The Many Facets Of Indian Cuisine Before And After 1947

After years of British rule over the Indian subcontinent, India got its independence on August 15, 1947. India was free of British rule, but British influence was everywhere, especially in food. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that food has always been the most efficient tool when it comes to bringing cultures together. There have been a lot of examples that show how several countries have adopted recipes and cooking styles from other nations and created some unique cuisines. And India is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

British Influence On Indian Cuisine

When the British arrived in India in the 1600s, they were new to the spicy concoctions of Indian cooks. British food was bland, but with the introduction of Indian spices, a tasty culinary crossover started to emerge. Married British women of "high" status started learning from their Indian cooks and shared with them the finer aspects of British food. This gave rise to mixed Anglo-Indian cuisine. The British introduced various ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and various types of beans to Indians.  

Besides, the concept of "curry" as a dish is believed to have evolved during the British colonial period. If some food legends are to be believed, the term "curry" was popularized by white people who couldn’t learn the actual names of our dishes. While tea was already consumed in some parts of India, the British popularised its consumption on a larger scale. This led to the development of various regional tea traditions and snacks to accompany tea, such as biscuits and pastries. 

The British influence on Indian cuisine was not a one-way process. Did you know that Kedgeree, the Anglo-Indian breakfast dish, is inspired by Khichdi? It was brought to England by all those English people who enjoyed eating khichdi. The impact of British colonialism on Indian cuisine has indeed shaped the way many dishes are prepared and enjoyed in modern India.

After The Partition Of India And Pakistan

British rule was over, and India got its independence on August 15, 1947. Most people wanted Independence, but it came with the tragic separation of India and Pakistan. Apart from its immediate consequences for the lives of millions of people, this partition significantly transformed Indian cuisine forever. "Out of a total of 562 princely states in the Indian subcontinent, 559 accepted the Instrument of Accession and joined the Indian Union. India declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950", said Dr. (Chef) Rajeev Goyal, President-India Food Tourism Org.

India and Pakistan’s partition led to the displacement of millions of people across the newly drawn borders, resulting in the migration of communities with their unique culinary traditions. Many families were forced to leave their homes and belongings behind, including ingredients and cooking utensils. The movement of people also led to the exchange of culinary knowledge and ingredients, contributing to the fusion of flavours, said the founder of The Mad Fat Chef Hospitality and Chef, Anirudh Sethi.

Despite the challenges posed by the partition, certain recipes managed to survive and even flourish. Some dishes were shared across borders and continued to be prepared in both India and Pakistan. These include popular dishes like biryani, kebabs, roti, chitt, bagocha, and saag, along with various types of lentil-based dishes. These recipes often underwent adaptations based on the ingredients available in different regions, added Chef Sethi. However, there were some dishes that became more prevalent in one country but were not as common in the other.

Many elaborate dishes were replaced by newer and bolder tomato-laden flavours from western Punjab. Chef Rajeev Goyal said that cuisine from the western frontier stole the hearts of the Delhi people. Red meat and tawa dishes, or Pindi Chole, were some of the most popular dishes enjoyed across the border. As a new immigrant community poured in from across the new border, new tastes and techniques gained ground. Tandoor started gaining popularity. In 1947, a refugee from Peshawar, Kundan Lal Gujral, first opened a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Daryaganj and started selling roasted chicken with naan, just like some old Peshawar eateries. Using leftover tandoori chicken in a rich sauce with butter, curd, and tomatoes, the makhni gravy was born, and Indian food was never the same again.

While eateries like these started growing, Karim’s, which is yet another much-loved eatery in Old Delhi, stayed. The place has been there since 1913 and is known for its signature non-vegetarian preparations. The food traditions, cultures, and cuisines of India and Pakistan started to evolve independently while still sharing some common elements rooted in their historical connections.

Well, it wasn’t just Delhi that saw a change in its food culture after the Partition; many other states too saw some changes. Places like Lucknow and Meerut also witnessed a shift. While dishes like kali mirch chicken appeared in stalls near the railway station, the arrival of refugees in Mumbai brought with them the widespread culture of snacking in the evenings. If some food legends are to be believed, chaat beyond bhelpuri came with Sindhis post-partition.

While talking to Slurrp, Chef Saurabh Sharma, Culinary Head and Associate Professor, Amity University Rajasthan, said, "While the partition initially created a division, over time, there has been a renewed interest in exploring the culinary connections between India and Pakistan. People from both nations have come together to share their food traditions, leading to culinary exchanges that have enriched the cuisine of both countries". He added that the separation of India and Pakistan also had a global impact on cuisine. The diaspora from both nations has spread their culinary traditions across the world, leading to the establishment of Indian and Pakistani restaurants and food markets in various countries. This has contributed to the popularity and recognition of dishes from the subcontinent on a global scale.