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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

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”