Indian Cuisine Focus – First Bite Series

15September 2021

Indian cuisine Focus – First Bite Series – contains info about Indian dishes, spices, desserts, misconceptions, kinds of bread, beverages, facts, flavours and tips, all about Indian cuisine.

Introduction – Indian Cuisine Focus – First Bite Series

It may not have always been evident, but history has been kind to us as residents here in Wembley. By a set of chance events, Wembley has become home to some of the tastiest food anyone can eat in the world.

On this particular occasion, I’m referring to Indian food. Britain dominated India for several centuries, so perhaps those events were most likely inevitable than might at first appear. 

The introduction of foods into countries often comes from the travel between countries. Travel between India and England would have cross-pollinated both countries.

We also know that countries trade with each other and that in India’s case, spices played an essential part throughout its long history. History has shown that conquest, as in India’s case specifically, plays a significant role in the availability of foods outside of India.

Countries that neighbour others or countries in relative proximity will trade with other countries. Therefore easy-to-prepare ingredients or combinations of such will have led to some adoption of those dished in other countries. 

 

map showing regions of india
India map

India has been influenced by its past British and Portuguese rulers and by its neighbours. 

And looking at the countries around India, we see Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma), Iran (Persia), China, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kathmandu and even Bhutan. 

Therefore, you can be confident that we all benefit now, on a culinary level, from the influences originating in those countries.

In recent years, people have travelled the globe as sailors, professionals, and students and carried traditions as they went. They typically seek to settle wherever local familiar faces and customs may be. 

Some people left their homeland by the notion of living a better life and the seemingly available opportunities. People also came for short-term work, settled and made England their home.

For example, history shows that Indians were indentured to places like British Guiana (now Guyana), Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius, to name but a few. The food of all of these places got influenced by people from India.

Regarding England, it would be a mistake to assume that all people of Indian (or Pakistani for that matter) descent who came to England did so only from India. According to Wikipedia, most British Indians are of Punjabi and Gujarati descent. 

So in Wembley’s case, a significant proportion of immigrants to Wembley came from India and East Africa. 

What Are Some Big Facts About India?

01: Population of India

According to the US CIA Factbook, India has 1.34bn people.

02: Religions of India

India comprises the following religions – Hindu 79.8%, Muslim 14.2%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.7%, other and unspecified 2% (2011 est.)

03: Regions and Territories of India

As shown above, in the map of India, India has 28 states and eight union territories*; Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh*, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu*, Delhi*, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir*, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh*, Lakshadweep*, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry*, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal

04: Area of India

India is 3,287,263 sq km in size

05: Bordering Countries

The following six countries border India:

    1. Bangladesh 4142 km,
    2. Bhutan 659 km,
    3. Burma 1468 km,
    4. China 2659 km,
    5. Nepal 1770 km,
    6. Pakistan 3190 km

What Makes Indian Cuisine So Tasty?

I am singling out Indian cuisine for your kind attention in this short series. I’m raising focus on how fortunate we have been in having ready access to such tasty foods.

indian-sweets-assorted
Indian-sweets-assorted

Great-tasting cuisine comes from several factors, in no particular order:

    1. The locally available ingredients
    2. Food customs & traditions
    3. The influences from what others do in neighbouring countries
    4. Local geography determines how easy items can be transported (or not)
    5. Closeness to the sea or ocean (or not) affects the freshness of seafood and luxury foods
    6. Which other exciting ingredients can be quickly and cheaply imported or exchanged?
    7. The ingenuity and creativity of people
    8. The capacity people have to experiment
    9. The movement of people and goods (restricted or otherwise) across seas, borders, deserts and landmasses
    10. Time, of which there has been no shortage

The most significant element in the list above is invisible. It is, of course, time. It takes time for great cuisines to develop and people to figure things out and make adjustments.

And India, as a civilisation, has been around for many years, long before Britain or other European nations took an interest in it.

 

indian-spices-assorted
Spices and herbs

To celebrate our good fortune, I’ve put together a series of short(ish) articles about various aspects of Indian cuisine – our First Bites series. They are all about providing you with small bites of hopefully useful, exciting and practical information. 

We haven’t focused on providing recipes per se, as this site is more about eating out in and around Wembley than eating in at home. We may add more recipes over time.

What Is Essential For Indian Cuisine?

We’ll cover essential things you need to know about the cuisine, like:

    1. Which spices make it unique
    2. Some easy dishes you can easily prepare
    3. Some of the food terms you’ll come across from time to time
    4. Tips for choosing a good restaurant
    5. Some fun facts about India that you might not know
    6. Clearing up food misconceptions.
    7. Some of the classic kinds of bread, desserts, popular beverages that the cuisine offers
    8. And much more

What Articles Are in Our Indian Cuisine Focus: First Bite Series?

Here then, for your convenience, is a list of the topics we’ve covered so far.

    1. 7 Tasty Indian Dishes You Can Make Yourself At Home 
    2. Discover Your First 4 Best Spices For Indian Cooking
    3. Discover 5 of India’s Most Popular Desserts For Your Next Meal Out 
    4. Top 4 Big Myths & Misconceptions About Indian Cuisine
    5. The 7 Most Widely Used Types of Bread In Indian Food
    6. How To Order Indian Food Today Like An Indian
    7. Use These 8 Tips To Find A Great Indian Restaurant Nearby
    8. 10 Most Popular Indian Beverages You Should Try
    9. Popular Indian Food Dishes To Order At A Restaurant
    10. Quick Facts About Indian Food You Should Know
    11. Fun Facts About Indian Restaurants
    12. Big Flavours That Make Indian Food World Famous.
    13. How To Blend Indian Cooking With British Food
    14. … more to follow

We hope you enjoy our First Bite series of short articles. 

What Are Some Indian Food Basics?

If you’re unfamiliar with Indian Cuisine, here are two good first bites of information you should know:

01: Indian Food Theory.

If you’re under the presumption that Indian food is all about being spicy, you’re mistaken! All Indian dishes consist of six different tastes. The flavours include: sweet, spicy, bitter, salty, pungent and astringent. 

An authentic Indian meal course will balance every one of these flavours as achievable. 

indian-food-thali-indian-style
Indian food Thali Indian-style meal with chicken meat and Masala tea Chai on wooden table

02: Indian Food is Diverse

India, like China, is among the earliest civilisations on the planet. India’s modern-day diversity is attributable to its long history, and it encompasses an expansive terrain with 28 regions (see above) spanning different climates. 

Each region has its beliefs, religion, language and character, so it’s not surprising that each has its unique way of preparing meals. From the cooking techniques to the ingredients used, every region significantly differs. 

Indian cuisine is the perfect representation of its diversity with an array of ancient cultures and traditions. The combination of various culinary arts explains the intricacy of Indian food. 

Quote: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well – Virginia Woolf.”

03: Indian Food is Vast

Bear in mind when you read these articles that it is nearly impossible to do anything more than introduce the various aspects of the food and note too that there are potentially multiple variants of any food.

For example, here is a list of 15 variations of Samosas

    1. Cheese Corn Samosa
    2. Paneer Chilli Samosa
    3. Manchurian Samosa
    4. Keema Samosa
    5. Allo Samosa
    6. Macaroni Samosa
    7. Spring roll Samosa
    8. lemon chicken Samosa
    9. Pizza Samosa
    10. Achari Chaap Samosa
    11. White Paste Samosa
    12. Butter Chicken Samosa
    13. Malai Mushroom Samosa
    14. Noodle Samosa
    15. Chocolate Samosa

And, for good measure, here is a list of 15 different kinds of Paratha.

    1. Mirchi Papad Paratha
    2. Mix veg Paratha
    3. Seekh Kebab Pocket chicken Paratha
    4. Shakkar Chini Paratha
    5. Pan Pizza Paratha
    6. Rajma Galoti Paratha
    7. Khata Meetha Paratha
    8. Rabri Paratha
    9. Achari Mushroom Paratha
    10. Bohri Mutton Keema Paratha
    11. Allo Pyaaz Paratha
    12. Prawn Chettinadu Paratha
    13. Spinach Corn And Cheese Paratha
    14. Pav Bhaji Paratha
    15. Soya Keema Paratha

Those are simply two of the many commonly found food items saying nothing of the other sweets, chutneys, drinks, appetisers and so on.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, why not leave them below or in the comments of each article.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some other series that might interest you.

    1. Indian Cuisine Focus: First Bite Series.
    2. Chinese Food Focus: First Bite Series.
    3. Coffee Focus: First Sip Series.
    4. Wine Focus: First Glass Series.
    5. Vegetarian Food Focus: First Look Series.

Don McDonald

Why not check out the details of our other cuisines?

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