Recently, a social media remark by Edward Anderson, a lecturer from the UK, not only sparked a hot debate on idlis, but also opened a cauldron of opinions on several food items. Sambar, chutney, dosa, puttu and even some non-vegetarian dishes added flavour to the food fight on social media. But this isn’t the first time, food, which is closely connected to a place’s culture, has had people divided over its authenticity and taste. Here are a few of them, which you can savour…
Sambar’s Marathi connect
Idli sambar, sambar vadai, sambar rice — just the names can make one’s mouth water. The legend has it that this quintessential south Indian dish has a Maharashtra connection. It is said that it was accidentally prepared in the kitchen of the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur, Shahuji Bhonsle. While a feast was being prepared for Shahuji’s cousin Sambhaji, moong dal and kokum were not available, and cooks used tur dal and tamarind instead. And the dish, which was appreciated by the guest of the day, was named after him as sambar. However, this has been contested by food critics, saying this could only be a variation of the dish that would have already existed.
Idli’s origin, too, is debated
Whether the ubiquitous idli, served mostly for breakfast in south India, tastes good or bad depends on one’s palate. But as a matter of fact, even its origin has been debated. It’s been reported that eminent food historian KT Achaya was of the opinion that idlis would have made its way to our cuisine from Indonesia sometime between 800 and 1200 CE. According to him, cooks of Hindu kings there may have first prepared idli and brought the recipe to India later. It is said that the place was known for fermented food. Another claim by historians like Lizzie Collingham is that Arabs, who came for trade, first introduced an earlier form of idli here.
When rasgulla was the reason for a bitter fight
This was a battle between two neighbouring states — West Bengal and Odisha — each claiming to have the sweetmeat’s origin in their place. After the tussle over its origin went on for a few years, West Bengal was granted the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2017. But Odisha wasn’t ready to give up on its claims and finally won the GI tag for Odisha rasagola two years later in 2019.
Biryani battle is an ongoing one
From Hyderabadi and Lucknowi biryani to the varieties from Malabar and Kolkata — biryani lovers are spoilt for choice in India. But there’s always been a debate on which variety tastes better and the authenticity of the varieties. As recently as in July this year, biryani was a hot topic of debate on Twitter after a restaurant’s biryani policy, which was put up on a standee, said all types of biryanis other than Hyderabadi will be referred to as pulao.
A few foreign dishes that are bone of contention
- Debate over the origin of hummus and falafel between Israel and Palestine.
- Chile and Peru battle over the origin of Pisco, a spirit made from grapes that wine-making regions in both the countries produce.
- Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert, makes for a ‘sweet’ rivalry between Australia and New Zealand over its origin.