Culinary contributions of British raj

first_imgSo we’ve just celebrated our 70th Republic Day with unprecedented grandeur, pride and dignity. The British, as we all know, ruled India for almost two centuries and had an overwhelming impact on the economic, political and social structure of the country. There was no facet of life of ordinary Indians that remained untouched or unaffected by British rule and the impact is being felt to this day.Apart from the overall impact on the culture of the country, the British also introduced many culinary novelties to the country and in time an entirely new cuisine was developed which we now know as the Anglo- Indian cuisine. Although not extremely popular, this cuisine has its own unique characteristics and complexities which is understandable considering the fact that it married two cuisines that had nothing in common, not even by far. Legend has it that the Anglo Indian cuisine was developed when the British women, the wives of the officers of the crown interacted with their domestic helps and cooks who were always Indian. The unusual concoctions resulting out of these interactions took some getting used to some of the times and didn’t become runaway successes while some others are among the best known global dishes from the subcontinent. In this article let us try and analyse some of the best known and accepted Anglo Indian dishes that became an intrinsic part of the cuisine of India. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfThe ingredients So there is no easy way to say this but most ‘authentic’ Indian food that we swear by today, be it the luscious aaloo dum the tomato chutney, the quintessential gajar halva or even the ultimate comfort food the sandwich simply did not exist before the British arrived in the country. The reason is simple, we in India neither had seen the Potato (which was brought by the Portuguese but the British helped popularise it), nor the tomato, cauliflower, orange carrot and more that completely changed the way we ate ever since. It can’t be emphasised enough that many of these ingredients went on to create dishes that define the Indian cuisine the way we see it today. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThe Loaf Can anyone among us imagine our life without the bread? Well except if you are a Bollywood A-lister that has been advised against bulking up and told that bread is the culprit. Bread was a gift of the British to India. Like most other British culinary imports which didn’t really make a big difference in the cuisine of the people from the poorer classes but had a tremendous impact on the newly minted, educated, middle and upper middle classes, the bread just took the country by storm and to this day remains one of the most popular staples in our cities and towns. So much so, that the ‘double roti’ also was used in many dishes such as bread pakora or shahi tukda that took the humble bread loaf to another culinary pinnacle. The Curry If you travel to the US, most Indian food joints are called ‘Curry houses’ and most Indian gravies are simply called curries. Ironic since before the British came, we did not have a curry, certainly not the way the British envisaged it. The word curry, although said to have a South Indian origin, the curry itself is more of a British concept of a ‘spiced sauce’ than an intricate flavourful base that the Indian gravies really are. Similarly, the curry powder is also a British construct to preprepare a balanced mix of many spices that went into making a curry and to tone it down a bit so that it is palatable to their mild palates. So the curry – the most basic of Indian culinary component, the everyday meal to almost everybody, is a British invention. The Chutney Although the word chutney derives from the Hindi word ‘to lick’, the way the world sees chutney today is actually an Anglo Indian concept. Back in the day, the British thought it would be a good idea to use some of the Indian spices, jaggery, vinegar and use the concoction to preserve their native fruits such as apples, rhubarb or pears and make a relish that they can enjoy the year around. They decided to call it chutney since it basically tried to imitate its fiery, simple, savoury original that was popular in India, prepared fresh, tangy and spicy and generally served with meals as an accompaniment. The Chai It’s impossible to imagine that we live in the world’s largest consumer country of tea. But do you know it was brought to us by the British? In India, there was no concept of tea drinking before the mid-1800s when the British thought it could be a profitable venture to establish some tea gardens and introduce tea as a beverage to the Indians. The British themselves were quite fond of tea and wanted to overthrow the Chinese monopoly on tea trade after finding out how Indian climate was extremely conducive and the soil perfect for growing tea. The tea was paired with biscuit, another import of the British India and even to this day millions of Indians start their day with chai – biskoot. The Sandwich Another significant historical figure in the Britisher’s culinary contribution to India was the British aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a town in Kent, UK who popularised the ‘Bread and a Filling’ innovation to a level where it is today among the most eaten food dishes in the world. To put things in context, Americans alone eat more than 300 million sandwiches a day almost equal to their whole population. In India, sandwiches made a significant impact on the local food offering, especially the snack time foods in the major towns. In Bombay Pao bhaji, vada pao and the ubiquitous Bombay Toast became popular and are among the most popular food of local Bombay street food culture today. Highness Although it is inarguable that the overall influence of the British colonialism on the Indian cuisine was far lesser when compared to the Mughals for example, it still was significant and had an immense impact on the culinary habits of the populace, predominantly on those who lived in cities and towns. To complete this column, let me leave you with a colonial recipe.RECIPE BOMBAY CHUTNEY SANDWICH Ingredients Bread Slices: 3 Potato: 1 medium (boiled and cut into roundels) Tomato: 1 (cut into roundels) Cucumber: Few slices Capsicum: Few roundels Grated Cheese: 50 gm Butter: 10 gm Green chutney: 20 gm Chat Masala: few pinches Method Butter the bread slices generously. Spread chutney on the inside of each slice. To assemble, lay one slice of bread, spread boiled potato and capsicum, sprinkle chat masala on the top. Put the middle bread layer and spread tomato, cucumber and cheese. Add more chat masala and cover it with the final layer of bread. Grill the sandwich in a sandwich griller or toast in a sandwich toaster. Serve hot with tomato ketchup.last_img

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