Indians all over the world are often labeled as “curry-munchers”. But over time things have changed vastly and nowadays, what is heard is simply the praise and appreciation for our Indian dishes and cuisines, as more and more people have become accustomed to the flavors and aroma of our ethnic creations.
As someone with Indian heritage, the experiences with non-Indians and their mentality has led me into a bit of research here and there. I may not be an expert in Indian cuisine but growing up in an Indian household and with my mom’s expertise in all sorts of Indian delights, I have come to realize that we all share the same food choices no matter where we are in the world.
I have discovered that there is no term such as “curry” in India, as portrayed by the people who are non-Indians. It is a blanket term coined by the British colonizers, adopted from the Tamil word “Kari” — which when translated means cooked meat or vegetables.
How can the food choices of an entire nation, with more than a billion people, 29 states, 8 union territories, and 22 official languages be justified in one word “ CURRY”? Sadly, to date, our ethnic cuisines are still judged on the fact that they all consist of one single spice.
We aren’t a novice in the use of various spices and I can proudly say that we are blessed with more than 60 different spices that define Indian cooking — some not so often used and the majority have their own specific purposes, differing vastly in preparation and ingredients from state to state in creating dishes with a unique blend and taste that encompasses the richness of spices, nuts, herbs, oils, and sauces.
In an ordinary Indian household, you are bound to be served food rich in spices and herbs. However, in some households, busy lifestyles, and with modern food choices, the traditional cooking styles are pushed back onto the back-shelf. Fast foods and ‘food on the go’ have taken priority, mainly for convenience.
Our moms' and grandmothers' love language is food. They will tirelessly strive to prepare the various spices and masalas from scratch. On special occasions and festivals, we often get to taste the special dishes made with the most special ingredient, LOVE.
For people with a sweet tooth, we are equally blessed with all those nuts and herbs that adorn Indian sweet dishes with a multitude of flavors and aromas. Come festivals (such as Holi or Diwali) and a typical Indian household is full of choices and all one does is eat. I am a foodie who loves Indian food and love the way we prepare it especially when it’s prepared from scratch. Just watching my mom prepare the simplest dish makes me beam with pride of my heritage, yet the world over is still oblivious to the effort that goes into it.
The word curry doesn’t do justice to our food. I urge people not to use this term to refer to our food but rather learn the different names of the food creations and it’s origins. It becomes more interesting when one knows of the history behind a cuisine. Biryani is one dish that has a mile-long history and is often a subject of conversation around the dinner table. And that’s what ethnic Indian cuisines are all about. Finally, our sweet and savory dishes, spicy and colorful masalas enhance the immune system and train the stomach bacteria for battles that you never know when you may have to experience. There are numerous herbs and spices that strengthen the immune system.
With Ayurvedic preparations for just about any illness you could probably name, one can safely say the consumption of our food has no doubt medicinal benefits as well. Hence, curry is not just a meal but a wholesome delight that not just gives fullness and taste but a purpose as well. So next time when, as an Indian, you are branded, go forth and justify the reason behind the color, smell, texture, and taste of our uniquely curated cuisines, that is a talk on everyone’s tongue.
A hotelier and restauranteur with more than two decades of experience in the F&B and Hospitality industries, Sachin Pabreja is Co-founder of EazyDiner, India’s only instant table reservation platform. He is passionate about changing the landscape of the Indian F&B industry. Prior to EazyDiner, Sachin worked at The Imperial, Grand Hyatt as well as Claridges Hotel in New Delhi and remains focussed and committed to creating innovative and exceptional products in the F&B and Hospitality industries.
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