A cuisine of spices and stories

By Laura TomassiniLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Colourful fabrics on the one hand, pictures of war on the other, these are the clichéd images that Europeans have of India and Afghanistan. But just like their culture and people, the traditional dishes of both countries are much more diverse than is often known here in Luxembourg. Time to expand our palates by discovering some new ones.

"One chicken tikka masala, please!" – is more or less what most of the guests in Indian-Nepali restaurants order. Only very few people know that the dish ordered like that does not actually come from India, but rather from Great Britain and is only a European version of the chicken dish chicken tikka. "I don't remember ever eating tikka masala in India", says Sunita Trivedi, founder of the cooking website Spicecurry. At cooking courses for communities and organisations, the native Indian teaches the traditional dishes of her homeland, the properties of the ingredients used in Indian cuisine and how to prepare them properly.

Sunita has been living in Luxembourg with her family for 25 years; she rediscovered her passion for cooking in the – form her point of view – foreign country rather out of necessity. "At the time, I wasn't happy about the food they serve in restaurants here. It's not that it's bad, it's just not authentic", she says. You can find everywhere almost exactly the same menu, Indian shops did not exist 25 years ago and the majority of "Indian" restaurants were – and still are – run by Nepalese people. "The food of both countries is very different, however, what people ask for is offered", Sunita explains. Butter chicken, naan and pakoras are indeed Indian dishes, but the preparation is being fiddled to adapt them to European eating habits.

The many facets of India

"I remember ordering pakoras in a restaurant, but they were filled with cucumber. We would never, ever do that", Sunita announces indignantly. The meat or vegetables coated in chickpea batter are welcome to be subjected to experimentation, but one must know where it has to stop, says the Indian woman. She herself learned the secrets of Indian cuisine from her mother and wants to pass them on to others with the help of her website Spicecurry. "My mother was an excellent cook and since my father was a diplomat, we moved every three years and always cooked for many guests at our home."

However, instead of naan, a traditional flatbread made from light flour, which is so popular here, Sunita's house often served chapati, or "Roti" in Hindi, which is made from wholemeal flour. "People in the north eat a lot of chapati, while in the south you will find more rice on their plate. It varies from region to region, but generally Indian cuisine includes lentils, rice and flatbread." Sunita, who herself comes from the capital Delhi and therefore from the north of the country, is familiar with the many facets of her home country's cuisine, certainly due to the fact that her husband's cooking habits from Gujarat in the west of India are very different from hers.

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