Indian cuisine has been shaped by a variety of external influences over the centuries. As the country was exposed to a range of different cultures and cuisines throughout its history, it enriched its own culture & cuisine. This was not only limited to external factors but also to the prevalent of dense populations in different regions of the country.
Let’s explore the different influences which have made today’s beloved kitchen a worldwide delight.
- Historical influences: India has a long and varied history, and its cuisine has been influenced by a number of different cultures and civilizations over the centuries. For example, the Mughals, who ruled India for several centuries, introduced a number of new ingredients and cooking techniques, such as the use of yogurt and the tandoor oven, which are still common in Indian cuisine today.
- Cultural influences: Indian cuisine is influenced by the country’s diverse culture and the dietary habits of its many different regional and religious communities. For example, vegetarianism is prevalent in certain parts of India due to religious beliefs, and this has influenced the types of dishes that are commonly found in these regions.
- Geographical influences: The geography of India also plays a role in shaping its cuisine. The country has a wide range of climatic regions, and each region has its own unique set of ingredients and cooking techniques. For example, the coastal regions of India are known for their seafood dishes, while the northern states are known for their wheat-based dishes such as roti and chapati.
- Global influences: In recent years, Indian cuisine has been influenced by globalization and the increasing popularity of Indian food around the world. As a result, Indian cuisine has become more diverse, with the incorporation of new ingredients and cooking techniques from other parts of the world.
In addition to the above factors which some may not have been controllable, there have been numerous countries which have traded or invaded India in the past, and of course, left their legacy in the food we eat today. While today India may no longer be a secular country and be waging internal wars based on caste and religion, the same countries in the past shaped the food India eats and is proud of today.
- Persian Influence: The Persians ruled parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries, they introduced a number of ingredients and cooking techniques. These included the use of nuts and dried fruit in sweet dishes, as well as the use of saffron, a key ingredient in Persian cuisine.
- Mughal Influence: The Mughal Empire, which ruled India from the 16th to the 19th centuries, had a significant impact on Indian cuisine too. New ingredients such as apricots, pomegranates, and almonds, as well as new cooking techniques such as the use of slow cooking and grilling were normalized. The Mughals also popularized the use of spices and herbs, such as cardamom, cumin, and coriander, in Indian cooking.
- Portuguese Influence: Early western colonizers of parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries, introduced new ingredients such as potatoes, tomatoes, and chilli peppers. They also popularized the use of vinegar and mustard in Indian cooking.
- British Influence: The British, who colonized India in the 19th and early 20th centuries, had a significant impact on Indian cuisine. They introduced new ingredients such as beef, pork, and lamb, which were not traditionally consumed in India. They also popularized the use of dairy products, such as milk and butter, in Indian cooking.
- African Influence: The African slave trade, which brought millions of Africans to India over the centuries, also had an impact on Indian cuisine. Ingredients such as okra and plantains, as well as new cooking techniques such as the use of coconut milk and curry leaves in dishes.
Overall, these external influences have played a significant role in shaping the diverse and complex cuisine of India. From ingredients and cooking techniques to popular dishes and flavours, these influences can be seen in a wide range of Indian cuisine today.In conclusion, Indian cuisine stands as a remarkable testament to the influence of external forces, geographical constraints, and the rich tapestry of cultures that have shaped its flavours over centuries. Its diverse regional dishes and bold flavours are a celebration of India’s history, embracing culinary influences from around the world. However, as we marvel at the tantalizing blend of spices and ingredients, it is essential to remember the humbling nature of this cuisine. Amidst the concerns of an increasingly anti-secular future under the current regime, Indian cuisine reminds us of the power of unity and inclusivity. It serves as a reminder that in the face of adversity, the fusion of cultures and the celebration of diversity can create something truly extraordinary, nourishing both body and soul. May the legacy of Indian cuisine continue to inspire harmony and appreciation for all that makes us unique.