Indian cooking, in all its glory and variety, can’t be considered a single cuisine. There are more than 35 different cuisines in India, each influenced and shaped by geography, religion, politics, environment, climate, and other factors.
Fusion may be a buzzword in today’s global kitchen, but it’s nothing new to India. Its cooking has always reflected an amalgam of borrowings and innovations from the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Moguls, Portuguese, British, and other cultures that left their mark on the country. At the Indian table, the past is always present. And at the Indian-American table, the adaptation continues into the future.
Monica Bhide looks at Indian cuisine’s history and contemporary expressions, focusing on how modern Indian food combines time-honored and distinctly regional styles with new culinary influences and cross-cultural ingredients. She showcases spices that form the heart of the cuisine, and offers a tasting of chutneys, spice mixes, and other foods that showcase the delicious diversity of India.
The program is held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the exhibition Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation at the Museum of Natural History.
“…the taste of that cold daulat-ki-chat lingers still. The cups were placed in front of us at breakfast time, and instead of spoons we were given flat pieces of bamboo. Each ‘spoonful’ consisted of a heavenly froth dotted with bits of khurchan and pistachio nuts. The aroma held the scent of clay and freshly cut bamboo and gave a hint of what food the angels might consume.”
Actress and noted writer on India food Madhur Jaffrey recalls the vivid and varied flavors of her childhood in an essay in Gourmet magazine.
Learn more about the Beyond Bolllywood exhibition and its panoramic view of the Indian experience in America.