Your Order Of Kashmiri Bread With A Side Of Idli & Barfi To Top It Off
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Dear Homegrown Reader,
In a recent powwow in our editorial meetings, I happened to mention that my love for coffee exceeds my ignorance toward chai and toast, and our dear editor took a moment to utter a few words in shock, “Chai, I understand. But.. how can you not like toast?”.
I hope you will believe me when I tell you that I am a foodie, I really am, but I live with certain (many) likes and dislikes. Sign me up for anything chocolate, but pair it with bananas or oranges, and I’m out. I adore the various blends of spices in curries across India, but I’ll choose to steer away from the beloved butter chicken at any given moment.
India’s never-ending options in food are beyond comprehension. With each new region even within a state producing some dish that never sees the light of mainstream, it is challenging to explore the depths of the Indian culinary world.
But, today I aim to take you through just a few of India’s edible creations that are no less than cultural marvels and historic gems. At Homegrown, we do love a good ‘Hey, how could this food have come to be?’ conversation, and often, we lovingly translate them into articles to share these tales with you.
Let’s begin with the oldest item on our menu today, which is also India’s longest-known sweet – Malpua. This pancake-like sweet drenched in sugary syrup is popular in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, too, but took birth in India. From its mention in the Rig Veda to cultural influences from various South Asian regions, Malpua remains a beacon of India’s taste and history.
While I may be one of the very few to not pay heed to chai and bread, it is close to a cultural experience in Kashmir. The region’s kandurs (local bakeries), carry decades of traditional identity and recipes with their bread. When paired with chai, they deliver the bliss people come to Kashmir to find. Chef Thomas Zacharias of The Bombay Canteen lent us his insights, and now, we bring them to you.
Continuing our culinary journey, allow me to transport you to 1912 Punjab in Pakistan – the birthplace of the much-loved Dodha Barfi. What essentially began as a version of modern-day ‘I can’t find anything in the fridge’, the barfi was a result of a wrestler’s need to put together taste and nourishment. The legacy dodha leaves behind is novel to this day.
Shifting a little to the East, let us now explore a bit of Bengali history. The Potoler Dorma, a medley of typically meat or fish within gourds, in fact, originates from an Armenian dish, Potoler Dolma. The Armenian influence in Bengal is rarely spoken of, and how it trickles into food is another untold story.
Lastly, it’s time to dive into the origins of a South Indian dish that captures the region’s spirit, but over time, has also come to be an all-Indian favourite – the idli. With plausible cause to believe it came to India through the Indonesians, there are also theories that state that the fluffy white pillows came with the Arabs. Now, the idli’s various forms are gorged on nationwide, but its origin remains blurry.
Believe it or not, my picky-eating self is more or less obsessed with the intersection of food, culture, and identity. It’s what got us to where we are today, and each iteration of Indian cuisine makes way for another one of these stories for decades down the line.
Alright, time to go raid my refrigerator. Until next time!
Senior Features Writer
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