Being an Indian cuisine fanatic, I have been harboring a nagging doubt for the past few years.
We are all being conned.
Most of the so called Indian “regional recipes” online are in fact a fusion “global style”, influenced mainly by Indian Restaurants and trigger happy spice enthusiasm. Seeing the same recipe (basic ingredient X, cooked in ginger-garlic-tomato-onion paste [with or without coconut cream], supporting the ubiquitous cumin-mustard seed-cinnamon-turmeric-coriander-cardamon and topped off with Garam Masala) being passed as “Kashmiri” as often as it is being passed as “Moghuli” or “Maharshtran” made me realize strong forces are afoot, influencing peoples conceptions in a big way.
The Indian Cuisine is going through a globalization flattening. This multi-layered, intricate cuisine is slowly becoming single dimensioned, and as complex as that single dimension may be, it is still a far cry away from the original (ort so I suspect).
It is my belief that when using spices and pastes, one must call the shots with precision and restraint, and not blast away on automatic, using all the spices at one’s disposal. Thus, I embarked on a quest to find, learn and record the authentic Indian Regional Cuisine, in order to highlight the different use of techniques and masalas, that developed in the different Indian States/Regions.
What is Kashmiri Cuisine? The restaurant would have us believe it is a “regular” masala with some nuts and raisins dumped on it. Indian restaurant have their own agenda, mainly to produce easy to recognize genres, that require little effort in preparing, reheating and branding, not to mention ones that cater to the common denominator. Anything you chuck enough butter on would be palatable, and that’s exactly what we are getting in the average Indian restaurant. This modus operandi has successfully branded numerous Indian recipes, and influenced scores of would be chefs who gladly try to duplicate the recipes at home, believing them to be authentic, and missing out on a lot of nuances that are available only by independent exploration (that is if you are not fortunate enough to have an Indian grandmother of your own).
So what is the India Project?
Well, it is my intention to go over the different Indian states and try to glean the specific approaches and techniques of each. A region’s cuisine is clearly influenced by its climate, but also by its people’s religious practices, and its trade/conquest scenarios. One may argue that such influences also contribute to a generic flattening, or consolidation. While it is definitely true, such flattening was much slower and “organic” and gave rise to the merging of techniques and approaches, rather than the synthetic replacement of diversity by a single “all inclusive” recipe we see today.
Where do I get the nerve?
Well, I just love Indian Cuisine that much.
So if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please contact me via the contact form.