21 Interesting Facts About Indian Food You May Not Know

India is a lovely and culturally diverse country. The seamless integration of its various cultures is reflected in its cuisine, which is deliciously unique. Indian cuisine is one of the world’s richest and most elaborate cuisines, known for its aromatic spices, vibrant colors, and delicious flavors. India has naturally had plenty of exposure to cuisines from all over the world, having been a part of global trade routes for thousands of years. All kinds of cuisines have influenced Indian cuisine, from Persian, European and Central Asian to South East Asian and the Mediterranean. Imports are responsible for some of the country’s most popular foods, ranging from the hearty samosa to desserts like jalebis and gulab jamuns.

Indian cuisine includes a wide range of regional cuisines that are all quite different from one another. Cooking techniques in India vary greatly from region to region. There are bound to be fun facts about Indian cuisines in a country that has so much to do with food history and chemistry. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of interesting facts about Indian food for you.

1. Ayurveda identifies six primary tastes or rasas essential for every meal: Sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent.

Think spicy Indian food is all there is to it? Think again!

According to Ayurveda, the six essential tastes for every meal are: sweet (madhura), salty (lavana), sour (amala), pungent (katu), bitter (tikta), and astringent (kasya). It divides food into three categories: Satvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic. Satvic food, which includes all-natural, minimally processed foods like vegetables, is thought to have a positive, calming, and purifying effect on the body and mind. Rajasic food is fiery, oily, salty, or bitter, and it fuels ambition, competition, and egotism. Tamasic food is highly processed, toxic, and difficult to digest, and it has negative mental and physical effects.

2. Indians consume more Rice than Wheat

The 68th National Sample Survey, conducted in 2011-12 revealed that an average rural Indian eats 6 kg of rice every month, as compared to around 4.3 kgs of wheat while an urban Indian consumes 4.5 kg of rice per month, as compared to 4 kg of wheat.

The two extreme states in this list are Rajasthan which has very little rice consumption as compared to wheat and Manipur which seems to survive solely on rice.

3. Land of Spices: India contributes to 75% of global spice production

Next on our list of interesting facts about Indian food is that India is aptly known as the “Land of Spices” because it is the world’s largest spice producer. The country produces more than 75% of the world’s spices and has the largest spice variety of any country on the planet.

Black pepper has been used in Indian cooking since 2,000 B.C.E., according to archaeological evidence. During ancient times, when the spice was known as ‘black gold’ and considered a highly valuable commodity in parts of the world, the southern state of Kerala was known far across the oceans for its black pepper exports.

The Indian Institute of Spices Research in Kozhikode, Kerala conducts research for ten spice crops: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, garcinia, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, and vanilla.

4. Lentils, Whole-wheat flour (Aata), Rice, and Pearl millet (Bajra) have been a part of the staple Indian diet since ancient times.

For thousands of years, Indians have been cultivating and eating the same types of grains and legumes that they still eat today. From around 6,000 B.C.E., staple foods such as lentils, whole-wheat flour, rice, and pearl millet were found to have been part of the Indian diet.

5. Khichdi is unofficially called the “National Dish of India”

Indian Media, food enthusiasts, and the blogging community have often described Khichdi as the “National Dish of India” for its widespread preparation and consumption across the length and breadth of India. It symbolises India’s unity in diversity and is loved by both the rich and poor alike.

6. India consumes 15 times more tea than coffee

India consumes 15 times more tea than coffee, according to data from the National Sample Survey Organization.

According to historian Lizzi Collingham, once tea production in India gained traction, the taste for tea was developed in India through a concerted effort on the part of tea producers. Initially, free tea samples were distributed by horse-drawn carts belonging to various businesses. Brooke Bond, an English tea company, began experimenting with a fleet of horse-drawn vans for distributing teas as early as 1907.

7. Sugar was first produced in the Indian Sub-continent

Sugar has been produced on the Indian subcontinent since ancient times, and its cultivation has spread through the Khyber Pass into modern-day Afghanistan before being adopted by the rest of the world.

8. Dal Bati originated as a wartime meal in the Kingdom of Mewar. 

Ranking 8th on our list of interesting facts about Indian food is a fact about Dal Bati. What is the best Rajasthani cuisine? In Jaipur, Mewar, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, and Udaipur, it’s known as Dal Bati Churma.

It’s a fascinating story about how the Dal Bati Churma recipe came to be. Bati is a long-lasting wheat dough dipped in ghee that the Rajput kings of Mewar required for survival in harsh conditions during wars. In Rajasthan’s barren lands, bati could be made with only a few ingredients and a small amount of water. Soldiers would bury chunks of dough under thin layers of sand and leva them to bake under the sun. This turned the dough into perfectly baked roundels that could be dunked into ghee and eaten with buttermilk and curd as other accompaniments.

With the addition of two other dishes – Dal and Churma – this culinary creation has evolved into a delight.

9. Mysore Pak originated in the kitchens of the Maharaja of Mysore in 1935

The origins of the Mysore Pak can be traced back to the kitchen of the Mysore Palace during the reign of Nalawadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar in the early twentieth century. The then-royal cook in the Mysore Palace, Kakasura Madappa, used to delight the King with various dishes.

He made a new sweet dish with chickpea flour, ghee, and sugar one day. It melted at the tip of the King’s tongue when he tasted it. When asked what the dish’s name was, the cook came up with ‘Mysore Paka’ in a split second. A sweet concoction is referred to as ‘paka’ in Kannada.

10. Khaja – the popular Indian sweet dates back to the time of the Mauryan Empire

What is the best Odisha sweet? Khaja, without a doubt. Though the culinary art of making Khaja is a source of pride for the people of Orissa, the recipe is thought to have originated around 2000 years ago in the Gangetic plains of Bihar.

Khaja has a long history in India, dating back to the Maurya and Gupta empires. This Indian dessert can now be found in Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh. Each of these states has its own distinct flavor of Khaja making this one of the most important and interesting facts about Indian food.

11. Jalebi originated in the Middle East. 

The origins of Jalebi, one of the most popular Indian sweet dishes, can be traced back to Middle East and West Asia. In the medieval era, Persian-speaking invaders brought Jalebi to India. In the 15th century, this sweetmeat was known as ‘Kundalika’ and ‘Jalavallika’ in India.

 

12. Odisha and West Bengal have been in a tussle to claim the origins of Rasgulla

While Odia historians claim that Rasgulla first originated in the town of Puri where a delicious round dessert, made of chhena, and dipped in sugar syrup, was offered to Lord Jagannath, those vouching for Bengal credit its origin to 19th-century Bengali confectioner Nobin Chandra Das in Kolkata.

Both the states have received the GI Tag for Rasgullas –  Bengal received the tag specifically for the Banglar rasgulla( Bengali rasgulla) invented by Das while Odisha, has the GI tag for its characteristic Odia rasgulla

13. Tomatoes, Potatoes, Capsicum, Groundnuts, Guava, Papaya, Cashews, and Chillies were all introduced to India by European traders in the medieval period

Many common ingredients in modern Indian cuisine are not native to the subcontinent. Potatoes, Tomatoes, Capsicum, Chillies, Cashews, and Groundnuts, as well as fruits like Papaya, Guava, and Chikoo, were all native to South America. They were introduced to Indian cuisine with the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch traders in India in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The humble potato, in fact, was indigenous to Peru till the 16th century and was unknown anywhere else. It was introduced to India in the 17th century by Portuguese traders but became popular in the country only in the 19th Century when the Britishers promoted its cultivation.

14. Bhut Jolokia, a hybrid chili pepper cultivated in Northeast India is one of the hottest chilies in the world. It is estimated to be 170 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. 

Bhut jolokia (also known as ghost pepper), is one of the world’s hottest chilies, estimated to be 170 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The chili, which is grown in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur, was named the world’s hottest in 2007 by Guinness World Records, but it has since lost its title to the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper in 2011 and the Carolina Reaper in 2013.

15. The word ‘Candy’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Khanda’ meaning pieces of crystallized Sugar. 

Pieces of Sugar (known as khanda) were produced by the crystallization of sugarcane juice in ancient India. It soon spread to Persians and Greeks by 6th-century C.E. The English word ‘Candy’ began to be used in the late 13th century.

While the English word is derived from  Old French çucre candi (“sugar candy”),  the French word itself has roots in the Arabic (Qandi), Persian (and) and Sanskrit (khanda) – all meaning Sugar.

16. Rajma came to India only in the 19th Century! 

Rajma or Kidney Bean was first grown in Mexico and South America. It made its way to Europe with the voyages of explorers in South America and finally reached the french colonies of India as late as the 19th Century.

17. Coffee is believed to have been first introduced in India by a Sufi Saint – Baba Budan in the 17th Century. 

It is believed that Baba Budan – a 17th-century Sufi Saint revered by both Hindus and Muslims smuggled seven Coffee beans from Yemen to the city of Mysore. These beans were planted on Chandra Drona Giri – a mountain in the Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka.

18. Samosa was first introduced in India from Middle East & Central Asia during the times of the Delhi Sultanate

Our beloved samosa did not originate in India, as you may be surprised to learn. Samosa is a Middle Eastern dish that dates back to the 10th–13th-century. Chefs from the Middle East & Central Asia introduced this dish in the royal kitchens of the Delhi Sultanate.  The medieval versions of Samosa had a variety of fillings including dried whole-milk flavored with spices and rose water, ground wheat cooked in ghee, and meat.

19. Dosas originated in South India, but its precise geographical origins are unknown 

Historians are still baffled as to where Dosa came from.

According to historian P. Thankappan Nair, the Dosa originated in the Karnataka town of Udipi. Food historian K. T. Achaya, on the other hand, claims that the Dosa was in use in ancient Tamil country around 1000AD, as it is mentioned in Sangam Literature.

20. Chaprah – a special delicacy in the Bastar region of Chattisgarh is made out of living red ants

Living red ants, found in abundance in the Bastar region and their eggs are mixed with ginger, chili, and salt to make this special chutney which is said to cure stomach aches.

21. According to the National Dairy Research Institute of India, Afghan and Iranian invaders brought paneer to India.

The origin of paneer is a point of contention. Paneer has been attributed to ancient Indian, Afghan-Iranian, and Portuguese-Bengali origins.

According to the National Dairy Research Institute, Afghan and Iranian invaders brought paneer to India.

We hope you liked our article listing some of the interesting facts about Indian food. Make sure you let us know some of the historic and ancient facts you know about our delicious delicacies.

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