“How can you be a true Punjabi and not like onions??” my mother-in-law asked me in horror.
It’s not that I don’t like them at all. There was a time when I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 ft. pole, but I’ve come around – to my mother-in-law’s point, could I really have an Indian food blog and hate onions at the same time? Onions and tomatoes are the basic ingredients in practically every curry recipe I’ve ever tried.
But yes, historically, I have not been an onion fan, and even now I can only eat them cooked in a dish with other things, not raw on a burger or with chaat masala and lime like my husband. (Eek!)
The lowly onion has a storied history in India. The first known mention is about 2,500 years ago in the ancient medical text “Charaka-Samhita,” which celebrated the vegetable’s curative powers.
Four centuries later, it was mentioned in religious texts as a despised food anathema to a life of meditation and austerity. It remained something of a medical and sensual sideshow for centuries, judging from the accounts of Chinese traveler Xuanzang, who visited India in the seventh century.
“Onions and garlic are little known and few people eat them,” he wrote. “If anyone uses them for food, they are expelled beyond the walls of the town.”
India’s infatuation with the onion is credited to the Mughal rulers, who used them liberally in their meat and rice dishes.
Oh, those Mughals – they are credited with everything, aren’t they?
A short while ago, a friend forwarded me an e-mail with the subject line, “Creativity in India,” which contained a number of humorous photos. I’ve selected one below for your enjoyment. I swear I’m going to try that.
What are your favorite recipes with onion?