Unstoppable popularity of Indian cuisine

Owing to a growing global popularity, the ancient, rich and diverse tradition of Indian cuisine has found its way from the hawkers on the streets of India to Michelin Star restaurants worldwide

February 26, 2019

‘Indian cuisine’ refers to the culinary traditions of the nation’s 29 states and seven union territories, each with at least 4-5 distinct types of cooking traditions, and anything between 20-100 recipes that are indigenous to that particular state

Sake Dean Mahomed, a businessman from Bihar, among the early migrants to England, had opened the Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club in 1809 at Portman Square in London to bring the authentic taste of Indian food to the UK

Foreign travellers and migrating Indians have been the best ambassadors of cuisine of the subcontinent. This is reflected in the increase in Indian restaurants globally, serving all from pure vegetarian offerings to meat and seafood-based delicacies

With the world waking up to more varieties of Indian dishes, there is immense opportunity for entrepreneurs to set up shop in countries that have a taste for Indian cuisine. Setting up supply chains for authentic Indian ingredients is also good business

When David Beckham feasted on his favourite Mutton Korma to celebrate the goal that qualified England for the 2002 Football World Cup, he reinforced the reputation enjoyed by Indian cuisine worldwide. Aromatic, flavourful and celebrated! Owing to this growing popularity, the ancient, rich and diverse tradition of Indian cuisine has found its way from the hawkers on the streets of India to Michelin Star restaurants worldwide. Today, the menus of the world’s most famous events every year is graced by at least one signature Indian dish or another. The vast mix of Indian cuisine with usage of a variety of spices, pulses, vegetables and animal protein, among others, have found acceptance among taste palettes and food habits. This success has led to strong business opportunities.

‘Indian cuisine’ refers to the culinary traditions of the nation’s 29 states and seven union territories, each with at least 4-5 distinct types of cooking traditions, and anything between 20-100 recipes that are indigenous to that particular state. For instance, in Kerala, one of India’s smaller states, a traditional Onam fare alone comprises as many as 26 dishes that are unique to this festival alone. The larger food repertoire of the state is enormous as Kerala is home to Malabar Mappila cuisine, the Syrian Christian cuisine, the Palakkadan Brahmin cuisine, the Nair Cuisine, Coastal cuisine, the cuisine belonging to the hill tracts of the Western Ghats, the Backwater cuisine, among others. The good news is that foodies can have almost all of these, as well as the food of different Indian states, at restaurants serving Indian food in faraway London, Dubai, New York, Sydney, among other places.

While most India’s delicacies are best tasted in their land of origin, gourmet Indian food has crossed the country’s borders and found its way to the farthest parts of the globe. In fact, Indian cuisine has been counted among the top 10 favourite cuisines of the world according to a survey by hotels.com. The penchant for Indian food in Britain, for instance, is traced back to the 1800s when the British carried back the cooking practices they adopted while serving the British crown in India. Sake Dean Mahomed, a businessman from Bihar, among the very early Indian migrants to England, opened the Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club in 1809 at Portman Square in London to bring the authentic taste of exotic Indian food to the UK. Indian food has come a long way since in the UK.

The Indian food industry in Britain is worth around £3.2 billion, making it more than two thirds of the food industry in Britain and employing over 60,000 people.

Veeraswamy, another Indian restaurant in London, was inaugurated in 1926 by Edward Palmer, a retired British Indian Army officer and the grandson of an English general and an Indian princess to promote Indian foods “so that they could be used under Western conditions and yet produce Eastern results.” Of Indian food, it is said that the Queen was so taken up with the taste of Indian dishes that she ordered them to be cooked in the royal kitchen, every day. Indian cuisine has steadily held on to its popularity. So much so, Chicken Malai Tikka was crowned the national dish of England at the turn of the millennium. The Indian food industry in Britain is worth around £3.2 billion, as per Mintel, a London-based market research firme, making it more than two third of the food industry in Britain and employing over 60,000 people. This has supported a cross-section of food related industries.

Foreign travellers and migrating Indians have been the best ambassadors of cuisine of the subcontinent. This is reflected in the increase in Indian restaurants globally.  Indian foods such as samosas, rotis, kebabs, chicken tikka, biryani, curries, masala dosa, dal fry, rogan ghost, appam, stew, chhole and Goan shrimp curry are hugely popular and are now available in restaurants across the UK, USA, Canada, the Middle East, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Japan, Australia and China. According to Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna, as recently as 2003, there were around 10,000 restaurants serving Indian cuisine in England and Wales alone. The number has gone up since then. North America is estimated to have over 5,100 India restaurants. This is a clear reflection of the soft-power of Indian cuisine.

With the world waking up to more and more varieties of Indian dishes, there is immense opportunity for entrepreneurs to set up shop in countries that have a taste for Indian cuisine. Establishing a robust supply chain for authentic Indian spices and other ingredients is also good business. With new innovations in food, sustainable food growing practices and booming agriculture and food processing sectors, India is ready to spread its flavour filled, aromatic Indian Cuisine to the farthest corners of the globe. After all, what better way to gain new friends globally than through their stomach?!