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West Bengal
Odisha
Gujarat
Goa
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Showcase 31 Jul 2014

Colour Palate - Part two

The second part of Colour Palate explores the colours of food in West Bengal, Odisha, Gujarat and Goa.

Colour Palate travels through India, exploring the colour quotient of food traditions across geographical regions of Central, East, West, and South India. Based on exclusive Asian Paints research, the series presents a snapshot of each region and the medley of core ingredients which contribute to a unique colour palette per region. The first edition covered Eastern Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, from Central India. In this issue we travel to the East, exploring the colours in the cuisines of West Bengal and Odisha and then to the West, in Gujarat and Goa.

West Bengal

West Bengal

Bengal has a history of turmoil that reaches back to the 18th century. From the rule of the Nawabs to the British Raj and the separation of the state into East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal in the mid-20th century, the region has seen many different political and cultural influences. This history of strife and upheaval gives the region a unique culture, which is clearly manifested in its cuisine. 

Most Bengali recipes use indigenous ingredients and blended spices. One of the key ingredients commonly used is the banana tree, every part of which is used in signature dishes of the region. Another recognisable ingredient is the panch phoron blended spices, which are commonly used in many different Bengali recipes. Panch phoron is unique in its use of the radhuni or carom seeds, which are not commonly found in other Indian cuisines. The link between culture and food is one that is seen throughout India, but it is perhaps most evident Bengal, where food is an intrinsic part of many rituals and traditions. Perhaps the best example of this is Durga Puja, where food is elevated to the level of a sacrament and is believed to carry the blessings of the goddess Durga herself. Banana leaves and coconuts, spicy curries and a plethora of sweet dishes, including the famous mishti doi accompany the celebrations during this time. The sweet dishes are typically served in special copper dishes, which are believed to be auspicious. 

The colours of West Bengal are pure, saturated and bright, with pastels tempering the vibrant lead colours. These colours are often associated with purity, satisfaction and auspiciousness. The palette can be used to create an atmosphere of spiritual energy and peace. Puja rooms, dining rooms and living areas within the home are particularly well suited to this palette. The palette is especially beneficial for restaurants, where the red colour stimulates the appetite, while the greens have a relaxing effect.

The bright green of banana leaves, pure white and deep brown of coconuts, fiery red of chillies, and pale yellow of Mishti Doi make up the palette of West Bengal.

 

Odisha

Odisha

Odisha has a royal heritage dating back to the 15th century and has been an important port for trade with East-Asia for much of that time. In fact, the region played such an important role in trade that countries such as Indonesia and Cambodia still trace many aesthetic and cultural influences back to Indian-Oriya culture. 

These East-Asian influences, along with the rich tribal history intrinsic to  the region has given it a unique culture, which is abundantly visible in the cuisine  of the region. 

Like West Bengal, Odisha’s cuisine is heavily reliant on locally sourced ingredients, especially spices and sea food.  In fact, the connection with West Bengal is not merely due to geographical proximity, but cultural as well. For many centuries, it was common for wealthy Bengali households to employ Oriya brahmins as cooks, leading to a cross-pollination of cuisines. For instance, the panch phoron blended spices of Bengal are endemic to Oriya cuisine as well, where it is known as panch phutana. 

Coconuts, yoghurt, saag (green, leafy vegetables), and a variety of spices form the base of most Oriya dishes. Turmeric is used extensively, as is mustard and mustard oil. Kalonji or nigella seeds are used extensively in Oriya cooking and add their distinctive black colour to many dishes. Dessert includes sweets such as Rasagulla (which is originally an Oriya dish, though it is now famous as a signature dish of West Bengal), Kheer and Pithas (crepes made of coconut, lentils, jaggery and condensed dairy products). Just as the copper vessels play an important role in West Bengal’s traditions, silver utensils are a vital part of many Oriya culinary, religious, and cultural rituals. 

Odisha’s colours are vibrant and reminiscent of pride and energy. Used  in combination with neutrals, these colours communicate extravagance and power.  The palette is well-suited to use in corporate offices, retail spaces and government buildings. Within the home, the palette can lend energy to kitchens or dining areas.

The colour palette of Odisha includes the inky blacks of nigella seeds, mustard yellows, deep reds, rich dark greens, and silver.

 

Gujarat

Gujarat

Gujarat’s illustrious, though turbulent history begins in the 6th century AD when it was established as an important port for maritime trade. The state flourished under the Gupta and Mughal empires and found even greater prominence under British Rule, with cities like Ahmedabad and Surat becoming trade capitals for the British East India Company. 

Gujarat has a dry climate, with large areas of arid, almost desert-like land. This results in a cuisine that is directly dependent on the season and a multitude of dishes that are built around seasonal ingredients.

Combined with the state’s diverse cultural influences, this seasonal dependence creates a vast array of dishes, from pickles and preserves to snacks or farsan such as dhoklas, khandvis, and chakris. In fact, it is common for a celebratory Gujarati thali to have no fewer than twelve dishes, beginning with farsans, main dishes such as khichdi and kadhi, and ending with milky sweets such as shrikhand and kheer

The Gujarati colours are energetic and intense, with a harmonious mix of dark and light colours, saturated and watered down shades, echoing the broad range of the Gujarati cuisine. The Gujarati palette will work well for restaurants and kitchens, as well as hospitality and retail spaces that want to convey harmony and auspiciousness.

The beautiful yellow of lentils, the dark browns of fried snacks, the milky whites of sweets and the deep maroons of pickles come together to make the Gujarati palette.

 

Goa

Goa

Known as one of India’s richest states, Goa has an illustrious history, with wealth that is both economic and cultural. The state’s geographic location makes it a vital trade route and led to the state being conquered by the Portuguese in the early-16th century. The Portuguese culture is an important part of Goa’s heritage and its influence can be seen even today in the architecture, religion, arts & crafts, and the cuisine as well. 

Goan cuisine is distinct from the rest of India, with preparation methods and ingredients borrowed from Portuguese cooking styles. Seafood plays a very important role in Goan cuisine, with rice and fish curry being a staple of most Goan homes. Coconuts are also a key ingredient and are used in many different forms. But the most significant influence of the Portuguese has undoubtedly been the introduction of the chili, which remains the most important spice in Goan cooking. 

The Portuguese also introduced the cashew nut, which is used both as an ingredient and also as the basis for the local Goan liquor, called feni. The state also has a rich wine culture, with port wine being prepared at home by many local families.

Goa's colours are elemental, pure and peaceful, with a heady mix of bright and muddy colours creating a balanced palette. The palette can be used in bedrooms and nurseries to create spaces that have a balanced mood of joy, peace and calm. Retail and hospitality spaces can use the palette to effectively create a laid-back yet effortlessly sophisticated and fresh atmosphere.

The rough brown of the coconuts, the bright greens of the  chillies, soft white of rice, the jewel tones of the red wine and the muddy yellow of cashews form the Goan palette.