnight. The whole wheat dough for chappatis and rotis can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. Indian Cuisine is also very easy to prepare: full menus can be prepared within half an hour. Since traditionally we cook with tastes rather than with recipes, Indian cuisine has very wholesome tastes designed to satisfy not only the taste buds but also the human physiology.

Culinary Hospitality

The hospitality of the Indians is legendary. In Sanskrit Literature the three famous words 'Atithi Devo Bhava' or 'the guest is truly your god' are a dictum of hospitality in India. Indians believe that they are honored if they share their mealtimes with guests. Even the poorest look forward to guests and are willing to share their meager food with guest. And of particular importance is the Indian host's pride that they will not let a guest go away un-fed or unhappy from her home. Indians are known for their incredible ability to serve food to their guests invited or uninvited.


A Sensual Cuisine

Indian food appeals to all senses. Spices are an integral part of Indian food. It does mean that they are well seasoned, colorful and aromatic. There are some hot dishes especially in the South of India, but, overall the dishes of India are skillfully prepared with the cook having a mastery over the properties of spices and how they are blended. The cook will use cooling spices as well as warming spices, bland spices as well as pungent spices, sweet spices as well as hot spices. The cook will also use spices for color and healthful properties. Most cooks in India also know how to use spices seasonally. In everyday cooking in India spices are used very sparingly or the dishes are seasoned with very few spices and are supplemented with fresh herbal seasonings.

Fresh herbal chutneys, dried fruit chutneys and hot pickles complement an Indian meal. These small additions to the meal take the Indian menu to a higher level of taste experience. They lend strong flavor impact to the meal. They also balance tastes as they are sweet, pungent, hot, and sour all at the same time. the fresh herbal chutneys make the meal very fresh and tasty. Popular fresh chutneys are cilantro, mint, amla, coconut chutneys and popular pickles include lime, mango, and eggplant. Indian pickles are preserved in oil as opposed to vinegar.

India's Culinary History

The Origins of Indian Cuisine lie with the ancient Indian civilization of India that was called Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. The Dravidians or inhabitants of these civilizations were urban and not agrarian. They had huge granaries to store grain, houses with a drainage system, pathways or roads and public baths. They sowed the seeds of Ayurveda, or Life Sciences, which is the foundation of Indian cuisine. This system was derived after studying the physical needs, mental needs and needs of our psychology and spirituality.

The people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were pushed to the South part of India be the invasion of the Aryans who came from Europe or Asia Minor. It is not very clear where the Aryans originated from but Aryans are to be found in Europe, Persia and India. (In fact the Swastika - a good luck symbol of the Aryan culture is still very prevalent in India). The ideas of Ayurveda were developed further by the Aryans. Many of the texts on this subject were written in the Aryan period.

Foreign Influences on Indian Cuisine

1. The Aryans - During the Aryan period the cuisine the Great Hindu Empires concentrated on the fine aspects of food and to understand its essence and how it contributed to the development of mind, body and spirit. After this period the cuisine was influenced by the following conquests from other cultures.
2. Mongolians (hot pot cooking)
3. Persians - The most notable was the influence of Persian rulers who established the Mughal Rule in India. (click here for more about Mughal cuisine)
4. Turks
5. Greeks (Alexander the great)
6. Chinese (from trading and cultural and educational exchanges with them)
7. Arabs (traders)
8. Portuguese (the Indian Vindaloo dish is a result of the Portuguese)
9. British (Indian Ketchup, tea)

One of the greatest influences on India's cuisine occurred in the 2nd century B.C. The powerful and turned benevolent Emperor Asoka popularized a vegetarian cuisine. Even today a majority of Indians are vegetarian. The two other individuals that helped make India vegetarian are Mahavir and Buddha. (Also the ancient, urban Dravidian civilization may have been vegetarian.)

Asoka was also the first statesman in recorded history that had an environmental department in his administration. This department set environmental laws, posted these laws on stone billboards and had an environmental enforcement program.


Karmic Cuisine - Indian melting pot turns Vegetarian

India has a culinary culture unique to it and it consists of the tradition of vegetarianism, which was reinstated in India during the 5th century B.C. India may have been vegetarian during the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilizations. We do not know for sure as its script has not been unlocked.

We do know that the Aryans who migrated to India, and took control of Northern India, were meat-eating people. During the ancient Aryan Vedic period meat was consumed regularly after an animal sacrifice to the Gods. Among the animals that were sacrificed in Vedic times was the cow, which is considered taboo in the Hinduism of today.
This changed with the rise of Buddhism and Jainism, the founders of which preached the principle of ahimsa or ''non-violence''. The Brahman priests, who conducted animal sacrifices as offerings to God, also began to appreciate this sentiment as it swept India. They began to embrace ahimsa by following a vegetarian diet and regarding it as superior to the Brahminical ideas of animal sacrifice.

A Gentler Cuisine

Jain ideas can be traced back to the seventh century B.C. in India, although it was Mahavir Jain who formalized the philosophy of what was to be known as Jainism in the sixth century. Mahavira, most likely born around 540 BC, who at the age of 30, he renounced family life and proceed to live, for the next 12 years, as an ascetic
This philosophy was also seen as having many good ideals by ancient India and many of its principles have been naturally incorporated into Hinduism and India's culinary culture.
Jainism takes non-violence to a very strict level and respect life at any level including plant life. They make sure that there lifestyle does not cause injury to anyone. Gandhiji has been influenced greatly by this philosophy and in turn influencing Martin Luther King to resort to non-violence.

As a result of this the Jain diet consists of grains like wheat, rice, lentils or pulses and beans, oil-seeds are recommended as they fall under the category of non-injurious food. They are yielded only when their plants get dried of their own after their age ends. Fruits and vegetables that become ripe on the plants or branches of trees or those that fall on their own after becoming ripe are used for food.

Jains are strict vegetarians and many also avoid root vegetables, as it is violent to plants. They also avoid any liquor so they can live a mindful life. Other aspects of their food philosophy is that they regularly offer food to poor people, fast on certain days, do not waste any food, drink filtered water and eat after sunrise and before sunset.

A more Elegant Cuisine

The Persians or Mughals brought their rich artistic and gastronomic culture to India. This influence lasted for more than 400 years and is now part of the fabric of Indian culinary culture.
The two colliding cultures resulted in a magnificent cuisine called Indian Muglai Cuisine. The lamb kebabs were laced with spices, the rice pulaos of India were cooked with meat and turned into wonderful biryanis, lamb and meat roasts were now flavored with Indian herbs, spices and seasonings. Also, Indian dishes were garnished with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins. India was also introduced to leavened breads by the Muslims. At this time the tandoor was created by the royal chefs. The Indian rotis and the leavened breads were merged into Tandoori Naans. Meats were now marinated in yogurt and spices and also cooked in tandoors. Both pork and beef were avoided to respect the traditions of both cultures. The idea of concluding a meal with sweetmeats was introduced as the Persian rulers loved sweets.
The great Muslim rulers brought their panache and elegance of living to India's culinary scene. The idea of community dinning and lavish and extravagant banquets were introduced to India. Dishes were served in jade, silver and Chinese porcelain. The splendor of the Mughal/Muslim cuisine is reflected in the Muglai Cuisine of India which is the richest and the most lavish in the country.

The Final Aspects for Indian Cuisine

Indian food has evolved over centuries and has flourished under the many rulers that India had. Chefs vied with one another to create exotic delicacies for their rajah's. The result is centuries of patronage to the art of cooking and a large repertoire of delicious recipes. Indian Cuisine is becoming popular due to its exotic flavors and healthful preparations. The repertoire of Indian Cuisine is vast and the following are interesting aspects of the cuisine.

- Royal Kitchens of India: Under the patronage of the rajahs of India the art of food was elevated to a high level of advancement and professionalism. The royal chefs understood the finer points of food, the art of presentation and created exquisite preparations.
- Cooking according to tastes : There exists no written recipes in India and the individual is encouraged to orchestrate a dish by using fresh, seasonal and local vegetables. We use spices sparingly and our foods are not necessarily hot. Besides spices we use lots of herbs and other natural seasonings to make our foods sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
- Cultural Influences :. Many Indians are vegetarians having been influenced by Buddha (Indian King and founder of Buddhism), Mahavir (founder of Jainism) and King Ashoka. Our cuisine has been influenced by the Aryans settlers, the Arab and Chinese traders and conquerors such as the Persians, Mongolians, Turks, the British and the Portuguese.
- Ayurveda : India's ancient science system, has given India a comprehensive system of health, diet and nutrition. India's cuisine has been shaped by this science. Ayurveda is the common thread that runs through the various sub cultures/regions of India. Otherwise, the cuisine can be vastly different from region to region.
- Diversity:. India is a large country, almost the size of Europe, and has a greater diversity of people, language, climate, cultures and religion than almost any country in the world. Consequently, Indian cuisine is also diverse.
- Indian Restaurant Cuisine: Many Indian restaurants around the globe are influenced by North Indian Cuisine. Indian restaurant cuisine has been influenced by Indian chefs that had their culinary training in France. They created a fusion of the two great cuisine's by adopting cream sauces in their Indian recipes.

This article copyright to Indian Foods Company, authored by Kavita Mehta, was originally published in




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