The History Of How French Croquettes Came To India
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Crunchy and crisp outside, soft and creamy inside the croquettes are delicious and indulgent. The story of how they got to India from France and inspired many desi dishes is also deliciously detailed. Originating in France and spreading across Europe, croquettes found their way to India during the British colonial period. 

Through Anglo-Indian cuisine, they were adapted to include local spices and ingredients, resulting in a unique fusion of flavours. Over time, regional variations emerged, each adding their own twist to this beloved snack. Today, croquettes continue to be a popular and versatile dish in Indian cuisine, enjoyed by people of all ages.

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The term ‘croquette’ comes from the French word ‘croquer,’ which means ‘to crunch.’ This culinary delight is believed to have originated in France around the 18th century. Initially, croquettes were created as a way to use up leftover meat and vegetables. They were bound together with béchamel sauce or mashed potatoes, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried until golden brown.

One of the earliest mentions of croquettes can be found in the writings of the renowned French chef Antonin Carême, who served them in the royal courts. Carême's influence helped popularise croquettes among the European elite, and they soon became a staple in French cuisine. From France, croquettes spread to neighbouring countries such as Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, each adding their own twist to the recipe.

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Getting To Europe

In Spain, croquettes evolved to include a variety of fillings such as jamón (ham), chicken, and seafood. The Spanish version, known as 'croquetas,' often featured a creamy béchamel base, making them rich and indulgent. Similarly, in the Netherlands, 'kroketten' became a loved snack, commonly filled with beef ragout and served with mustard.

The versatility of croquettes allowed them to adapt to different culinary traditions. In Italy, 'crocchette' were made with ingredients like risotto, mozzarella, and vegetables, showcasing the country's rich agricultural produce. These variations across Europe highlight the croquette's adaptability and enduring appeal.

Introduction To India

The journey of croquettes to India is a fascinating tale of cultural exchange and colonial influence. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, India was under British colonial rule. The British brought with them their own culinary traditions, which included various European dishes. Croquettes, with their convenient and delicious nature, found their way into the Indian culinary repertoire through this period of British influence.

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Anglo-Indian Cuisine

The British colonial period in India gave rise to a unique fusion of Indian and British culinary traditions known as Anglo-Indian cuisine. This hybrid cuisine incorporated elements of British cooking with traditional Indian spices and ingredients. Croquettes were a natural fit for this fusion, as they could be easily adapted to include local flavours and ingredients.

One of the most popular Anglo-Indian adaptations of croquettes was the inclusion of spiced minced meat or vegetables as fillings. These croquettes were often flavoured with Indian spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala, giving them a distinctive and flavourful twist. They became a popular snack and appetiser in Anglo-Indian households and were often served at tea parties and social gatherings.

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Regional Variations In India

As croquettes became more ingrained in Indian cuisine, various regions began to develop their own versions, incorporating local ingredients and flavours. In West Bengal, for example, fish croquettes known as 'macher chop' became a popular street food. These croquettes are typically made with spiced fish fillets, mashed potatoes, and coated in breadcrumbs before being fried. The croquettes are also believed to have been adapted into 'aloo tikki' (potato patties) among other variations.

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In the southern state of Kerala, a variation known as 'cutlets' became popular. These cutlets are made with minced meat or fish, mixed with spices, and shaped into patties before being fried. The use of curry leaves, mustard seeds, and coconut oil in the preparation gives Kerala cutlets a unique and aromatic flavour.

Croquettes Today

Croquettes continue to be a beloved snack and appetiser in India. They are often served at parties, weddings, and festive occasions. Modern Indian chefs have also experimented with croquettes, creating innovative versions that blend traditional and contemporary flavours.

For instance, paneer croquettes, made with Indian cottage cheese, have become a popular vegetarian option. Similarly, there are versions filled with ingredients like spiced lentils, mixed vegetables, and even fusion fillings like cheese and jalapeños. The versatility of croquettes allows them to be adapted to suit various dietary preferences and tastes.