Piquant potboilers

January 2016

By Naini Setalvad

Naini Setalvad kicks off a new series on the amazing diversity of cuisines in India by celebrating the palate-pleasing Sindhi food


India's mindboggling diversity is vividly reflected in its manifold cuisines. Each cuisine is uniquely born of the agriculture of the region, its climate, religious and socio-cultural beliefs and health practices. Over thousands of years, this has bred a cuisine beautifully attuned to the health and well-being of its people. Every regions grows food that is good for your health, improves performance, moods, memory and can prevent, retard and reverse diseases. It's therefore absolutely important to have knowledge about the food of the region that you are in and use it for your well-being instead of consuming alien foods.

Most states have two to three different cuisines due to the diversity of climate, soils, culture and religious beliefs. Apart from indigenous influences, the cuisines have picked up the influence of the erstwhile conquerors such as the Moghuls, Portuguese and British.

In this instalment, we shall study the cuisine of the erstwhile Sindh.

Sindhi cooking originated from Sindh in Pakistan. Due to its proximity to the Indus river there was great vegetation and lots of river food for people living nearby. One part of Sindh had the River Indus, while one part was hemmed in by the desert.

Sindhi food has been influenced by the neighbouring cuisines of Kutch, Gujarat, Punjab, as well as Iran and the Gulf. Therefore each region of Sindh has its unique specialities. Sindhi food is best known for the fried pakwan, tuk (twice-fried potato topped with dry mango powder), papad, kadhi, and sai bhaji. Sindhis are also known for the love of the lotus stem popularly known as bhee. I love the bhee myself as well as the nutritious sai bhaji, best had with rice. Other delectable combinations include Sindhi curry and rice , as well as the mouth watering koki ( thick roti made with spices, onions, fresh coriander leaves) served with curd .

Generally speaking, Sindhi food avails of four spices  haldi (turmeric) dhania powder( coriander powder) garam masala, and aamchoor (dry mango powder). It also makes plentiful use of onions, which forms the base of both dry as well as gravy dishes called daagh which means curry with browned onions. Other masalas include seyal (onions , ginger, garlic base), saye masaley mein (green base - coriander leaves
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