People journey to India for many reasons. With its intricate architecture, vibrant hand crafted silks, intriguing history and unusual modes of transport, you’ll arrive overwhelmed and depart with a renewed sense of self.
Indian hospitality begins with a welcoming smile and traditional greeting. Cooking and eating together is a social pastime, which brings together families, neighbours and villages. In rural India, the ladies of the village or household would sit together making traditional breads, crushing spices and blending powders for their curries. Traditionally, you’d sit cross-legged surrounded by family and friends, and eat the fresh curries, daal, vegetables, rice and bread with your hands.
The British Connection
In the UK today, every town has an Indian restaurant and the majority of supermarkets stock Indian spices and ingredients. Whether you experiment in your own kitchen or prefer to dine in one of the many restaurants, you can’t deny the popularity of the cuisine.
Declared ‘Empress of India’ in May of 1876, Queen Victoria loved Indian culture and was intrigued by the country which she would never visit. Her Indian servant, Abdul Karim taught the Queen to read, write and speak Urdu. He would speak of local fruits and spices, tantalizing her taste buds. At her palatial holiday residence Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria built her own ‘Durbar’ or stateroom. The ceiling was inspired by 16th century north Indian architecture and was designed by the father of Rudyard Kipling, Mr Lockwood Kipling. Rudyard Kipling, was born in Mumbai in 1865 and is most famous for ‘The Jungle Book’ which was thought to be about British Imperialism in India.
Religion and Food
There are a number of religions that originate in India; one of the most notable is Sikhism. Based on the teaching of equality, this belief is practiced everyday all around the world. A Gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship and a person of any faith can enter. Respectfully removing shoes and covering one’s head is customary. Volunteers from the local community congregate in the Gurdwara’s kitchen, where ‘langar’ is made. A Punjabi word, ‘langar’ refers to the free meal offered to those who visit the Gurdwara regardless of gender, religion and colour. Langar is purposely vegetarian so that no individual or group is offended by what is offered.
Spices & Smells
Aromatic smells of coriander, turmeric, cumin and not forgetting the powerful chilli peppers, among others, fill the air in kitchens and food stalls across India. As you journey through India, from North to South, you’ll notice differences in the style of cooking and the food which is served. In the north of India you’ll enjoy traditional breads like naan and roti, curries will be meat based chicken or lamb and the curry sauce will tend to be thicker. In the south meat is replaced with seafood and vegetables, bread is replaced by rice or lentils and the sauce is thinner as its base is coconut milk.
India is known for fragrant spices and even the use of spice differs per region. Southern Indian food tends to be spicier due to the tropical climate. In the north, moderate spices are used, as they look for a balance between flavour and heat.
No meal is complete without something sweet to cleanse the palette. North Indian desserts or ‘mithai’ are by far more popular than southern desserts. From a hot gulab jamun to kulfi, jalebi to flavoured barfi, there’s a variety of choices. The desserts are usually made from milk and include nuts, saffron, Indian cottage cheese, clarified butter and other exotic ingredients.
Take a journey through India, where along the way, you’ll have the chance to feast on an array of traditional Indian delicacies and embrace the many sights and sounds of this fascinating country. Leave your stresses behind and take your first step to embracing a new kind of living.