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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It turns out that the Indian fare you've come to love — curry, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala — often isn't very Indian after all. Instead, they and many other "Indian" dishes, served at restaurants in the U.S. and around the world, are more British and Portuguese, either modified to suit foreign palates and stomachs, or invented entirely from whole-cloth.

What's going on: In a growing trend, people in India are returning to more purist cuisine, using millets, vegetables and spices that had disappeared from kitchen tables.

A history lesson
  • Chilies arrived in India with the Portuguese in the 15th century.
  • Cream and yogurt sauces showed up with the British starting in the 16th century.

Then there is the problem with curry.

  • "Curry isn’t even an Indian word. There aren’t many curries in India," historian Lizzie Collingham tells Axios.
  • Instead, the British began to call dishes served over rice "curry," and insisted on the addition of more coriander and ginger to suit their tastes.

"The issue is that Indian food had British influence."

— Floyd Cordoz, an Indian chef and restaurateur in New York City.

Tandoori chicken, butter chicken and tandoori roti — staples of Indian restaurants — are also not originally Indian, but creations of the British under their rule, Colleen Sen author of Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India, tells Axios.

More food shenanigans happened when Britons moved back home from India. They created curry powder for convenience and replaced mangoes with apples or turmeric with lemon juice, said Collingham, author of Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors.

  • Chicken tikka masala — traditional fare on U.S. and U.K. menus — is said to be the result of recipes jotted down by Britons once living in India.
  • But where in the U.K. and by whom are another matter: Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester all claim to have originated the dish.

"The British had their own idea of what Indian food was," Cordoz said.

What’s happening now

Middle-class India is seeing huge social mobility, with large numbers going out to eat more, but not to American fast-food chains like KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, that popped up on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai 20 years ago.

  • Instead, for the first time, Indians are out eating authentic Indian cuisines, with the original spices and ingredients, Sen said.
  • "There's a proliferation of regional Indian restaurants. Not a western version — its own authentic cuisine. It's quite a dramatic change," Sen said.

India's wealthy 1% now have organic farm houses to satisfy this new demand for authentic ingredients, such as fresh produce.

Go deeper

Updated 11 mins ago - Sports

IOC: Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe"

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in 2019. Photo: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in Tokyo, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

The latest: Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic have offered to help the 24-year-old sprinter, who refused national team orders to board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's Haneda airport Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

Team USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing in the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is "looking into" U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders' gesture on the Tokyo Games podium after she won a silver medal, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters Monday.

Why it matters: Saunders told AP she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the podium to stand up for "oppressed" people. The IOC has banned protests during the Tokyo Games.