Saturday, 25th November 2017
Food & Drink Article
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This Month's Magazine

Indian Cuisine - not just your average curry...

These last few months we have seen a number of Indian restaurants opening their doors here on the Costa del Sol. They seem to have become quite popular, even with the Spanish locals who succumb to curiosity, try it and return as regular diners.

Indian civilization is more than 5000 years old and is the largest democracy in the world. It is the second most populated and the seventh largest country of the world, about 1/3 the size of United States. India is also a country with probably the largest and most diverse mixture of races to include all the five major racial types.
 
At various periods of India's long history, successive waves of settlers and invaders including the Aryans, Parthians, Greeks and Central Asians, Jews and Zoroastrians came into the country to merge with the local population. This explains the variety of racial types, cultures, languages and of course the cuisine that is very varied indeed. India has a culinary culture unique to it and it is based on the tradition of vegetarianism, which was reinstated in India during the 5th century B.C. We do know that the Aryans who migrated to India, and took control of Northern India, were meat-eating people, however this changed with the rise of Buddhism and Jainism, the founders of which preached the principle of ahimsa or ''non-violence''.
 
The Brahman priests, who conducted animal sacrifices as offerings to God, also began to appreciate this sentiment as it swept India. They began to embrace ahimsa by following a vegetarian diet and regarding it as superior to the Brahminical ideas of animal sacrifice. Having said this, of course it is not as simple. The Muslims from western Asia also brought their rich artistic and gastronomic culture to India and the two colliding cultures resulted in a magnificent cuisine called Muglai Cuisine. The lamb kebabs were laced with spices, the rice pulaos of India were cooked with meat and turned into wonderful biryanis, lamb and meat roasts were now flavoured with Indian herbs, spices and seasonings. Also, Indian dishes were garnished with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins. The Muslims also introduced India to leavened breads.
 
This is when the royal chefs created the tandoor. The Indian rotis and the leavened breads were merged into Tandoori Naans. Meats were now marinated in yoghurt and spices and also cooked in tandoors. Both pork and beef were avoided to respect the traditions of both cultures. The idea of concluding a meal with sweetmeats was introduced because the Persian rulers loved it. It is in fact the great Muslim rulers who brought their panache and elegance of living to India's culinary scene along with the idea of community dinning and lavish and extravagant banquets. Dishes were served in jade, silver and Chinese porcelain. The splendour of the Mughal/Muslim cuisine is reflected in the Muglai Cuisine of India, the richest and the most lavish in the country. There is one other important reason for trying this very flavoursome and varied cuisine.


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A study published by the American Lung Association in 1996, in New York, has found that Indian children living in England whose diet consisted largely of foods from their native country were less likely to have symptoms of asthma and allergy than Indian youngsters who ate a primarily Western diet. The researchers did state that they could not be certain whether the Indian diet itself was responsible for the protective effect or whether children whose families ate mostly Indian foods also had other lifestyle factors that protected against asthma.
 
All the same, study co-author Dr. John Britton noted that the average Indian diet tends to be healthier than the average Western diet, which he said might help explain the findings. "Indian diets tend to contain more vegetables, less meat and fewer additives and packaged and processed foods than the traditional British diet," said Dr. Britton, of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Nottingham in England. The findings were similar for children eating vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.
 
The research was based on asking parents of 539 Indian children and 308 white children ages 8 to 11 in four schools in the English city of Leicester to complete questionnaires about their children's diets and other lifestyle factors as well as testing them for allergies and asthma.
 
Indian children who ate the most Indian food were least likely to have abnormally sensitive airways, a sign of asthma. The study also found that the more Indian food they ate, the lower their risk of allergy.



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