Indian cuisine has been shaped by a variety of external influences over the centuries, as the country has been exposed to a range of different cultures and cuisines throughout its history. The cuisine has also been shaped the country’s history, culture, and geography.
Let’s explore the different influences which have made todays 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, who ruled parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries, introduced a number of new ingredients and cooking techniques to the country. 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. The Mughals introduced new ingredients such as apricots, pomegranates, and almonds, as well as new cooking techniques such as the use of slow cooking and grilling. The Mughals also popularized the use of spices and herbs, such as cardamom, cumin, and coriander, in Indian cooking.
- Portuguese Influence: The Portuguese, who colonized parts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries, introduced new ingredients such as potatoes, tomatoes, and chili peppers to the country. 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. The Africans introduced new ingredients such as okra and plantains to India, 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 flavors, these influences can be seen in a wide range of Indian cuisine today.