The majority of us would like to think we had a fairly good grasp of Indian food. Here in the UK wepride ourselves in knowing our way around an Indian menu. In fact, we eat so much Indian food many of us take it for granted. And whether we love (or heaven forbid, hate) a good curry, most of us will have a number of preconceived ideas about the food and its origins.
The only problem with preconceived ideas is that they are often wrong. If you had to name the top ten most frequently-used ingredients in Indian cooking, chances are that chillies, tomatoes and potatoes would be amongst your guesses. But these items were only introduced to India by other countries looking to colonise the country.
The same can be said for ingredients such as sweetcorn. There are plenty of individuals with Punjabi heritage who will claim that their recipe for makkiki roti has been in their family as long as anyone can remember. But seeing as that the main ingredient of this unleavened flat bread is corn flour, we realise that these traditions can’t date that far back. After all, sweetcorn was introduced to the state of Punjab by the British. It’s a similar situation with rajma (kidney beans).
Turn your attention to the samosa and the words ‘Indian classic’ spring to mind.So it might come as a surprise that its roots lie in the Middle East rather than ancient India. Early Middle Eastern transcripts dating back to the 10th century make reference to samosa-esque dishes (including the sambusak). The earliest records of samosa-equivalent dishes in India ‘only’ date back to the 13th century. If this has shattered anyone’s preconceived ideas about the humble samosa, you can take some comfort in the fact that India did at least invent the vegetable samosa!
Moving swiftly onto the tandoor and the picture gets even less certain. Much debate has taken place about where the tandoor originated. There are versions of the tandoor across central and western Asia, but none exactly the same as India’s version. Many believe that the invaders arriving in Indiabought with them tandoors, but how can anyone definitively know that the tandoor didn’t travel from east to west instead? Or (more likely) that individual nations created their own versions independently?
Anyway, start pondering the origin of biryani and things look rosier. There are variations of biryanis across the Indian sub-continent – all of which vary widely (apart from their use of rice). Some evidence suggests that the biryani started life in Delhi, but nearly all the evidence points to India as its birthplace. Making this one dish that has its roots placed firmly in India.
If you are looking for a delicious Indian meal that brings India’s culinary history of absorbing other influences right up to date then look no further than Amaya. The dishes created here are rooted in Indian tradition which is then combined with modern techniques and fusion cuisine. At Amaya you are just as likely to find a classic biryani or chargrilled Madagascan jumbo prawns on the menu as you are to find stir-fried tofu, tandoori broccoli or a pomegranate martini. And one thing a meal here will never do is to disappoint…