Chapati, phulka, roti – no meal in India is complete without this quintessential flatbread. It’s as much an Indian cuisine table essential as rice. And while North India is known to be particularly fixated about this oldest flatbread, there is no denying that it is one of the easy-to-take-to and yet one of the tricky dishes to make – both shape and softness wise.
But have you ever wondered when and how this meal essential originate? There are several theories about the flatbread’s origin. One says that the roti came from Persia, was thicker and made of maida. Its wheat avatar originated in the state of erstwhile Awadh, where wheat was consumed well, and took a slightly coarse form, which was much akin to the chapati we have today. A probable explanation to this may be that roti for travelers, was like a katori (bowl), which helped you hold the curry while enjoying the meal, thus, negating the need to carry utensils while travelling. Another version states that roti travelled all the way from East Africa, where the production of wheat and the making of round flatbreads without any need of fermentation, was evident. This could also be possible because of the trade route. In fact, stories suggest that the unleavened flat bread was a staple food among the Swahili speaking people of Africa.
Made famous due to Slumdog Millionaire, there is way more to Dharavi than meets the eye. For those not aware of it, Dharavi is one of world’s largest slums; home to roughly 700,000 to about 1 million people, Dharavi is the second-largest slum in the continent of Asia and the third-largest slum in the world. Yes, it is lined with open gutters, homes on top of homes, very poor hygienic conditions and takes claustrophobia to another level. However, what a lot of people are not aware are of the industrious/ tech side of Dharavi with its manufacturing & retail ecosystem worth more than $1B! Residents work/ own various min-industries like textiles, recycling, leather tannery and pottery, furniture and now even jewelry!
One way you can describe a cricket fanatic is summed up by this quote from George Bernard Shaw – the Irish playwright and critic (who was also a cricket fanatic!) “Cricket is game played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools.” This is 100% accurate for the Indian Sub-continent to the point that companies have declared public holidays on important games (*cough* India vs. Pakistan)!
In India, cricketers are revered by the general public – there are temples created after famous cricketers and during losses, protests held outside the houses of the same cricketers! When someone says ‘Cricket is another religion in India’ it is not a hyperbole, it actually stands true! Check out this temple created in the name of Sachin Tendulkar….yup its real!
Most people don’t know what Jainism is and a majority of those who do, think of it as a sub-sect of Buddhism. I have to be honest, I am a Jain and although fairly well-acquainted with the basics of my religion, am not that familiar with its rich history. Reading and understanding is not my cup of coffee so I did what I am sure every sane person will do – I spent 2 days with Jain saints in Mumbai! I am not going to lie – it was tough especially following some of the customs which I thought were archaic but I came away with a deep appreciation of my religion & the fundamental principles it sits on. While I may not agree with everything (my parents are not going to be happy to read that!) I do intend to incorporate some of the more liberating principles in my day to day life.
For anyone living in the Western world, farm-to-table & organic farming have now become part of the daily colloquium with many revering the new trend in healthy eating with a cult-like following. Although still a relatively new concept, these practices have been in place in the East, especially India, since the early 15th century. Farm-to-table & Organic farming practices have been adopted deep within India’s agricultural ethos more of out necessity & ways of curbing costs vs. focus on health. It is not easy to feed a nation of 1B+ with limited use of GMOs & chemicals but overall, India has been successful in containing the widespread usage of these through structure economic & socio-political policies.
Most Indians who practice vegetarianism do so for religious or cultural reasons — though cultural taboos have their roots in ethical concerns. Indians' dietary restrictions come in all shapes and size. Visiting vegetarians will discover a culinary treasure that is found nowhere else in the world. Owing to a large number of strictly vegetarian Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, Indian cuisine has evolved an astonishingly rich menu that uses no meat or eggs. The Jains in particular practice a strict form of vegetarianism based on the principles of non-violence and peaceful co-operative co-existence: Jains usually do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, cassava, sweet potatoes and turnips, as the plant needed to be killed in the process of accessing these prior to their end of life cycle. At least half the menus of most restaurants are devoted to vegetarian dishes, and by law all packaged food products in India are tagged with a green dot (vegetarian) or red (non-veg)..
Okay fair warning: this is going to be a realllllyyyy long post. It is impossible to do full justice to the range and diversity of Indian food in this brief section. Not only does every region of India have a distinctive cuisine, but you will also find that even within a region, castes and ethnic communities have different styles of cooking and often have their signature recipes which you will probably not find in restaurants. The adventurous traveller is advised to wangle invitations to homes, try various by-lanes of the city and look for food in unlikely places like temples in search of culinary nirvana.
We cover the different types of amazing vegetarian & non-vegetarian treats (check them out here and here) to try in other posts but we would love for you to understand the etiquette & expectations first!
In India eating with your hand (instead of utensils like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban India: Use only your right hand. Don't stick either hand into communal serving dishes: instead, use the left hand to serve yourself with utensils and then dig in. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating.
For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Rice is more challenging, but the basic idea is to use four fingers to mix the rice in curry and pack a little ball, before you pop it in your mouth by pushing it with your thumb.
All things you wanted to know about India – the colorful land that over 1B people call their home, too curious to know but didn’t know where to find! This detailed & fun (at least we hope we are!) will make you feel like a local! Giddddyyyyyy up…
I do not speak Hindi…HELP!
A bit of a background: India has 22 official ‘scheduled’ languages and of these, Hindi is recognized as the main Official Language of the Government (there is no National Language of India, since it is a multi-lingual country), with English acting as a subsidiary official language. There are also hundreds of other less prominent languages that are the main spoken language of some places.
A good rule of thumb, each Indian state = different Indian language.
Mumbai is India’s most-populous city, and it is one of the largest and most densely populated urban areas in the world. It was built on a site of ancient settlement, and it took its name from the local goddess Mumba—a goddess of the local Koli fishing people—whose temple once stood in what is now the southeastern section of the city. It became known as Bombay during the British colonial period, the name possibly derived from Bom Baim (“Good Harbour”), supposedly a Portuguese name for the locale. The name Mumbai was restored officially in 1995, although Bombay remained in common usage. Today, Mumbai is India's commercial and financial capital, as well as the capital city of Maharashtra State.
Now that you know a bit of Mumbai's background, here are 10 things that you should not do when in Mumbai!