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How is Indian Food Adapted Around the World?

By Yann, published on 09/10/2018 We Love Prof > Arts and Hobbies > Cooking > Adaptations of Indian Food Around the World

“People’s impression that most Indian food is unhealthy really upsets me. I want to bust all those myths and make Indian cooking more accesible for people.” -Namita Moolani Mehra

Indian food is spicy, flavourful, varied and simply delicious. Many people claim that Indian food is a guilty pleasure and should not be eaten too regularly. This is completely untrue because Indian food has many vegetarian and healthy options that are served with vegetables. There are many chefs working hard today introducing quality Indian food to communities, cities and countries all over the world.

The flavours of India are simply irresistible and the demand for Indian food has spread across all 6 inhabited continents. 

Vegetable biryani, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, jalebi, chicken tikka masala, pork vindaloo, gulab jamun, chole, mango chutney, rogan josh, samosas and naan bread are all Indian favourites available at typical restaurants near you.

Traditional Indian food is possible to find in most major cities in today’s world due to Indian migration. There are many Indians who immigrated to Europe, North America, other parts of Asia, Oceania and some parts of Africa and South America.

Quite a few of these immigrants have decided to open typical restaurants to showcase Indian delicacies to the world. Nevertheless, in many countries, Indian food has been adapted and lost its traditional flare.

Superprof is here to show how Indian cuisine is adapted and modified across the world’s continents. Join on this trip around the world to discover how earth’s inhabitants are utilizing and savouring the unique flavours of India!

Indian Cuisine in North America

Indian food in nyc The New York City Metropolitan Area is home to the most Indian immigrants in the United States. (Source: pixabay)

North America is the fourth most populous continent in the world with over 579 million inhabitants spread across Canada, the United States of America and Mexico. The former countries are some of the world’s most developed and are home to many immigrants from all over the world.

Indian Americans are the third largest Asian group in the United States with over 3.4 million Indian immigrants spread across the 50 states. The majority of this population resides in the New York Metropolitan area specifically in the area of Bombay, Jersey City, New Jersey. This area has the most concentration of Asian Indian immigrants in the Western Hemisphere.

Canada experiences many aspects of Indian culture due to the approximate amount of 1.3 million Indo-Canadians accounting for 3.99% of Canada’s total population. 

Therefore, since there are so many Indian immigrants in North America, there are many delicious typical restaurants with professional Indian chefs sharing their delicious flavours with North American residents.

North Indian or Punjabi recipes are most commonly served in North America.

Nevertheless, to adapt to the needs of North Americans and make Indian food more popular some modifications have been made. Many Americans and Canadians have previously judged Indian food for being too spicy and heavy. So with that being the case many Indian chefs and product developers have toned down the spice in restaurant and store-bought curries.

Another modification has to do with the beloved samosas. They are typically fried in Indian and eaten with a delicious chutney off the street, however, to please American audiences they are baked in the majority of restaurants serving them. Also, cream and butter, two staples of traditional Indian cooking, have been cut from recipes to make food less heavy and more “light” and “low fat.”

Indian cooking has grown in popularity during the last few years but, according to Raghavan Iyer author of the Indian cookbook “660 curries”, Americans still have a lot way to go in terms of correctly understanding traditional Indian food.

Indian food’s share of the $2.2 billion ethnic food market is still tiny at only $40 million in comparison to Mexican and Hispanic food with $1.4 billion of profits. 

With all that being, Indian food, even though slightly modified from the traditional dishes, is becoming increasingly popular and beloved among many in North America. This may be due to the fact of healthy spices used such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne.

Indian Cuisine in the South American continent

the best Indian food in South America South America is more known for its dramatic landscapes than its options for Indian food. (Source: pixabay)

South America is a beautiful continent filled with ethnic colours, dramatic landscapes and diverse cultures. While most of the continent’s inhabitants speak either Spanish or Portuguese, there are various other native languages spoken.

With a population of about 422.5 million inhabitants, South America is the world’s fifth-most-populous continent. 

Due to the fact that many countries in South America are still developing, there are not as many international immigrants on this continent as in Europe and North America.

Nevertheless, according to recent estimates, there are approximately 9,200 people of Indian origin living in Brazil. They mostly can be found in the country’s largest cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. This is not surprising due to the previous Portuguese colony of Goa.

Due to the small number of immigrants, there are very few Indian restaurants in South American countries. The highest concentration would be in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. However, there are recommended Indian restaurants across the South American continent in cities such as Santiago, Buenos Aires, La Paz, Lima, Georgetown, Quito and Bogotá.

Nonetheless, as a result of very few native Indian chefs cooking in restaurants, the dishes that can be enjoyed are most likely Indian fusion and not as traditional as dishes from India.

However, there are exceptions. Chef Arun Pal is one of them. He is the owner of the India Gourmet restaurant in Bogotá is known as the “oldest Indian living in Colombia.” His restaurant has gotten glowing reviews for serving typical Indian dishes in a friendly atmosphere.

While the South American continent will not be known anytime soon as an Indian restaurant haven, it does have some options that try to stay as true to traditional Indian cooking as possible.

Indian Cooking in Other Parts of Asia

Singapore has many Indian cuisine options Singapore has created many dishes that were influenced by Indian cooking. (Source: pixabay)

The Asian continent is full of different cultures, languages and food. Also, Asia is by far the world’s most populous continent with over 4.463 billion inhabitants.

With 1.324 billion of Asia’s inhabitants being from India, India culture and food has a strong influence. This impact has had an effect in many countries across Asia such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The Indian influence on Malaysian food dates back to the 19th century. Some dishes such as roti canai or nasi kandar are Indian but have experienced a Malaysian twist or adaptation.

With an estimated amount of 2.4 million Indian immigrants living in Malaysia making up 7% of Malaysia’s ethnic groups, this comes as no surprise that there are many Indian restaurants and foot stands readily available.

The impact can also be seen in Singapore. Since Southeast Asian countries have a strong Hindu and Buddhist cultural influence, Indian food is beloved and practically everywhere. There are numerous North and South Indian restaurants in Singapore’s Little India neighbourhood.

Singapore has modified Indian recipes combining them with Singaporean cuisine elements. For example, fish head curry is a Singaporean and Indian fusion dish that is well received by all residents. 

While Singapore and Malaysia are the Asian countries that use the most Indian influences in their dishes, countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia have borrowed Indian elements in their cuisine.

Indian Food Appreciated in Europe

eating Indian food Chicken tikka masala has been recognized as one of the United Kingdom’s main dishes. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Europe is the world’s third most populous continent with over 741 million inhabitants. Europe is home to many immigrants and refugees searching for a better life. The variety of immigrants coming from other countries means more ethnic food and variety for all!

There are Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, Pakistanis and Congolese just to name a few that make up Europe’s immigrants. 

The United Kingdom is the European country that has the most Indian immigrants. A 2017 survey estimated that there are over 1.8 million immigrants of Indian descent living in the UK. Indian ethnic groups such as Tamils, Punjabis and Bengalis have made England their home.

Due to this constant influx of immigrants, the United Kingdom has enjoyed delicious Indian food for decades. The first Indian restaurant in the UK called the Hindoostanee Coffee House opened in 1810. That means that Brits have been enjoying the savoury tastes fo curry for over 200 years!

Chicken tikka masala that is a modified version of India’s chicken tikka has been hailed “a true British national dish.” 

Legend has it that this famously modified dish was slightly changed when a client was served chicken tikka and sent the dish back demanding more gravy. Therefore, the cook quickly invented a sauce with tomato paste and a few more spices to have mimic gravy and the customer was extremely pleased.

It is important to note that most traditional Indian food such as samosas, rogan josh and butter chicken has remained the same due to native Indian chefs that have brought and shared their cherished recipes from the motherland.

According to Britain’s Food Standards Agency, the Indian food industry in the United Kingdom is worth £3.2 billion and accounts for two-thirds of all eating out serving about 2.5 million customers per week.

The love for Indian food among Brits and other Europeans will remain the same for decades from the constant influence due to immigration.

Indian Dishes Served in Oceania

Oceania is the least populated inhabited continent with an estimated population of 41.4 million people. The continent consists of thousands and thousands of sparsely populated islands, New Zealand and Australia.

Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have always welcomed immigrants from all over the world. There are an estimated 468,000 Indian immigrants in Australia and 155,000 in New Zealand.

Wherever there are Indian immigrants there most definitely will be Indian restaurants serving delicious dishes reminding them of home. 

Since Indian’s immigrated and Australians travelling through India in the 1970’s and 80’s, Australians have developed a strong love for Indian foods such as lamb vindaloo, tandoori chicken and any kind of chicken curry. Their adoration for Indian food is seen through the demand of typical Indian restaurants and cooking classes.

MakeMyTrip, an Indian online travel blog, shows off seven of Australia’s best Indian restaurants. They are featured in the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns and Surfer’s Paradise.

Australians have a passion for all things food related, therefore, finding typical Indian food that is not modified or adapted should be quite the simple task in major cities!

Indian Delicacies Enjoyed in Africa

Is Indian food popular in Africa? Samosas are just some Indian delights that have been adopted by South Africans. (Source: pixabay)

Africa is the world’s second most populous continent with over 1.2 billion inhabitants. With many countries on this continent being constantly struck by poverty and civil unrest. Therefore, it is not the most popular continent for immigrants seeking refuge and safety.

Nevertheless, some countries such as South Africa are home to many immigrants from all over the world. South Africa is the world’s 8th most popular country for Indian immigrants. There is an estimated amount of 1.27 million immigrants from India.

Indians have influenced the culture and meals of residents on the African continent. For example, Mchuzi (curry) is now a common dish in East Africa that was introduced by Indian immigrants during the colonial period. 

During the anti-apartheid movement, it was not uncommon for activists to meet in houses that were located in the Indian settlements. After the protest meetings were conducted curry was often cooked by Indian immigrants to all those in attendance. Curry has created fond memories and influenced the style of cooking for those in South Africa who were fighting for freedom.

Indian restaurant owners created a meal that was both cheap and filling for poor black customers during the apartheid. This dish was known as bunny chow, a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with spicy bean curry.

Many residents of South Africa consider South African Indian curry-rice as the official dish of the country. 

There are many Indian restaurants or snack bars in South Africa serving India food with a South African twist. For example, in Johannesburg, the takeaway shop called World of Samosas sells both Indian style and South African modified versions to customers who can expect at least a 20-minute wait in line to get served a samosa.

Another interesting South African twist of an authentic Indian snack is patta-puri, which is Gujarati patrel (colocasia leaves). This afternoon delight is rolled with a savoury besan paste, fried and then placed between two puris (or bread) and eaten like a sandwich.

The world is so full of delicious culinary delights, Indian food is one of them! People from all over the planet enjoy the savoury spices and flavours of India that keep them going back to their favourite Indian eatery.

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