Anglo-Indian cuisine, born out of the interaction of two culinary cultures, has given rise to many fusion gastronomic treats
Among the many outcomes of colonisation, possibly the only positive one is cuisine. The connection of people and contexts invariably causes a positive ripple effect on food, with eating cultures of both countries rubbing off on each other, creating fusion. Homes have always been the epicentre of the rise of anglicised cuisine.
Colonial cuisine comes from a simple act of cooks and domestic servants adapting their knowledge of cooking to meet the demands of the household, thereby unintentionally creating fusion dishes. For instance, the memsahibs (British wives, in the Indian context) with their supervisory role in the kitchens and the local cook with his expertise in desi cuisine, along with the sheer lack of global food products in the 18th and 19th centuries created a ripe atmosphere for the rise of colonial cuisine infused with locally available spices. The imperial households that were supposed to be barricaded from the ‘lowly local customs’ eventually became a gateway for new cuisine types to evolve.
Reverend Samuel Purchas in his account spoke about locals feeding on rice boiled with pieces of flesh or dressed in several other ways. They did not roast or bake their meats that often, but stewed most of their flesh. In fact, the Reverend was so impressed by the Indian concept of cooking meat do pyaza that he believed it was the most savoury meat he had ever tasted.
Curry or gravy forms an important part of India’s local consumption and holds an important part in the culinary repertoire of the British in India. The chicken tikka masala, for instance, sometimes made with do pyaza style and sometimes in tomato-cream gravy, and now considered the national dish of UK is microcosmic of this colonial amalgamation.
The Britishers in India gradually started relishing the range of flavours and spices offered by Indian cuisine and took back the same to their home country after the end of their tenure. As early as 1827, Sir John Malcolm became the Governor of Mumbai and took pride in stating that his grand lunch included mulligatawny (an English soup named after an Indian recipe.
The name originates from the Tamil words mullaga/milagu and thanni and can be translated as pepper-water). Mulligatawny in its earliest version was nothing more than the South Indian rasam, much like how kedgeree, a breakfast snack that found its roots in the Indian khichdi. Interestingly, the ever-popular drink punch found its origins in the Hindi numeral paanch comprising the five ingredients that make the drink complete.
From the Indian khichdi and the breakfast kedgeree also emerged the khichada, a non-vegetarian format of the two —blending of leftover mutton and vegetables with rice. Home made chutney with a sweetish tinge is another offshoot of the British-Indian relationship — supplements to the meal well understood and relished by the Britishers, especially those who spent time in the southern part of the country, and each individual putting his own twist yet keeping it sweet, without the sourness of the typical Indian achaar. Taking it back home led to the spread of Anglo-Indian cuisine by the Britishers, with their favourites being Bengal curry, rabbit curry with vegetables, partridge, mutton with vegetables and soup, desi style.
The writer is a chef and founder, Under One Roof Hotel Consultants P Ltd...