About Buying British Food | The History of British Food | Introductions to Indian Food

Indian Food Introduction

The English appetite is becoming more adventurous. In the past people have been known to comment that foreign food had "too much flavor". Nowadays we British go abroad more for holidays, and restaurants serving food from almost every country have sprung up not only in London but in most provincial towns. However, an outing to even a modest restaurant is every day more expensive and there are many delicious exotic dishes which, for some reason, never appear on the British food restaurant menu. It is far better to experiment at home.

Indian food is as vibrant, colorful and intriguing as the country itself. The numerous and diverse regional cuisines reflect the sheer massive size of India, its huge population, its history as a trading and occupied nation and, of course, the mix of ancient religions that are practiced. Indian's culinary traditions have been born out of great wealth and great poverty, and offer exciting flavors unlike anywhere else on earth.

Indian food is popular around the world, but nowhere more so than Britain. At the start of the twenty-first century, Chicken Tikka Masala continually tops all opinion polls of the most popular British dish, though its Indian heritage is somewhat suspect.

Popular Indian DishesPunjabi and Bangladeshi chefs and restaurateurs are credited with spreading the enthusiasm for Indian food, especially in Britain, opening numerous neighborhood restaurants in the years since Partition in 1947. And it was the Panjabi formula of serving tandoori style recipes from home along with rich Moghul-inspried meat and rice dishes that was most successful, consequently influencing foreign impressions of Indian food. Yet, as delicious and satisfying as the standard Indian restaurant menu might be, authentic Indian cuisine offers much more.

Looking through any list of authentic Indian recipes, the one dish that won't be included is a "curry". This is because the word is simply an Anglicization of the Tamil word "kari", which can mean two things: the leaves of the kari plant or a southern Indian technique of frying vegetables with a masala called kari podi, hence the term "curry powder". By the end of the British Raj, however the definition of the "curry" had been expanded to mean any spicy stew like dish served with rice and the flatbreads called chapattis, and it is now often used by Westerners to describe all Indian food. Quite a mistake!

Curry powder is anathema to Indian cooks. Instead, different combinations of spices are ground into a masala to flavor specific dishes. Although many cooks still grind spices daily, traditions are starting to change as Indian food shops sell packets of prepared masalas, though never a generic curry powder.

To appreciate the variety of authentic Indian food, it would be necessary to travel the length and breadth of the country, ideally dining in private homes. Tourists can eat well in India, the numerous hotel buffets generally prepare dishes that have been tailored to suit western tastes. Much of the food on offer is not much different from that available at any high street restaurant back home.