Evolution of Culinary Taste in India; A Brief Culinary History

Indian food has ever been, tempting, delicious and fascinating, with external influences, great history, and a wide variety of exotic ingredients.”

Indian cuisine has always been rich and diverse. The diverse climate and weather of Indian, 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 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 vegetarianism within sections of India’s Hindu and Jain communities. At 31%, slightly less than a third of Indians are vegetarians.

Once you study the food theory, the finding in general is that all Indian food is made up of six primary tastes or rasas – sweet (madhura), salty (lavana), sour (amala), pungent (katu), bitter (tikta) and astringent (kasya). Looking back into history we find that by 3000 BCE, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper and mustard were harvested in India. Archaeological evidence dating to 2600 BCE from Mohenjo-daro suggests the use of mortar and pestle to pound spices including mustard, fennel, cumin, and tamarind pods with which they flavoured food. Black pepper is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and has been known to Indian cooking since at least 2000 BCE. The three basic ingredients of the spicy stew were ginger, garlic and turmeric. Using a method called “starch grain analysis”, archaeologists at the University of Washington at Vancouver were able to identify the residue of these ancient spices in both skeletons and pottery shards from excavations in India. Examining the human teeth and the residue from the cooking pots, signs of turmeric and ginger were evident. The ancient Hindu text Mahabharata mentions rice and vegetable cooked together, and the word “pulao” or “pallao” is used to refer to the dish in ancient Sanskrit works, such as Yajnavalkya Smṛiti.

India has naturally had plenty of exposure to cuisines from all over the world, having been a part of global trade routes for thousands of years. Various cuisines have impacted Indian cuisine, from Persian and Central Asian to Arab and Mediterranean. Some of the country’s most famous meals, ranging from the substantial samosa to treats like jalebis and gulab jamuns are evidence of such influence. On the contrary various other cuisines were influenced by Indian cuisine and has adopted the taste and flavours of this cuisine. Thai cuisine was influenced by Indian cuisine as recorded by the Thai monk Buddhadasa Bhikku in his writing ‘India’s Benevolence to Thailand’. He wrote that Thai people learned how to use spices in their food in various ways from Indians. Filipino cuisine, found throughout the Philippines archipelago, has been historically influenced by the Indian cuisine. Atchara of Philippines originated from the Indian achar, which was transmitted to the Philippines via the acar of the Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Later, arrivals from Arabia, Central Asia and centuries of trade relations and cultural exchange resulted in a significant influence on each region’s cuisines, such as the adoption of the tandoor in Middle East which had originated in north-western India.

The Portuguese and British during their rule introduced cooking techniques such as baking, and foods from the New World and Europe. The new-world vegetables popular in cuisine from the Indian subcontinent include tomato, potato, sweet potatoes, peanuts, squash, and chilli.

Indian cuisine reflects an 8,000-year history of various groups and cultures interacting with the Indian subcontinent, leading to diversity of flavours and regional cuisines found in modern-day India. Later, trade with British and Portuguese influence added to the already diverse Indian cuisine. Indian migration has spread the culinary traditions of the subcontinent throughout the world. These cuisines have been adapted to local tastes, and have also affected local cuisines. Curry’s international appeal has been compared to that of pizza. Indian tandoor dishes such as chicken tikka enjoy widespread popularity.

Besides this as per Ayurveda the India’s ancient medicinal system, there are three primary categories of indian food – Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Satvic foods had been rated as very good for human consumption and comprises all that’s natural and are minimally processed vegetables and pulses, it is considered to have a positive, calming and purifying effect on the body and mind. The Rajasic food is spicy, oily, salty or bitter and is said to drive ambition, competition and egotistic pursuits. The third category Tamasic food is the least considered food and is overly processed, toxic, difficult to digest and has negative effects on mental and physical well being.

The evolution of culinary taste is a constant and dynamic process with the process of exchange being alive at all times. The consistent amalgamation of different cuisines of the world into our own gives rise to the unique dishes of India.

You get a chance to discuss many more such interesting topics at the Amrapali Institute of Hotel Management, Haldwani. The Institute had carved its own niche and is a top ranked institute in Uttarakhand and Northen India. To know more visit https://www.amrapali.ac.in/faculty/hotel-management/about

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