“Food brings people together on many different levels.
It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.”
We often discuss food and share recipes, but have you ever wondered about the origin of these recipes?
While I live in the state of Maharashtra, I have traveled to or lived in many of the other states of India. And I have learned to cook, eat, and love the food that is special to those places. India is rich in culture and heritage and the Indian cuisine dates back over 5000 years. Traditions, religions, and culture influence the food of a region. Divided into states and union territories India boasts of an equal number of cuisines. Each state of India has its own cuisine with very popular dishes. The choice of food varies across the country. It is a challenge summing up Indian cooking. The one thread connecting Indian foods is complex spice blends called masala, which gives the food its flavour.
As we travel across the country we find that the food is undeniably delicious and extensive in choice. In no particular order I have picked out some of the states and their popular foods, together with its origin where ever possible.
Maharashtra is famous for Misal Pav and Vada Pav. Misal Pav consists of a misal or mixture of a spicy curry usually made out of moth beans and pav, an Indian bread roll. The gravy is made of different spices, onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies. Boiled potatoes, chewda, sev, chopped onions, coriander, green chilies, and a dash of lemon is added to this gravy. The spicy and thick mixture of the sprouted lentils is enjoyed with pav or bread toasted with butter. Misal pav is a common breakfast or evening snack in Maharashtra.The dish originates from the boundary of Khandesh and Western Maharashtra.
Vada Pav – The vada is a savoury fried snack made of potato that has been cooked with a few spices, mixed to form small balls, that are flattened and dipped into a batter made of gram flour and fried. The vadas are placed inside the pav with sweet or green chutney and eaten as a snack. The credit for inventing the rustic and mouth watering Vada Pav goes to Ashok Vaidya. He set up a stall outside Dadar Station (1966) selling Vadas. One day he experimented and placed a Vada inside the Pav along with some chutney to add more flavor, which resulted in the Vada Pav becoming an instant hit.
In the South, the classic and famous dish in Karnataka, Bisi Bele Bhath, (Bisi means hot, bele means lentils, bhath is rice) is said to have its origins in the Mysore Palace and from there spread across the state. It is basically a blend of rice, lentils, assorted vegetables, and spices, like asafoetida, nutmeg, and curry leaves.
The variety of dosas, like butter dosa, Mysore Masala dosa and Set dosa are also popular food in Karnataka, not forgetting the Mysore Pak, a sweet made from chickpea flour, clarified butter, and sugar. The origin of the Mysore Pak is a long interesting story which you can find here.
Moving to the West of India is the popular tourist state of Goa.
Famous for its beach shacks, Goa boasts of some of the best dishes like Cafreal chicken that is believed to have originated from the Portuguese colonies in the African continent, most likely in Mozambique. It is spicy chicken cooked in a green masala that will tickle your tastebuds. Green chilies, herbs and various spices are ground together. The chicken is cooked in this paste. This Goan dish does not require any accompaniment.
‘Recheado’ which means ‘stuffed’ in Portuguese is a popular fish preparation. A Portuguese influenced dish it is stuffed pomfret or any other fish with tangy masala and onions. It is served with Goan bread.
Gujarat is primarily a vegetarian state with some wholesome, treat to your taste bud dishes.
The Dhokla is a tasty and healthy steamed snack made from freshly ground lentils and chickpea flour mixed with salt and other spices. It is then cut into cubes and garnished with mustard seeds, coriander leaves, sev, and chopped onions and served with tangy chutneys and several pieces of green chillies. The earliest version of the now popular Dhokla originated in Gujarat and is mentioned in the Jain text going back to 1066 CE.
Made popular by a television show the Fafda – Jalebi combination is a dream cheat-day breakfast. Fafda is a crunchy, fried chickpea flour snack that originated in Gujarat during the festival of Dusshera as it was believed that a dish made of gram flour should be eaten to break the fast. The name jalebi is derived from the Arabic word zulabiya or the Persian zolbiya, and was brought to Medieval India by Persian-speaking Turkish invaders. It is a sweet deep-fried pretzel made of wheat flour and dipped in sugar. Together, they are a not to be missed combination. When you take a piece of the crunchy, salty, spicy Fafda and eat it with a piece of the crunchy, sweet jalebi, you stop counting calories.😃
In the North-East part of India is the picturesque state of Sikkim. Strolling through the streets of Gangtok in Sikkim, the first thing I looked for was The Momo. Who hasn’t heard of this Tibetan delicacy? Momo was initially a Newari food in the Kathmandu valley. It was later introduced to Tibet, China and as far away as Japan by a Nepalese princess who was married to a Tibetan king in the late fifteenth century.
These delicacies are dough of white flour filled with a variety of vegetable, chicken chunks, Tofu, and cheese, etc. It is steamed or fried to perfection and served with a spicy mix of sauces and herbs.
Another one of the favourites in Sikkim is Thukpa a kind of noodle soup of Tibetan origin that is one of the most loved food in Sikkim. Thukpa is both delicious and nutritious – a rare combination. It contains chicken and various vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, spinach, cauliflower, and celery all cooked together with spices giving it an aromatic taste.
While these are some of the states I visited and foods I have tasted, India has 29 states and 8 Union territories and as I said – we cannot sum up the Indian Cuisine in one post. Will be back with more soon.
For all you food lovers, recipes for all of the dishes mentioned are available online. Happy cooking. 😊