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Jewish Indian Cooking

Guest blog by Susan R. Eisenstein

Do you love to eat? Do you love to travel? And do you love to explore different cuisine while traveling! If you can't do the traveling part right now because of COVID-19, no problem! You can transport your tastebuds to another culture through food!

A fascinating and special place to home kitchen travel is India. India is a large, diverse country of cultural and culinary diversity. Over the course of history, various invaders have passed through India, including Aryans, Persians, Arabs, the British, and the Portuguese. Each one left its imprint on the cuisine of India. Indian food is delicious, healthy, and not just about curry, chilies, and oil. It is pyramids of string beans, orange gooseberries, tomatoes, and ginger piled in giant wicker baskets beside bundles of coriander and mint in open-air markets; tiny yellow bananas still clustered on the branch, dangling from street stalls, and burlap bags filled with countless varieties of rice and lentils.

A Jewish Indian dish of yellow rice, flat bread, and vegetables
A mouthwatering Indian dish.

India has three main Jewish communities, located in different regions of the country: the Baghdadi Jews, who lived in Bombay and Calcutta; the Bene Israel of Bombay on the Konkan peninsula, and the Jews of Cochin in southwest India. Independently of each other, these three groups developed their cuisines by merging the original cuisines of the Middle East with regional Indian ingredients, local herbs, and fragrant spices, producing a unique flavor profile while maintaining Judaism's strict dietary laws. Substitutes included coconut milk as a pareve alternative to milk or cream, and lamb instead of beef as a red meat source because Hindus have a sacred respect for cows that is widely respected. Ready to come and explore some recipes and savor the special flavors of Jewish Indian cuisine?

Then let's home kitchen-travel to India and prepare Rahel Musleah's recipes and imagine what it was like to live a Jewish life in India. Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad. The Jewish community here once numbered 5,000. Today, less than 20 Jews remain in Calcutta itself but members of the community have spread all over the world and love and appreciate this delicious cuisine.


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