South Asian Cooking

Ledge shouldered terra cotta cooking pots with low neck and flaring rim. One vessel has red slip on the neck and rim, while the other is fired grey-black. A small black fired bowl is seen in the foreground. Period III, Harappan, 2300-2200 B. C.

Although many South Asian restaurants advertise a wide variety of "curries," in traditional Indian cooking no one dish is referred to by this word. Curry is the anglicization of the common Hindustani word tarkiiri,, meaning "green vegetable." Cooked vegetables (and someĀ­ times even meat) are occasionally called tarkari, but this word never appears on an Indian menu. Rather you will find an array of terms that indicate the types of vegetable or meat used and the method of their preparation, such as gobi bhaji (sauteed cauliflower), subzi ka salan (vegetable stew), makhni murgh (buttery chicken), tandoori ran (roast leg of lamb), or baingan bart a (mashed eggplant). No single cooking tradition can be claimed characteristic of South Asia in general; rather the various traditions should be discussed in terms of regions and ethnic communities. Although the major cultural and religious traditions that have influenced the development of these regional styles are usually traceable only to the Hindu/Vedic Period (600 B.C. to 1300 C.E.), it should not be forgotten that it was the Neolithic peoples in India who originally domesticated livestock animals and the staple grains still used today. The similarity in the shapes of cooking vessels from the Indus Civilization (2500-1700 B.C.E.) to those used in traditional Indian kitchens today suggests that wheat and rice dishes as well as stews and vegetables may have been prepared in much the same manner as they are now.