Ancient Indian Cookery, Part 5

BY: SUN STAFF

Panihati Rice Bowls, Sridham Mayapur


Oct 09, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — A study of ancient texts on Vedic cookery and foodstuffs, in Sanskrit and Kannada.

Just as cookery manuscripts like Shivaratnakara describe the optimal layout of a proper Vedic kitchen, each tool and utensil having a proper form, function and placement in the kitchen facility, so each tool, pot and vessel has specific uses. For example, the material each piece of kitchen gear is made out of is tied to the healthful qualities that will be produced when food is cooked in it. These relationships are essential elements of Ayurveda.

Just as cookery manuscripts like Shivaratnakara describe the optimal layout of a proper Vedic kitchen, each tool and utensil having a proper form, function and placement in the kitchen facility, so each tool, pot and vessel has specific uses. For example, the material each piece of kitchen gear is made out of is tied to the healthful qualities that will be produced when food is cooked in it. These relationships are essential elements of Ayurveda.

A good example of these associations is found in the instructions on proper vessels to cook rice in. If rice is cooked in a copper vessel, it helps to cure and prevent gout, rheumatism, colic (or stomach disruption) and problems with the spleen. Conversely, rice cooked in copper may increase bile (pitta).

Rice cooked in an iron pot may cure jaundice and consumption. Likewise, if a bell metal vessel is used, the cooked rice may help these same ailments, although in the case of bell metal, it is due to the copper and tin alloy. This rice may also counter the effects of poisoning.

Eating rice made in a silver vessel is said to alleviate excessive body heat, phlegm and constipation while eating from a tinned brass vessel, on the other hand, may bring on phlegm and cold symptoms. Eating rice cooked in a mud pot may reduce excess body heat, but may also bring on cold symptoms. Each of the variously colored muds have their own qualities, when rice is cooked in vessels made from them. So we can see that cookery texts like Shivaratnakara and Supa Sastra incorporate fundamental elements that are also found in Ayurvedic medicine.

The third chapter of Supa Sastra, written by King Mangarasa III in 1508 A.D., deals primarily with the science of cooking rice. The author specifies eight different types of defects that can be found in cooked rice. These include: half-cooked rice, burned rice, rice formed in a lump, rice mixed with the husk, misshapen rice grains, gruel (starchy water) remaining even after the rice is cooked, and rice contaminated with hair, etc. Properly cooked rice, on the other hand, should begin with good quality rice, it should be soft, the grains separated, with a pleasing aroma, clean, and fit for royal treatment.

There are six categories of rice preparations dealt with, including: pure, royal, buttered, steam cooked, blooming mixed, and steam cooked mixed rice.

Also included are general recipes for rice preps that contain pickle, spiced curd, coconut, buttermilk, special green leaf, and raw or strong buttermilk.

This chapter also covers the different types of porridge that can be made from wheat malt, including one preparation that is scented with cardamom, citron filament, tamarind, raw mango, butter, ghee, coconut, and cream or ripe banana essence.

One of the rice preparations mentioned in Supa Sastra that illustrates the variety in cooking techniques prevalent in ancient India is the recipe for 'Steam Cooked Mixed Rice':


Steam Cooked Mixed Rice

Soak the rice overnight, making it quite soft. Add turmeric to the water.

Mix in any kind of pulses, having been boiled themselves to ¾ done

Take a wide-mouthed vessel full of water and tie a cloth over the top.

Put the rice/pulse mixture on top of the cloth, and put another vessel overtop, making a good seal

When the rice is cooked, add salt, fenugreek powder and pieces of grated coconut.

Put the top vessel back on and cook for a little while longer over mild fire.

Remove the pieces of coconut, and offer.


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