Did you know ‘Potatoes’, ‘Tomatoes’ and ‘Tea’ were brought to India by the British?
Looking at the Anglo-Indian cuisine we decided to go right to the history of non-native veggies that were blessed to Indians by the British.
British Raj lasted for nearly 200 years in India starting with a simple establishment called the East India Company. What started off as a trading company soon gave India its biggest challenge. The very first record of an Englishman or a Britisher landing on Indian soil was on August 24th1608, in Surat.
This article will briefly touch upon the influence British Raj has had on the food segment in India, veggies and other stuff which were not native to India were grown in India delighting Indian palates and giving Indians many gems in the food segment. Of course, they took back several Indian spices native to the subcontinent as well.
The colonial era was a historic one for India, from architectural marvels to city & town planning blueprints to summer houses, to food and beverages, theatre, and performing arts. They sure knew how to have fun.
The Anglo-Indian cuisine in the discussion today was the very discovery and inception during British Raj. A beautiful amalgamation of Indian and British cuisine made way for Anglo-Indian cuisine.
As a matter of fact, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, nutmeg, coffee, and tea are not native to India but are part of British cuisine. The filter coffee which any south Indian proudly owns was actually given by the Britishers. It’s called pour-over coffee in their dictionary.
British officers used to have a really long and tiring sea journey and naturally once Indian shores grew closer their food supplies were exhausted. And they would eat their dishes using Indian native vegetables and Indian spices. Tired of foreign non-native dishes they decided to grow vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower in their back yards. Interestingly Indians loved their vegetables and soon cooked them in their household as well. The first to experience the British cuisine was of course the maids and help at the presiding officer’s quarters.
British Colonial Indian Food. Nothing was all of sudden, over a period of 100 years (1757-1857) the Anglo-Indian cuisine developed. Many are unaware that several veggies and spices were not native to Indian cuisine in today’s world and happily call it their own.
Let’s look at the varied things British Raj blessed Indians with.
- Spices: They are the most important ingredient in any cuisine and so was the case with the English cuisine. And the Britishers were attracted to India for its spices. As we all know the treasure of the world are scattered and can not be found in one land mass, the Britishers brought their spices along with them and those spices found a new home in India. The Britishers popularized prominent spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Vegetables: Once again potatoes are an absolute favorite of Britishers and no! they were not native to Indian soil. yet found acceptance and was grown predominantly to satisfy the hunger pangs of Englishmen, they preferred their meat with a side dish of potatoes. And one more striking addition to the list of non-native veggies is the “Tomato”. This red delicious juicy darling was also grown on Indian soil. Pumpkin too was grown and like we earlier mentioned so were cabbage and cauliflower.
- Fruits: Apple, pineapple, pomegranate, and papaya is not Indian at all but a native English backyard fruit. It slowly entered Indian dessert cuisine by the British Raj. Interestingly the English grew these fruits on Indian soil and had hired Indian farmers to grow them. In return for their hard work, the Britishers along with wages would give them ripe fruits for tasting. That’s how these fruits gained popularity in Indian circles. The Indian farmers were overjoyed as they got to eat something very unusual and these exotic fruits were not initially made available to the public. Later with changing times everything was made available publicly.
- Beverages: Do you think tea leaves are indigenous to India? Nope. If the Britishers didn’t explore our hilly Munnar or Darjeeling we would still be unaware of our morning chai. Yes, you heard it right. The Britishers explored the lengths and breadths of the hill stations. Felt the temperature was apt and tea could be grown on Indian soil as well. Tea grew wildly and in massive amounts in the open fields of Munnar, Assam, and Darjeeling. Later an organized tea garden was built around these open fields. To secure the end product. Apart from tea, the most aromatic coffee was also an addition to the Indian diaspora by the British, not indigenous to south India. Other beverages that helped them brave Indian winters were whiskey, gin, and tonic. Even these were fermented on Indian soil. To start with, the vineyards were developed. And all these processes intrigued Indian minds. Apparently, the original gin and tonic were used for medicinal purposes however later they diluted it to make the gulping easier for a lighter head.
- Bakery: Indians only knew how to make sweet dishes out of milk and various other flours or rice. However, the British and their women always baked at home. Cakes or pieces of bread are not native to Indians let alone the process of baking. So, the out stationed British officers in India decided to have Bakeries outside their homes as India back then didn’t have the concept of bakeries at all. They taught Indian cooks and chefs the art of baking cookies, cakes, pieces of bread, and rolls. That is how we Indians took baking to next level and today we have brands of our own with the finest in baking.
- English Dishes: The out stationed British officers started doing this-in-that concept. As in British dish with Indian curries concept. Merging cuisine and later forming a new one the Anglo-Indian cuisine. ‘Pish Pash’, ‘Mulligatawny soup’, and ‘Kedgeree’. Surprisingly South Indians have chutneys with Idli or Dosa, and English too has their own set of chutneys made with pumpkins or tomatoes. Dishes like ‘Salted beef tongue’, ‘Vindaloo’, ‘Kalkals’ entered Indian kitchens as well over 100 years.
Hope this article helped you see the finer side of Anglo-Indian cuisine. We kept it absolutely brief and crisp for a quick read.