steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Chicken Tikka Masala and Other Chimeras

It's sometimes said that cricket is an Indian game that happened to be invented in England. I suppose that makes chicken tikka masala cricket's gastronomic equivalent, although I doubt Hambledon CC will thank me for saying it.

What I hadn't realized until today was that vindaloo was originally a Portugese wine and garlic sauce (vin d'alho), before being spiced up by the inhabitants of Goa. At least, I suppose that's the case since the OED tells me so, but Indian food origins seem quite prone to mythologizing. Chicken tikka masala itself is not without its controversies, and then there's the case of jalfrezi, which I've blithely told people for years derives from the name of an officer of the Raj called Colonel Frazer - because that's what it says on the labels of Geeta's Spice and Stir. However, the same label claims that "jhal frezi" means "dry fry". Can both be true? It was apparently popular as a cooking method (rather than as a dish) in Anglo-Indian households, so maybe there really was a Colonel Frazer who took a particular liking to it - and maybe he or his friends saw the opportunity for a bilingual pun?

Or maybe Geeta Samtani is having a joke.

If indeed she really exists.

I hardly dare mention that I've always understood chutney to have been the miraculous offspring of British preserving techniques and Indian ingredients - and that if one needed an excuse for the Empire one need look no further than my cousin Dave's recipe, or failing that Mrs Ball's more widely available South African version. But I dare say that will turn out not to be true either, and that the whole imperial adventure was built on sand.
Tags: language, maunderings
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