The country of India presents a cuisine that is aromatic, colourful and filled with exciting options – it is no wonder that this culinary tradition is one of the best loved in the world. The wide variety of recipes and ingredients that Indian cuisine is famous for represents the diversity of the landscapes and cultures that make their home in this beautiful country.
From irresistible curries rich with ghee to succulent stews seasoned with coconut, the list of flavor some Indian dishes is endless and guaranteed to make any foodie’s eyes light up with anticipation. However, some of the most important ingredients in Indian cuisine may not initially seem the most interesting – the chickpeas,
lentils and rice that form the bulk of many Indian recipes may not garner the same attention as exotic ingredients such as the tangy tamarind or creamy coconut; however, without these staples, the landscape of Indian cuisine would be very different.
Rice, in particular, is one of the most important crops in India and throughout the sub-continent, this innocuous grain is not simply viewed as a side dish to add onto your takeaway curry order, it is revered as a source of nourishment – thousands of Indian people depend on rice to feed themselves and their families.
Not only is rice a staple of the country, it also enjoys great spiritual significance, particularly due to the vast Hindu population that calls India home. This lowly grain is held in great esteem in Hindu culture, partly due to its aforementioned reputation as a life-sustaining ingredient, and partly due to its importance in special religious rituals and ceremonies.
The meaning of rice
In Hindu culture, rice is infused with symbolic significance. It is an emblem of wealth and prosperity, utilised in rituals that aim to bring fortune. As a result, you will find rice used in ceremonies that mark important milestones in an individual’s life, be it a wedding or ritual marking another transitionary stage of life.
It is also considered to be an auspicious symbol of fertility and an omen of a plentiful harvest. As food in India is very much based on seasonal ingredients straight from the larder of Mother Nature, harvest festivals play an important role in the culture. Rice plays an integral role in the numerous rituals and celebrations that are part and parcel of this sort of Indian festival. Pongal is one of the best known harvest festivals and during the morning, rice is boiled in sweetened milk to offer to the sun god in thanks for a bountiful harvest.
Another Hindu belief is that rice has the power to ward away evil. A traditional wedding involves the grain being ceremoniously poured into a fire by the bride and groom to ensure demons are driven away, allowing their union to take place safely. Rice will also be scattered around their new home to ensure it is blessed.
A visit to one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants, where authentic Indian recipes are tweaked with creative contemporary flair, will demonstrate the importance and versatility of rice in Indian cuisine. Choose from a range of rice dishes, sides or desserts and you will see why Hindus so revere this grain.