Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Myth of "Indian Food"

Yesterday, my neighbor brought in a casserole with her signature Prawn Malai Curry. As I was licking my fingers after a great meal, I noticed that my husband was frowning at his plate. He had hated the dish that I had absolutely loved!

What you must understand is that my husband and I hail from the southern part of India. The spices, herbs, and condiments that we routinely use are distinct from the ones used in other parts of the country. Was the Prawn Malai Curry an Indian dish? Well, it hails from Bengal, and Bengali food is definitely Indian. But at the same time, it is alien food for many Indians!

Here are some interesting observations regarding "Indian Food." South Indians use a coconut base as frequently as north Indians use an onion base. Not many other than the Gujaratis add sugar to the vegetables that they cook. The Bengalis are possibly the only ones who consider seafood to be "vegetarian". So a hard-core vegetarian Bengali Brahmin could easily be found consuming fish!

Actually there are too many variations within Indian cuisine to list here. But there are also some distinctive similarities. Most of these similarities arise in the method of cooking as well as in the constitution of a full meal.

I enjoy creating and adapting recipes of Indian food. In the next few posts, I will publish some of my favorite recipes. Feel free to leave a comment or query. I respond, always.

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12 comments:

Der Tommissar said...

I prefer Northern Indian myself, but we made a shimp do-piazza (because lobster is just too expensive), and it was excellent.

I think I'm just drawn more to the onion based dishes.

Tara Shetty said...

North Indians are addicted to onion based cooking, just as South Indians are addicted to coconut based cooking. To each one her own, I guess.

Anonymous said...

i don't know about the onion base thing. i am from an andhra family, and almost every dish we make starts with onion, garlic, ginger, and cumin frying!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other 'anonymous'. Coconut based cooking is probably staple only in Kerala and the coastal area to the west.

The largest states in South India (AP and TN) are probably not much into 'curry', and more into fried/dry dishes.

Anonymous said...

this request may not be totally in-line with this discussion, but I am traveling to Northern India for a couple of weeks, however I am highly sensitive to "curry" dishes, which I have narrowed down to being one of the following Tumeric, curry leaves (from the tree)Tamarind, Corriander, Fenugreek, or Caraway...can you recommend some dishes that will not have any of these ingredients in it as I don't want to get ill while visiting there...thanks!

Narciso said...

Hi My name is Narciso & I loveto cook but i've become bored with my cooking and I would like to learn more.and i've never tried indian food,so what i'm sayin is can you e mail me some more recipes.I would appreciate it thank you.And by the way the recipes I saw on here look very appetizing. cheech_rones@yahoo.com

hugheswg said...

My name is Wilbur Hughes and I am absolutely fed up with the so called "Indian" dishes even in the so-called most authentic restaurants. I have NEVER seen capsicum (sweet pepper) used in ANY part of Asia yet you will find it in every asian dish in the UK. I found the secret. Tomato sauces are in every restaurant. So I found the secret. I say " I am allergic to tomato and capsicum" The restaurants go into a spin and an hour later I have freshly prepared, perhaps not really authentic, "Indian" food.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have just watch the movie Mistress of Spices...m wondering and its very interested to know about the spices myth...or it is real..that we the non India's have never been sensitive with spices and herbs? Just hope someone could enlighten me on this subject. I am so so "in" love to know and have better undertanding of spices and herbs.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have just watch the movie Mistress of Spices...m wondering and its very interested to know about the spices myth...or it is real..that we the non India's have never been sensitive with spices and herbs? Just hope someone could enlighten me on this subject. I am so so "in" love to know and have better undertanding of spices and herbs.

P said...

This addresses hugheswg's comment: "I have NEVER seen capsicum (sweet pepper) used in ANY part of Asia yet you will find it in every asian dish in the UK"
Well, that's not entirely correct. In Northern India, there's a very popular dish known as "shimla-mirch-aalloo" which uses sweet bell-pepper/capsicum and potatoes which are sauteed mostly with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger and dry spices such as turmeric, cumin etc. Sometimes it's just capsicum and potatoes sauteed with dry spices and some garlic, not necessarily in a tomato base.

ALSO, don't forget the defining factors for authenticity do adapt and change over time, so some ingredients or vegetables which were previously not available easily, or only available seasonally, are more easily found now, whether it's in India or outside India. Due to this, people have started incorporating more vegetables such as bell-peppers/capsicum into their regional "Indian" specialties. My mother uses them with home-made cottage cheese/paneer and even adds them to chicken curry, and I often do the same. It may not be totally authentic, but it tastes pretty good and adds some additional veggies to my plate, so bring it on! Thanks.

maheswari said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life

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