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December 11, 2005

Mappila Cuisine of Kerala


Mappila Cuisine of Kerala by Ammini Ramachandran

The Muslim influenced Tandoori dishes of Mughal cuisine with its unique technique of marinating meats and vegetables with a careful blend of choicest spices and aromatic herbs have been a gourmet's delight the world over. With the migration of Indian workers to the west during 18th and 19th centuries, the tandoori preparations of Mogul cuisine and the hardy food of the Punjab region were the first to reach the western world. Even today this is the type of food that is served in most Indian restaurants abroad.

Mahmud of Ghazni (modern Afghanistan and northeastern modern Iran), lured by tales of the fertile plains of the Punjab and the fabulous wealth of Hindu temples first attacked northern India in 1000 AD. The Mogul emperor Baber conquered India in 1526 AD and this Muslim dynasty ruled in an unbroken succession for nearly 200 years. North Indian food went through a profound transformation during this period. Meats and breads grilled in clay ovens called tandoors and elaborate dishes – Kababs, pulavs and biriyanis - and sweets garnished with thin sheets of real gold and silver became the mainstay of Mogul banquets.

Many years before the advent of central Asian Muslim invaders to the northern frontiers, coastal region of the Indian Ocean between India, the Persian Gulf, East Africa and the China Sea was an area of active commercial exchange. People along these coasts, blessed with wide open waters and natural harbors, excelled in maritime trade with distant lands. Indian merchants and the inhabitants of the Persian Gulf regions were active traders and intermediaries long before the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

For Europe and central Asia, spices were the envoys from enchanted orient. From ancient times, the monsoon soaked rain forests, home to several spices, especially black pepper, became a prime destination for many explorers. Ancient southern Indian kingdoms enjoyed a flourishing spice trade with the Arabs of coastal Yemen and Oman. By the early Christian period south India was transformed into a commercial hub linked to the West and the East through emporiums located along the coastal and inland routes. Spice trade was as profitable an undertaking as it was complex.

When the maritime trade routes spread beyond the Nile and Euphrates, Greeks, Romans and later the Portuguese ventured to trace new routes to the source of spices and exotic things. However, the old Arab channels of trade continued to flourish thanks to the age-old alliances and agreements between the original Arab and Indian traders. Interestingly cinnamon, the spice that made fortunes for the Arab traders in earlier times still remained an Arab monopoly. The Romans could find it only at Arab ports; the source of cinnamon in India was scrupulously guarded from them. Throughout the Malabar Coast the Romans were offered only malabathrum, the leaves of the same tree that produced the fragrant bark.  Such was the loyalty between the ancient traders of the Indian Ocean.

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December 09, 2005

Announcement By Farid Zadi

Dear readers and contributors

I know I've been promising to organize this blog and the other one as soon as possible. The thing that is holding me back is the potentional rise in web fees. Some days both blogs get a combined page view count of up to 4000 and the blogs are pretty new, that plus projected readership growth and the forum can potentially translate into exorbitant web fees. Those are the reasons for the delay. I'd like both blogs to be organized more like this blog.

A note to food writers

Posting on certain food forums is a great way to make some contacts and to exchange information. However the really knowledgeable people are easier to find in the blogsphere and I hope more food bloggers join the forum I started. To keep your name as writer out there, you really must blog. The future of food is here and it is blogging, they have search engine supremacy over more static appearing websites. There is absolutely no other medium through which the contributors here could have reached an audience that densely covers North America, Western Europe, the Mediterranean countries, the Indo-Malay archipelago, Australia and to a lesser extent South Asia, North Africa and Latin America so fast.

If you are concerned about google and yahoo's projects to make available cookbooks online, divert the traffic to your blog or if you do not have the energy to start your own blog, contact me about posting occasionally here.

Book of Rai Food Forum

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