Punjabi Tadka – Desi flavors in Firangi Food

When it comes to improvising new cuisines and making them our own, no one can do it better than us, Indians.

From adding the Punjabi Tadka in chow mien (chauwmeen) to skewing dim sums in tandoor (tandoori momos) – we are great at creating sumptuous food fusions. So far we’ve managed to cook up some culinary master pieces and some duds. But the insatiable hunger for experimentation has led us to create an entirely new cuisine.

The other day I was watching Queen for the umpteenth time, where Kangna Ranaut aka Rani serves her ‘desi’ version of French Toast to the French guy who never the less finds it delicious. It got me thinking of various other desi versions of ‘phoren’ food.

 

Take the humble samosa for example. If  I told Sharmaji that his favorite tea-time snack is not an Indian but an Arabic/Persian creation and that it is pronounced as ‘sambusak’ he would have a hard time digesting it. The original sambusak was created 1500 ago in Middle East and had minced lamb filling instead of potatoes. It was introduced to India around the 13th century by traders from Central Asia. It was served as a royal dish to nobles in the king’s court. Then slowly the ‘sambusak’ was introduced to the working classes. The pastry shell remained the same but the filling varied depending on availability of ingredients.

We have gone a step further and created an Indo-Chinese, Indo-Italian and Indo-Mexican cuisines. No one in China has ever heard of chilly paneer or honey chilly potatoes. The salsa dip for nachos is nowhere close to the real Mexican flavor nor is the macaroni with turmeric, onions and spicy tadka anything like Mac-and-Cheese served in U.S. The Italians would have a tough time recognizing the Indian version of Marinara or Alfredo sauce. 

When everyone’s favorite 2-minute noodles got banned recently due to health concerns, some of us were actually heart-broken. It was the fool-proof dish for beginners, mid-night snack for hostlers and the one dish that a kid could never refuse. The masala noodles had that hard-to-miss Indian Flavor that got us all addicted to them in the first place.

The international fast food brands launched in 1990’s had to adapt to the regional flavors and spices to get accepted in the Indian market. The Big Mac became a Maharaja and aalu tikki replaced the beef patties. The fried chicken got a generous sprinkling of red chilli flakes. Even the pizzas were topped with bar-be-cued paneer. Recently I came across a ‘Rawalpindi Chana Paneer’ pizza from a famous pizza chain (can’t be sure of how many takers it has so far).

One thing is clear, that our cuisine is evolving fast and we are creating new & unique flavors every day.