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Foreign origin of some Indian spices -

nabadip - Mon, 04 Jul 2005 20:21:30 +0530
Book follows spice routes of Indian cuisine
- By PTI
Asian Age

For connoisseurs of food, curries and spices represent the very essence of Indian cuisine. But a new book points to foreign influence from Mongols to Greeks behind the evolution of the Indian food.

"What has helped Indian cuisine evolve is the constant integration of foreign influences," says a new book published by Roli, Indian Flavours authored by Marut Sikka, a well-known food consultant.

The book explains that from the end of the first century BC, long distance trade played a major role in the cultural, religious and artistic interactions that took place between the major centres of civilisation in Europe and Asia.

The trade routes later referred to as the silk and spice routes, principally were used to transfer raw materials, food stuff and luxury goods.

"Over the years, the Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, Mongols, Afghans, Portuguese, Dutch, French and even the British have disclosed their culinary prowess to the Indians and like an amorphous giant we have absorbed all their secrets," says the book. "It was this confluence of style with the array of available spices that has encouraged experimentation and a keen adaptation of numerous influences," says the book. In an introduction to the spices of India, it traces back their origins clove, an integral part of the desi all-purpose garam masala is native to Indonesia, while coriander has its origin in West Asia. Fennel seeds or saunf is an import from the Mediterranean and garlic is native to harsh Siberia. But Indians love it for its taste. However, the book says to recognise the greatness of Indian cuisine, one cannot ignore the regional cadences also. Even the humble mustard can illustrate these variations. "The pungency of mustard seeds can colour the relationship of a Bengali bride with her mother-in-law for it is a measure of her skill to be able to grind it without mishap. And yet in the north, it is the shoot and the leaves that seem to leave grown Punjabi men begging for more.