I may have commented, quite vehemently, that my mother took my addiction to spice way too seriously. There was really no need for her to use enough chillies to make my eyes tear up with every bite. However, the Indian in me will rise to defend spicy curries every time I hear anyone question its potency. I feel the same way about all the other amazing Indian dishes from jalebi to chicken tandoori. So Imagine my horror when I realised that my beloved jalebi isn’t Indian at all!
The other side of Jalebi
Whether you liked it or not, you would have heard the song ‘Afghan Jalebi’. The item number may not have got much right except Katrina Kaif and the true origin of jalebi. Introduced to India by our not-so-friendly Persian invaders, this mouthwatering crisp dessert drenched in sugar syrup was known as ‘zalibiya’ in Persian. Be that as it may (courage, dear heart), India has made the jalebi its very own. From the thinner versions of North India to the thick jangiris of the south, and of course, the imartis we love, jalebi is ours now.
Dal-Bhaat ain’t desi either
When it comes to adult-ing, I’m very much like a cat—I can take care of myself, but someone else should probably be in charge. This is particularly true when I’m under the weather. I simply need my mother and her tadkewali khichdi. Versions of dal bhaat and khichdi qualify as comfort food for most people in India. What can be more desi than that? Everything, apparently! Dal bhaat or dal chawal is a culinary gift from Nepal.
Idli sans Sambhar
One version of the south Indian staple idli was first spoken about in Karnataka in 970 A.D. However, this one was made solely of urad dal since India lacked steaming vessels (so says historian Xuang Zang from China). It is believed that the addition of rice and the fermentation process were a gift from Indonesian traders. In word association, idli has to be followed with its soulmate, sambhar. I hate to break this to you, but not only is sambhar NOT from Karnataka (it actually originated in the kitchens of Shahuji of Thanjavur, a Maratha), it was also invented in the 18th Century, way after the idli came into existence.
For the love of Shukto
I’m apologising to all my Bengali friends in advance for daring to question the origins of their beloved Shukto. This bitter gourd delicacy is a mainstay of Bengali meals. The Portuguese lay claim to this one. Their original preparation of bitter gourd was amended to satisfy the Bengali sweet tooth with the addition of sweet potatoes and some milk to get the Shukto we know and love today.
Some more heartbreaking truths about the origins of so-called ‘Indian’ dishes:
Gulab jamun and Kulfi? Persian.
Samosa? Middle Eastern.
Paneer? A gift from the Mongols.
Filter kaapi? Yemen.
Chicken tikka masala? Glasgow.