Food in Punjab, India
Everyone needs food to survive and every culture has unique and special traditions surrounding the gathering, preparation, and consumption of food. The Punjab region of India, is one of South Asia’s largest producers of food and the Punjabi people are known for the variety of foods they eat.
Punjab, India is located in South Asia. As a region, South Asia generally refers to the countries in Asia that are south of the Himalayan Mountains and extending to the Indian Ocean. This often includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the islands of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Punjab is a state in the northwest part of India and part of a larger Punjab region that extends into Pakistan. The Punjab region was split between India and Pakistan in the Partition of 1947. Punjab or Panjab can be translated as “the land of five rivers” and is known as one of the most fertile regions of the world and is India’s greatest supplier of wheat.
The people living in the Punjab region of India are primarily Sikh while some are Hindu. Sikhism, the world’s fifth largest religion, is a discipline that emphasizes monotheism, or belief in one god, and equity between all people exemplified by community sharing, especially sharing of food. Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion and most common religion in India, is a philosophy of life that includes concepts of kharma and darma. Darma includes a strong call to duty and obligation, kharma is a philosophy that emphasizes universal laws of nature. Hinduism is not defined by a single belief but instead is characterized by it tolerance and acceptance of multiple beliefs. A very small minority of people living in the Punjab region are Muslim as most of the Muslims living in the Indian portion of the Punjab migrated north to Pakistan after the Partition of 1947.
Historically, the Punjab region was home to many great empires, and the center of Sikhism. After a series of wars with the British for control of this region in the 1900s, the British East India Trading Company gained control of the region and exploited the land for British economic gain. The Amritsar Massacre, one of the most brutal examples of British control of India, occurred in the Punjab region. Gandhi was instrumental in helping this region (and all of India) to achieve independence from Great Britain.
Punjabi culture is known for its diversity as this region has been exposed to many various peoples and cultures throughout history. Bhangra music and dance have become popular in the west and is generally thought of as distinctly Indian sounding. Bhangra’s musical tone comes from the wide use of drums, such as the snare, toms, dhadd, dafli, dholki, and damru, and string instruments, including the guitar (both acoustic and electrical), bass, sitar, tumbi, violin and sarangi. The tumbi is a high-tone, single-string instrument. Marriages and weddings in the Punjab region are generally very elaborate and filled with a wide variety of local traditions and customs. The traditional dress for Punjabi men is the Punjabi Kurta and Tehmat which is being replaced by the kurta and pajama, especially the popular Muktsari style in India. The traditional dress for women is the Punjabi Salwar Suit which replaced the traditional Punjabi Ghagra. The Patiala salwar is also very popular.
The Punjab region is a major producer of wheat, rice and dairy products so these products make up the staple food as well. Wheat is the staple food of Punjabis; however, they do enjoy eating rice on festivities and other special occasions. Punjabi food has become very popular throughout the world and includes a wide variety of dishes. “Sarso ka saag” and “Maki ki roti” are examples of well-known dishes. Chole- bature also is among the famous dishes from Punjab cuisine. More popular dishes include, naan, butter chicken, mutter paneer, tandoori, samosas, pakoras. Yogurt is used as a side to almost every dish.
The Punjab region is located in South Asia. South-central Asia is shown in dark green on this map.
The Punjab region of India (shaded) is in the northwest corner of India.
Q & A Section
1. What types of food do the Punjabi people of India eat?
The Punjabi region of India is one of the world’s most abundant producers of wheat, rice, and dairy products and so Punjabi food often includes a variety of breads and dairy products.
2. Why do they eat yogurt with nearly every meal?
3. What are “Sarso ka saag” and “Maki ki roti”?
4. What are Chole-bature and naan?
5. What is pakoras?
6. What is mutter paneer?
7. What is tandoori?
8. Do Punjabis eat at a table or do they sit on the floor?
9. Do Punjabis use metal forks and knifes or something else like chopskicks?
10. Are there special pre-meal rituals that Punjabis do before eating?
Venn Diagram Section (~1 page)
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Pictures with captions
The cuisine of Punjab has an enormous variety of mouth-watering vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes.
The spice content ranges from minimal to pleasant to high.
Punjab is the major producer of wheat, rice and dairy products so these products make up the staple food as well. Wheat is the staple food of Punjabis; however, they do enjoy eating rice on festivities and other special occasions.
The philosophy of life for most of the Punjabis is to eat, drink and make merry. They are real lively people who are extremely fond of eating good food.
India is the world’s second-most-populous country and is self-sufficient in grain production. However, despite frequent food surplus, half of India’s children are malnourished. About 350 million Indians go to bed hungry every night yet the government is sitting on wheat surpluses — now at about 53 million metric tons — that would stretch to the moon and back at least twice if all the bags were lined up (Waldman, 2002). Persistent scarcity surrounded by such bounty has become a source of shame for a nation that has taken pride in feeding itself.
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