Five Popular Dishes that Actually not Indian



We can’t imagine not ending our meals with some of these sweets or chai time without this popular snack, and find no better way to cool off in the summers with this dessert. But the next time someone tells you that the kulfi is a desi summer cooler, you know better and can tell him that it isn’t. The kulfi is a Middle Eastern import and as are sweets such as jalebi and gulab jamun. Since the Middle East was a high sugarcane yielding region, it naturally turned into a mecca for desserts, be it soft and sticky like the gulab jamun or cold, milky favourites such as the kulfi. The samosa trail also leads us to the Middle East and the idli does not owe its provenance to South India.

Gulab jamun
: The Persian words “gol,” which means flower and “ab,” which stands for water is how the word gulab was coined. Jamun owes its origin to the fruit by the same name. While there is a theory that the gulab jamun owes its existence to a kitchen accident by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef, culinary historian Michael Krondl has documented that the gulab jamun is indeed Persian in origin. Made from evaporated milk solids, which are deep fried and soaked in rose-water scented sugar syrup, the gulab jamun has long since turned into a favourite sweet in India.
S027 Yellow Jalebi

JALEBI: Zilabiya was how Persians traditionally referred to what we know as the jalebi in India. In Iran, the sweet is known as “zoolabiya” and prepared especially during the festive season of Ramzan. While Turkey and Greece also have their own take on the jalebi, the sweet wouldn’t have made it to India but for Muslim traders. A 13th century cookbook written by Muhammad Bin Hasan from Iran has an early reference to the sweet. Made using gram flour that is deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup, sweet spirals of jalebi are on every wedding caterer’s must-have list.

IDLI: Celebrated food historian KT Achaya has written that idli may have its origins in Indonesia. The South East Asian country has had a culinary tradition of fermented food and Achaya maintains that the idli made its journey to India sometime between 800 and 1200 CE. But other food historians of repute such as Lizzie Collingham suggest that the idli was brought to India by Arab settlers. The humble steamed idli needs nothing more than a batter made from fermented rice and split black gram flours.

KULFI: Food historian KT Achaya wrote that it was in the 16th century that the kulfi came into being. The name originates from the Persian word “qulfi,” meaning a covered cup, which may have referred to the traditional kulfi mould. Made with dense evaporated milk, nuts, saffron and cardamom, the kulfi also a royal favourite in the court of Akbar.

SAMOSA: Samosa is known to be have been derived from the Persian word “sanbosag” and was first prepared sometime in the 10th century. Muslim traders who travelled from the Middle East to India originally prepared the samosa filling with meat, nuts and spices. Poet saint Amir Khusro, also the court poet of the Delhi Sultanate, wrote in a document that dates back to 1300 that the samosa was a favourite food of princes and royalty.