Etiquette of Indian diningEating and widely drinking are as deeply intertwined with the Indian culture, as are religion and philisophy.Again each region might follow a distinct style of serving food. Proper table manners vary from culture to culture, although there are always a few basic rules that are important to follow everywhere.
CutleryFrom the kadhai, to the pateela to the tawa, to the handi,karchi, there is a mindboggling range of utensils in which you can prepare Indian food. However, traditionally Indians prefer to eat with their hands rather than use cutlery. An average Indian’s staple diet of roti-sabzi or rice and curry can be best enjoyed with hands.Moreover, condiments like achar,papad,chutney, well there’s no point using spoons and forks for them. A dish is considered really good, only when the eater starts licking his fingers, as they say,”ungliyan chat-te reh jaoge”.
Unlike the west,Indians are used to eating with hands, because water as a resource was always more easily accessible than in foreign countries,to clean the hands after eating.Foreigners are still wary of the practice of eating with one’s hands, as they consider it an unhygienic practice.However,its not that difficult to maintain hygienic habits,is it?
Moreover, our eating habits have been laid down in such a way as to maintain hygienic conditions, like when eating curry, one should not stain one’s finger, rather care must be taken only to use the finger-tips.
However, now spoons are frequently used to have pulses, dahi,raita or kheer etc, or any food product that has more of liquid content.However food practices differ from region to region.
However, in case one is providing food as part of charity or langar, as is done in many cases, then its considered unhygienic to touch the food with one’s hands, and spoons are used to distribute food.
Indians have comfortably done with or without the use of cutlery so far, and in most Indian homes, its still considered quite a westernised concept.
Now one thing unique about Indian eating habits is the concept of ‘jutha’.There’s no word in English dictionary that comes near to the meaning of it, probably because they don’t have this concept.The word that comes closest to it is ‘sullied’.If your food has come in contact with your saliva, then you can’t offer it to anybody else, except in rare circumstances, where people share food from the same plate to show their affection for each other. The term jutha is called by other names in part of India, namely 'ushtha' (in Western India), 'etho' (in Bengal), 'aitha' (in Orissa), 'echal' (in Tamil Nadu), 'enjulu' (in Karnataka), or 'engili' (in Andhra Pradesh). It is a sin to give jutha food to even a beggar in India.
Right handThe most important and basic rule of dining in India is to always use the right hand when eating or receiving food, and never the left. The use of left hand is considered very very unhygienic in Indian homes.But you are not supposed to use your right hand, incase you need a second helping, because the right hand has now become jutha.
The Unsaid RulesIn most Indian homes, be it any part of the country, the elders are always given the honour of starting to eat first, then children, and then the adults.Everyone is supposed to wash their hands and face before starting to eat. Moreover, it is considered direspectful to the host if you are seen leaving uneaten food on your plate.So, in India, its an unspoken rule to take only as much food on your plate as you can eat comfortabily.
After the main course and the desserts have been served, most North Indian hosts wind it up by offering saunf(fennel ), and elaichi(cardamom), to take the bad breath away. And unlike the west, there is the concept of rinsing your teeth after eating just about anything.There is also a specific term used for it, called kulla.
It is the hot chilli food, traditionally talked about as that which would bring sweet and tears when eating it, or this spicy food with an eastern promise, which is catching on the imagination of more and more people.