My favorite Indian dish is Rajma Chawal. It’s the one thing on my palette that without a doubt looks at Chinese ‘delicacies’ as if those were untouchables. But then, there are a vast number of dishes that could give such a feeling – national dishes of nations from the far side of the world, and even cultures we’ve only now begun to know well.
Dishes help us, humans (as well as a lot of animals), imagine any nation in its deepest and truest colors, in its undisputed vibrancy. And a national dish defines the image of any nation … and strengthens it. Such as the ‘drizzly’ nature of England is defined by its delicacy of fish and chips, and the large scale consumption of tea around the nation – in its counties and the countryside. In a very similar manner, Germans’ love for horse-meat and wine can be seen in its Sauerbraten, one of Germany’s national dishes.
But What About India?
In India, the case with its national dish is the same as it was once with its national sport. Making more of a façade than a face for our ‘great’ nation. Apparently, India has, like, more culturally challenged citizen than physically and economically challenged people. Some of us are characterised as ‘don’t know, don’t care’ people; many of us tend to be characterised as ‘know but who cares’ people; while only a very meagre percentage of our vast population knows the what and why of our national foods.
What Is the ‘National Food of India’?
Just to make you aware,
The national food of India is Khichdi, as several sources report.
Among the most recognised dishes in India, which are Khichdi, Samosa, Tandoori Chicken, Dal Makhani and Rogan Josh, some sources in and around late 2017 stated that Khichdi had finally earned the ‘National Dish’ tag. On an extended note, however, the then Union Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal clarified it was only selected for the World Food India event in a bid to popularise it, thus ruling out the possibilities of any single dish being called the unanimous taste of a varied India.
And, so, we can still touch the different number of dishes that enjoy spread popularity all around India to relish the ‘Indian’ taste, ranging from Rajma Chawal, in Kashmir, to Fish Curry, in West Bengal, to Idli Sambhar in South India.
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What Makes It the ‘Indian Palette’?
The variety of delicacies that defines the Indian palette depends on a number of factors, as it is anywhere in the world: the culture of the specific region a dish traces its origins in –
To top it all, what most influences any Indian dish is the spice used. To speak of which, if dishes are people, the spices are God … fate-deciding God. Ranging from one combination of spices in Samosa to another in Tandoori Chicken and yet another in Khichdi and Dal Makhani, the Indian subcontinent is a wholly ‘spiced up’ part of our modern world, as its variety of spices become the face of belts in the Indian nation, alongside Pakistan and Sri Lanka; for example:
- Samosa, the now famous ‘non Indian-born’ citizen of our nation, tracing its origins back to medieval or probably even earlier times in the Middle East, is unanimously relished in the whole of India. What makes it a hero in our part of the world is the chutney that it comes with on our plates, such as mint, coriander or tamarind. It thus defines the mild climate that prevails in our nation – the soils, and the pattern of the sun and rain.
- Khichdi, born in India, traces its history back to Seleucus’ time and even before: more than 800 years before now. ‘Khichdi has got a really valid AADHAAR CARD.’ And its popularity is undoubtedly based on the ease of cooking, and the variations it has embraced – the ingredients ranging from green chana to green sprouts, sunflower seeds and flax seeds. And to add to it all, it can be garnished with coriander and served with pickle and buttermilk.
- Dal Makhani, which is another of the many Indian favorites, coming out specifically from the Punjab region, which is known for its agricultural fields. A staple in the Indian subcontinent, it is a dish of unusual importance, because of the time it takes in cooking, with the best butter and cream at the ready, thus making it a recipe for ceremonial occasions. But the list doesn’t just end here, does it? No, of course not!
However, let’s leave those remaining wonderful dishes for some other time, because we don’t want you to leave us just yet, because there’s time enough, I’m sure!
And even though India is (on a rough note) a nation of culturally challenged citizens, she is not culturally challenged herself; there’s a lot we have here, and a lot and a lot more. Besides, if you have now read this essay in its entirety (which I’m sure you’ve done!) as I have penned it down, I’m sure this ‘culturally-challenged-ness’ will be over soon too.
Stay with us!
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Jayant Kashyap is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, with poems appearing in numerous magazine all over the world, and somewhat of a foodie (so, a food blogger). His debut poetry chapbook, Survival, comes earlier in 2019 from NY-based Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is also the co-founder and editor of literary magazine Bold + Italic.