Did you know your favorite Desi food is probably not Indian?
A country’s cuisine holds a mirror to the rich cultural values associated with it. Indian cuisine is home to one of the most diverse food palettes in the world. Consequently, Indians are also known to take great pride in the bounty of their foods, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From a range of spices, flavors, and aromas- your platter changes according to wherein you are in the country. Different regions of India are famous for their specified cuisines and trademark dishes. In the south, you get mouth-watering dosas and idlis, but as you travel up north, the platter changes drastically, offering you the delights of dishes like rajma chawal.
While a local dish is heavily influenced by religion, cultural choices, and traditions of that particular region- there is no way you could’ve known that some of your favorite ‘Desi’ foods are technically not even India!
Here are eight foods that you love which didn’t originate in India-
1) The Sunday afternoon Rajma Chawal
Living anywhere in a northern/ Punjabi household, rajma chawal comes to one as naturally as a bee to a bud. In case, by any chance, you were one of the exceptionally few unfortunate people who did not like rajma chawal- be prepared to become the butt of jokes- because WHO doesn’t like rajma chawal??? However, as shocked as I was to find out, this extra member of every Punjabi household is originally from Mexico! Nonetheless, it is safe to say if the Mexicans don’t garnish it with generous amounts of ghee, chutneys, and pickles, it doesn’t belong to them anyway!
2) Something sweet, something soft, or your favorite Gulab Jamun
Hands down, the best sweet delight are these russet balls of calories. For as long as I can remember, the gulab jamun has been my favorite Indian mithai. If I were to introduce a foreigner to the pleasures of desi methais, I would start with this one. Except, the gulab jamun, or known initially as Luqmat-Al-Qadi, comes from the Mediterranean and Persia. The dough balls were deep-fried to be later soaked in honey syrup and were seasoned with sugar.
3) Chaa or the tea that says goodbye to headaches
Your omnipresent companion from rainy afternoons to college canteens to the lazy ‘stay-in-bed’ days- chai or tea came to India from Britain. While the “good” deeds done by the colonizers remain up to debate, Chai is inarguably the best thing they left behind. To an even greater surprise, tea was not native to the British either. It originated in China, where the people it as a medicinal drink. Later on, the British started cultivating it in India to end the Chinese monopoly.
4) Not chai and not even the samosa
Yes, you read that, right! The most famous trademark of the Indian culture we see in American sitcoms- our beloved samosa- BEHOLD- does NOT belong to us! This popular evening snack we pair with our chai is just a foreign as everything else on this list. The triangular joy of life, stuffed with potatoes and tons of flavors, was initially known as Sambosa, which originated from the Middle East. It was introduced to the Indian subcontinent by traders during the 13th and 14th centuries.
5) The comfort Biryani
What makes the lowest lows better? Your comfort, Biryani! However, biryani is not merely a comfort food. If presently correctly, this is one of the fanciest dishes you can even serve if the nawabs accidentally visit you someday. As sad as it sounds, the biryani, too, was not initially found in India. The rice and meat dish originated in Turkey and boomed in India after the Mughal invasion.
6) The perfect breakfast food or the Idli
The trademark south Indian dish and one of the most renowned foods in India, Idli is the savory rice cake is primarily consumed as breakfast in thousands of households. This dish originally came from Indonesia and was brought to India by the Arabs.
7) Chicken Tikka or the Pride of Punjab
Ask a Punjabi brown boy about his favorite food, and the list will always start with this finger-licking dish. Chicken tikka, also known as the ‘King’ of chicken dishes, was unfortunately not magically created in one of our Punjabi kitchens. Instead, the word was prepared by a chef in Glasgow, UK, after a customer had complained about the dry chicken.
8) The sweetest delight, the jalebi
Another companion we remember from rainy afternoons outside our college campuses. This pretzel shaped sugary delight is fried and then soaked in sweet syrup to leave your taste buds always craving for more. This heavenly sweet is yet another gift of Persia and the Arab. Also called, Zabiya in Arabic or the Zalibiya in Persian was brought to India by middle eastern traders.