The Indian food, we know from restaurants around the world comes principally from the Northern areas of India. The development of this unique food culture sprang to life
in the 16th century at the start of the Great Moguls dynasty. The Moguls amassed great armies peopled by folk from across the central Asian continent: Turks, Arabs, Persians, Mongols and countless others. After the inevitable merging of all of these varied peoples, culinary practices, the food we today call “Indian kitchen” emerged.
The differences between cuisine in northern and southern India are far from few. On a most visible level, bread is a staple of the Northern Indian diet, and meat is consumed much more than in the south, where rice and vegetables are the main sustenance. The flat arid climate of northern India (Punjab) is ideal for growing wheat and raising livestock. The prevalence of Hinduism in the south dictates that flesh is seldom eaten, whereas the predominately Muslim and Sikh culture of northern India does not entertain the same religious prohibition to using animals as food.
The essential ingredients in basic curries are onion, tomato, ginger and garlic. All other ingredients vary from dish to dish and area to area. Many of the Great Moguls’ curry recipes call for rare and expensive spices such as turmeric and saffron. Many of these precious spices came from the mountains of Kashmir. The best plantations were secured for exclusive use of the Mogul Kings. It was also an ideal area for the cultivation of the so called ‘warming spices.'(cinnamon, cloves, cumin, etc.)
These spices have many valuable properties. They are useful in the preservation of food, they increase blood circulation, warm the body and are believed to be useful in preserving health. These spices were highly sought after in both Europe and China. The resulting ‘Spice Trade’ was a lucrative business for many, and brought great prosperity to the Kashmir region
The Great Moguls had it good. It wasn’t enough for them to just have lots of women around, they also needed many cooks. Each cook was specialised in preparing a choice few dishes.
There is a story told of one cook who sought to serve in the kitchen of the 3rd Mogul, Jalal Ud Din Akbar. He was presented to the royal chef, and was asked which dishes were his specialities. His answer was but one humble dish, masoori lentils. The royal chef decided to allow the man to prove his worth. The man was placed in the kitchen with his pot and waited for the king to call for lentils. A year or more passed before finally the Great Mogul ordered ‘Dal Masoor’ be served, but the man sprang immediately into action with his pot to cook the kings supper. After hungrily waiting some time the king called for his chef, to see why his dinner had not yet been served. The man answered that the lentils took time, and the king must wait. After more impatient waiting the Mogul summoned the man, issued warnings, and received each time the same answer: he must wait. Finally the man snapped. He told the king, ‘Your mouth is not worthy of my Dal,’ took his pot and stormed out of the royal kitchen. He threw the unfinished lentils over a dead tree stump and was never seen again. But it wasn’t long before the dead tree began to sprout anew.
It is unknown if this story is just a myth, but we at Bindia have tried experimenting to revive tree stumps with unfinished Dal to a moderate degree of success. The point of the little parable is that it takes patience and solicitude to properly prepare Indian food. Good Indian chefs will not compromise when it comes to their food. This is the principle we abide by here at Bindia, to continue the traditions of the North Indian cuisine. We put the same kind of love and quality into our food as the Great Moguls’ cooks.
The Mogul Kings were very demanding when it came to the selection of ingredients to their food.
All materials were carefully chosen not only for the quality of their taste, but also for other benefits they may impart to whom that may consume them. For example, there are a few particular curries which contain honey. For the Moguls, the honey must have been collected from wild bees in the height of spring that it would taste of the sweetest nectars.
Animals were slaughtered just as they began sexual maturation so that hormone levels in the meat would be at a peak in order to boost potency.
Bindia is the little dot that sits between the eyebrows of many Indian girls. Originally, it meant that the girl was spoken for. As a sign of his affection, her betrothed would mix saffron and oil then make the mark on her forehead to tell the world around that she was spoken for with love. Nowadays the bindia has become more of a fashion statement than a symbol of marital status. Married and unmarried, young and old alike with women in distant countries have begun to accessorise with the little dot. Factory production of the dots using ‘henna’ and other materials has also started to take the place of the traditional blending of saffron and oil.
Let us not forget, though, that the ‘bindia’ is a sign of love. Like ‘curry’ that sprang out of the Great Moguls love for their wives, ‘bindia’ is a centuries old tradition that we take great pleasure in continuing. We wish love for all, and here at Restaurant Bindia we strive to pass on our love via the culinary arts to our guests.
In the kitchen we use the freshest ingredients of the highest quality available, to create a natural, fresh taste. We can’t promise a meal that adheres to the fastidious demands of the ancient Great Moguls, but we do our utmost to present you with the best from what is available on the Danish market. Our guests should keep in mind that local varieties of produce are a large influence on the taste of a finished dish. A curry cooked to the exact recipe using ingredients from two different continents can have a markedly different taste.
Bindia isn’t just a business, but also a food culture. Our chef takes great pride in his cuisine, and does not compromise the values and traditions that lay in his craft. He holds great respect for this background while trying to further develop the Indian kitchen.