History of South Asian cuisine

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The history of South Asian cuisine, which consists of the cuisines of modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, is rich and diverse. As a land that has experienced extensive immigration and intermingling through many millennia, the Indian subcontinent has benefited from numerous food influences. The diverse climate in the region, ranging from deep tropical to alpine, has also helped considerably broaden the set of ingredients readily available to the many schools of cookery in India. In many cases, food has become a marker of religious and social identity, with varying taboos and preferences (for instance, a segment of the Jain population consume no roots or subterranean vegetable; see Jain vegetarianism) which has also driven these groups to innovate extensively with the food sources that are deemed acceptable.

One strong influence over Indian foods is the longstanding vegetarianism within sections of India's Hindu and Jain communities. At 31%, slightly less than a third of Indians are vegetarians.[1]

Timeline[edit]

Around 7000 BCE, sesame, eggplant, and humped cattle had been domesticated in the Indus Valley.[2] By 3000 BCE, turmeric, cardamom, black pepper and mustard were harvested in India.[3] Many recipes first emerged during the initial Vedic period, when India was still heavily forested and agriculture was complemented with game hunting and forest produce. In Vedic times, a normal diet consisted of fruit, vegetables, meat, grain, dairy products and honey.[citation needed] Over time, some segments of the population embraced vegetarianism.[citation needed] This was facilitated by advent of Buddhism and a cooperative climate where variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains could easily be grown throughout the year. A food classification system that categorized any item as saatvic, raajsic or taamsic developed in Ayurveda. Each was deemed to have a powerful effect on the body and the mind

Later, invasions from Arabia, Central Asia, Persia, the Mughal empire and others had a deep and fundamental effect on Indian cooking. Islamic rule introduced rich gravies, pilafs and non-vegetarian fare such as kebabs, resulting in Mughlai cuisine (Mughal in origin), as well as such fruits as apricots, melons, peaches, and plums. The Mughals were great patrons of cooking. Lavish dishes were prepared during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The Nizams of Hyderabad state meanwhile developed and perfected their own style of cooking with the most notable dish being the Biryani, often considered by many connoisseurs to be the finest of the main dishes in India.

During later periods, the Portuguese and British introduced cooking techniques such as baking, and foods from the New World. As with other cuisines, Indian cuisine has absorbed new-world vegetables such as the tomato, potato, squash, and chilli as staples. These are actually relatively recent additions.

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References[edit]