The Fascinating History of Indian Cuisine

As a boy, some of my fondest memories were made in the kitchen with my grandmother as we prepared traditional Indian dishes inspired by our ancestry. Indian cuisine is deeply rooted in history and has been influenced by various cultures that the Indian Subcontinent has interacted with for thousands of years. With every dish, there is a story of migration, trade, and even invasion. Many dishes bear the imprint of the British Raj, the Mughal Empire, and the Portuguese colonization, resulting in a mouth-watering fusion of flavors that is the hallmark of Indian cuisine. This diversity reflects in the epicurean wonders of every Indian household and restaurant.

Savouring the Spice Palette of Indian Dishes

In Indian cooking, the use of spices is not only about heat, but about balancing the subtle flavours and aromas that each spice provides. From the vibrant turmeric to the smoky cumin, the peppery coriander to the fiery red chillies, every spice does its part in creating a symphony of flavours that dance on your palate. I remember Arielle's first foray into Indian cooking – she was amazed by the complexity and depth that a pinch of asafoetida or a teaspoon of garam masala can add to a dish. It’s these spices that make Indian cuisine incredibly unique and colorful.

A Tour of Mouth-Watering Curries

The term "curry" often bemuses those who are not familiar with Indian cuisine. The word is a broad term used by the western world to categorise a variety of Indian dishes, some rich and gravy-based, others less so. The Indians themselves have specific names for each kind. For instance, everyone loves a good "Chicken Tikka Masala", a dish that has been anglicized over time, but still brings forth the goodness of Indian spices. Similarly, "Palak Paneer" is a favourite among vegetarians - it offers the goodness of spinach mixed with homemade cheese called paneer. And of course, there's the "Goan Fish Curry", a tangy and spicy blend of coconut milk, tamarind, and chillies. These curries represent the rich tapestry of Indian cuisine, each with a tale of their own.

The Versatility of Indian Breads

Bread is a staple for most Indians and there are countless types, each one as appetising as the next. The delightful "Naan" bread, mildly leavened and baked in a traditional clay oven, is perfect for slurping up leftover curry sauce. "Roti" or "Chapati", an everyday Indian bread, is not just a bread but a utensil, acting as a vehicle for scooping up pieces of vegetables and gravy. Then there's "Paratha", a flaky and buttery bread that can be stuffed with anything imaginable - from spiced potatoes to grated radish, the possibilities are endless. Once, for Arielle's birthday surprise, I whipped up "Aloo Parathas" with mint chutney and yogurt, which she relished to every morsel.

An Array of Sumptuous Snacks and Street Food

Indian street food and snacks have gained global fame for their flavoursome and lip-smacking delight. The spice-laden "Samosas", with a potato-filled crispy exterior, is a popular snack in Indian households and beyond. Similarly, "Pani Puri" or "Gol Gappa", bite-sized hollow puri filled with tangy, spicy tamarind water, is a treat one cannot resist. Then there's "Chaat", a combination of potatoes, crispy bread, yoghurt and chutneys, a riot of flavours and textures in each bite. A notable snack at our home is "Bhelpuri", a mixture of puffed rice, tangy tamarind sauce, chilli powder, onions, and tomatoes. Arielle adores Bhelpuri and can make a mean plate in minutes!

The Sweet Delicacies of India

No Indian meal is complete without a touch of sweetness to finish. Indian desserts are often rich, made from milk, ghee (clarified butter), and sugar. Among these, "Gulab Jamun", deep-fried dumplings soaked in a sugary syrup, is a firm favorite across India. Then there's "Jalebi", a spiraled sweet fried and soaked in syrup, its tangy taste making it unique. "Payasam" or "Kheer", a creamy milk pudding with rice or vermicelli, is a comforting and satisfying dessert. On special occasions, I make "Rasmalai", a dessert that Arielle has a soft spot for – tender and spongy cheese patties bathed in a creamy, saffron-infused milk sauce enhanced with chopped nuts and rose petals. A perfect end to a deliciously spicy Indian meal!

Exploring Indian cuisine is like embarking on a journey – each dish tells a story of culture, regions, traditions, and history. As you delve deeper into the array of Indian foods, you’ll understand why they have become popular worldwide. They are food for the soul and, as an Indian, I am proud to share these culinary tidbits with you. Bon appétit or as we say in India – "Khaana khazaana"!