Food History: India’s 5 most famous dishes
We’re a nation of hedonists and our guilty pleasure of preference is food. And for all our diversity and differences, food is the one common element that unites us all despite the fact that cuisines from different parts of the country are incredibly varying. Still, you might have wondered while enjoying the rich culinary culture of the country, who developed certain staples like the Biryani or a chicken tandoori, and how they came to be? No?
So here it is:
The word “biryani” originates from the Persian word, birian which means ‘fried before cooking.’ Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631), Shah Jahan’s queen, once visited army barracks and thought that the soldiers were under-nourished. Therefore, she asked the chef to prepare a special dish, which provided balanced nutrition. After a few rejections, she finally settled on biriyani, considering it the “complete meal” which could be eaten as a single serving.
Although Kebabs are the pride of the Middle East and also find a place in the hearts of every Indian, the dish itself was invented during the Medieval Era in Turkey. The story says that in order to save meat during their travels, the soldiers cut it up in small pieces, grilled it and ate it with some bread. The word itself is a huge giveaway – Kebab in Turkish loosely translates to “Skewered Grilled-Meat”. Although the dish and the word are both Turkish, the dish is served all over the world today. In India, too, it is particularly loved, and of course, we Indians have come up with our own vegetarian version of it.
The samosa is one of the most famous snacks in India today. However, its origins can be traced back to Central Asia. If legend is to be believed, various traders traveled to India using ancient trade routes from Central Asia. Since heavy food could not be carried around, they started cooking small, crisp mince-filled triangles that were easy to make at the campfire during night halts, and were also convenient to be packed into saddlebags as snacks for the next day’s journey. Eventually, it found its way to India. However, since most Indians were vegetarians, they replaced the mince filling with vegetables or potatoes – and soon, the Samosa was a huge hit, both among the locals and kings.
4. Pav Bhaji:
Pav Bhaji as a dish originated in the city of Mumbai. Every day, the many mill workers would have lunch breaks that were too short for a full meal. As they had to return to rigorous physical labour immediately after, a light lunch was preferred to a heavy one. Noticing the plight of the workers, a local vendor created the dish using leftover ingredients of other dishes available on the menu. Roti or rice, which would be saved for other dishes, was replaced with pav and the curries that usually go with Indian bread or rice were amalgamated into just one spicy mixture, the ‘bhaji’. The tasty, spicy dish was an instant hit with the mill workers, and eventually found its way into restaurants only to become one of the most loved dishes all over the city.
5. Butter Chicken
Last but not the least, the origins of butter chicken can be traced back to New Delhi. It is regarded to have been first introduced by a restaurant called Moti Mahal, cooked by Chef Simon Mahil Chahal. So the story goes something like this: After the restaurant shut down late at night, the restaurant was visited by a VIP guest who asked for “some chicken dish” to be prepared for him. The chef looked into his supplies and discovered that he only had half of a Tandoori chicken to cook with. So, hastily, he improvised and tossed it with liberal amounts of butter, tomato, and garam masala and prepared an unkown dish. What he didn’t know what he the dish he made was for the ruler of Mareelun –who, unsurprisingly, loved it.
Original Source: Homegrown