The history of chicken in Indian cuisine
Search for a recipe for chicken online and some of the first recipes you’ll see are curries. That’s a result of the fact that the humble chuck and Indian cuisine are a match made in heaven. Chicken has such a mild flavour and is so adaptable that it readily absorbs the spicy, hot flavours of Indian cuisine.
For over 5,000 years, food in India has been taken on influences from invading armies, and the religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs of the invaders. It features a vast range of herbs and spices, uses huge amounts of vegetables and almost every kind of fish, meat and poultry (with the exception of beef and pork). It is also one of the preeminent destinations for globe-hopping veggies, surprisingly India isn’t an overwhelmingly vegetarian country. In fact, less than 33% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian.
However cows are indeed sacred, so beef is off the menu and when you’re somewhere as hot as India is, fish is best eaten within one day’s transport of the sea. It is therefore no surprise that chicken – a cheap, easy-to-breed animal – is so ubiquitous. Indians’ love of poultry is demonstrated by the sheer variety of chicken recipes that one can name off the top of one’s head.
They include the all-pervading Chicken Curry in all its glorious forms: Tandoori Chicken, India’s celebrated method of cooking chicken in stone ovens (which, interestingly, is less than 100 years old) and Mughlai Chicken, a dish from the Mughal Empire flavoured with the spices of northern India, are just two famous examples.