The Anglo Indians, off springs of a confluence between the British soldiers during the early day of East India Company in
and the native Indian women, were till 1911, universally known as Eurasians. For occupational purposes and as a point of differentiation from the Europeans and the Indians, they were designated Statutory Natives of India; while for the defence of Empire purposes, they were called European British Subjects. India
The Anglo-Indians were more "Anglo" than "Indian". They spoke English and followed Christianity. There was a visible influence of Christianity in their customs and traditions. While most of them married within their own Anglo-Indian circle, there were many who continued to marry expatriate Englishmen. Very few, if any, married Indians. The same rigid social barriers that the British erected between themselves and the Anglo-Indians, also existed to isolate the Anglo-Indians from the vast majority of Indians.
Their so called supremacy over the native Indians however, took a jolt when
finally broke the shackles of slavery and walked into freedom on India 15 August 1947. The British packed their bags and their memories—and went home to "Blighty".
There were however, some 300,000 odd people of European and Indian descent, who were not happy to see the back of the British. These were the Anglo Indians, left in a twilight zone of uncertainty, with the
British Empire making no effort to offer its swarthier sons any hospitality in the land where their forefathers had been born.
Many Anglo-Indians, apprehensive of changes that would surely come with
’s independence, chose to leave India . The 1950s and 1960s saw a steady stream of departures as about 150,000 Anglo-Indians, seeking wider horizons and better job prospects, emigrated to Australia, Britain, Canada, the US and New Zealand. India
Those who decided against migrating, did not have a choice, but to merge with the socio-cultural fabric of the developing
. And some of the most glorious results of this assimilation took shape in the kitchen, the territory of the memsahib (Lady of the house) and her trusted Khansamah (cook). India
The Anglo-Indian Cuisine is an amalgamation of the tastes and spices of the region. The recipes take the best of both European and Indian cuisine with some alteration by adding or substituting some of the ingredients so that a completely different cuisine evolved over hundreds of years. The very popular Vindaloo, Bebinca and Dodol are legacies of the Portugese, while the Roasts, Bakes, Bacon and Eggs are typically British.
The very nomenclature of the dishes is unique and synonymous with the Anglo-Indian Community's vocabulary. The normally bland western cuisine was given a dash of exotic Indian flavour. Thus a completely new contemporary cuisine came into existence making it truly “Anglo” and “Indian” in nature, which was neither too bland nor too spicy, but with a distinctive flavour of its own. It became a direct reflection of the multi-cultural and hybrid heritage of the new colonial population. Many of the dishes have a unique history. The very popular and familiar curry dish “Vindaloo” is derived from the Portugese word Vinha De Alhos, i.e. from the two main ingredients in it, which were "Vinho", meaning wine or wine vinegar and "Alhos", meaning garlic. It was originally a vinegar and garlic-based watery stew made with pork or meat in
. However after the Portugese introduced it in India, it was completely revamped with the addition of spices and chilies and over the years it has become one of the spiciest and most popular curry dishes all over the world. Portugal
Grandma's Country Captain Chicken was a very popular dish during Colonial times since it was very easy to prepare. In those days, the poultry used in its preparation were authentic well-fed, homegrown country chickens, which would take at least two hours to cook over a firewood oven, but the curry when done, would be rich and delicious. Mulligatawny Soup was also very popular during the Raj Era. It was the anglicised version of the Tamil “Melligu-Thani”- Melligu meaning pepper and “Thani” meaning water. As the name suggests, it was originally Pepper Water. However in course of time a lot of other ingredients, such coconut, meat and other spices were added to give it a completely different flavour. The dish quickly became popular throughout the colonies of the Common Wealth.
However, over a period of time, the authentic Anglo Indian dishes are hard to find and the rich variety of the cuisine threatens to disappear into oblivion.
Let us take a quick look at some heritage menu selections :
DEVILLED EGGS AND HAM CASSEROLE
LAMB MINCE PANTHERAS
THE BROWN SAHIB CHICKEN SOUP
ARMY CAMP SOUP (MUTTON)
FRICADELLUS (FISH CUTLETS)
LEMON FISH CREPE
PORK SPARE RIBS
STEAMROLLER CHICKEN WITH ROSEMARY POTATOES AND GARLIC BREAD
GRANDMA’S COUNTRY CAPTAIN CHICKEN WITH ONION PILAF AND CAULIFLOWER MORNAY
RAILWAY MUTTON CURRY AND BUTTER FRIED RICE
DAK BUNGLA MUTTON
PORK BHUNIE WITH TOMATO PILAF & MAJOR GREY’S MANGO CHUTNEY
PORK VINDALOO AND YELLOW COCONUT RICE
CHICKEN & CARROT CASSEROLE
By : Devraj Halder