Ayurveda and Ayurvedic lifestyle is fairly well-known in India. Many Indians, even without knowing, follow Ayurvedic principles in their home cooking and eating habits. This panel discussion looked around the world to identify traditional recipes and eating habits from different countries to understand how they are based on Ayurvedic principles as well. Several panelists shared recipes, and even cooking demos, leaving the audience spell-bound with mouths watering, eager to try the Ayurvedic cuisines from around the world.
Each speaker talked about their country, the different topographies and climates that exist in that place, and how their food followed Ayurvedic principles including eating food falling under particular Rasas during different seasons, use of spices and herbs for digestive and other purposes. Many also lamented on the introduction or changing of systems due to colonization and globalization.
Ms. Nitja Rupa, a food technologist and member of ISKCON, provided a video presentation on Latvian life and food. Latvia experiences 4 beautiful seasons: summer, autumn, winter, and spring. In our location, sun changes in different seasons. The seasons are connected to the Sun, how it goes around the earth. This itself is a humble dedication to Ayurveda. Ms. Nitja taught us how each season has a different length of sunlight exposure.
- Summer: 19 hours of day; night is 4 hours
- Autumn: 7 hours of day; day has more fog, rain, wind. We only have a little sun, a few days in the month.
- A short summer, fast autumn and long winter
Ms. Nitja discussed the need to take care of all plants in the Latvian summer and how to prepare the food for the winter. Our important food items when it’s dark and when it's icy and snowy in winter.
“Similar to India, the main thing to eat is grains. Latvian diet has 4 main types of grains: wheat, buckwheat, rye, and barley. Buckwheat is more a seed, it has more fiber.”
Like the principles of Ayurveda discuss the storage of food, Latvian customs also have this system. “According to our system: warm food and some fermented items. We need to prepare things and put in our godowns and store for the winter months.” They experience problems with the grains not being fully grown when harvested; they need to grow under the earth for another 2 months. Latvians then take the grains out from the ground and ensure the process of drying occurs also. After the grains are dry, it is put in water and squeezed to make a paste. It is ground to make different food items.
“From grain, we make bread and pancakes, and many other items. We can make a mix with vegetables.” There are many dishes and many vitamins and minerals. We recognize the health aspects, just as in Ayurveda. “We do not eat it if there are still the small fermented things inside; that’s not good for the health.”
Every country and region has its own natural and local plants, which have different rasas based on the climactic conditions. For example, in India, there are lots of fruits which are sweet. But Lativa only has berries, in the summer and early Autumn. They are sour. It means, we have lots of kapha. Ms. Nitja added that the berries are fermented and prepared for the winter.
Starting with a history of the country, Ms. Larisa Ambrogio explained that Argentina as a nation is only about 200 years old, with immigrants from around the world, mostly European. It was after the discovery of America, so a lot American traditions were introduced. Local food was already gone. Maize was sacred to natives, but rice and wheat were introduced. This was a wrong combination. Christmas and winter meals were introduced, but the southern hemisphere has summer.in Summer and we actually need a different diet. Now pizza is so readily available. In winter, day is hot and nights are cold. In Italy, fresh local grains are used; but in Argentina, it’s white flour with canned sauce and cheese.
Ms. Larisa provided three easy recipes for people to try at home (of course, based on their geographic and climatic location, and availability of resources.
Carbonara Argentina: One of the main local dishes is Carbonara Argentina, which falls under the Madhura rasa. It is easy, comfy, warm, nutritious. We used it as festive days, typically in winter time. It has vegetarian and non-veg versions. Carbon: a way of cooking that gave a smoky flavour in the old way of cooking.
Quinoa Soup: QuinoaA millet in Northwestern people of Argentina. It is slightly aggravating Vata. Rinse until the water is clear, otherwise the bitter taste remains.
Mazamorra: A dessert, with Madhura Rasa (milk, Sugar, dry corn). It is good for children who are in the kapha stage of life; also for old people in the vata stage of life.
Now, which type of corn do we use? Sweet corn is readily available, but we actually should use white maize. There used to be a huge variety of maize in the Americas, but due to the conquerors in the land, many were lost or even became extinct. Now, some forms are coming back.
Brazil with Bruno
A huge and diverse nation, Brazilian Ayurvedic cuisine was presented by 3 speakers, starting with an Ayurvedic Professional, Mr. Bruno Cine Ribeiro do Carmo, who discussed how people of Brazil traditionally had food habits based on Ayurvedic principles and foods are similar to Indian way of cooking. Paying respect to the ethnic and tribal diversity of the nation, Mr. Bruno clarified the impossibility of documenting or discussing all the food habits of tribes because there are many unwritten. Instead, he would be able to give a few examples and ideas.
Mr. Bruno’s presentation began with an overview of the similarities to Ayurvedic principles in Brazilian food and eating habits:
- Utilization of 6 Rasa
- Predominance of Madhura Rasa items as staple food
- It’s common to prepare only what is going to be eaten. (not eating leftovers)
- It’s common to eat something only when hungry (eating when hungry)
- Anciently most tribes would eat raw or roasted food. Some tribes, with pottery abilities, would also cook. (cooking according to need)
- Indigenous culinary is simple. There are few spices used. Many groups use only pepper and salt. (usage of some spice)
- Some dishes depend on seasonal ingredients. Some harvested roots can be stored. (seasonal eating, according to surroundings)
- Regional differences related to climatic zones and Agni
- Prevalence of higher use of spices in hotter places
- Prevalence of Guru food items in colder places
- Prevalence of cooked items
- Usage of spices (garlic, onion, pepper, cilantro, parsley, chive)
- Usage of “cooked butter” (“bottle butter” or ghee)
- Usage of bitter/adstringent drinks after food (coffee, jurubeba.)
- Habits and beliefs related to food (not taking bath after food.)
- Eating in company of loved/dear ones
- Thanking the divinity
Mr. Bruno further discussed some specifics about the cooking methods:
- Pamonha-- Corn and cassava cultivated and used as flour, cooked in the corn leaves, similar to Kerala dishes made in banana and tapioca leaves.
- To follow compassion, Brazilians traditionally collected animals, and did not hunt.
- Gathering of small animals such as turtles, ants, lizards
- Roasting of larger animals such as wild pigs makes it lighter to eat and aids in digestion.
- Staples: Cereal and legume combination, similar to Indian Rice/ Chapati and Daal.
- Eating together is better for digestion, for love, for the right amount of food intake.
- The effect of spices such as onion (spicy) and garlic (astringent)
- Predominance of Madhura rasa: rice and meat, which is what is needed for this climate and land, and what is locally grown and available.
- Beverage as Anupana
- Dende Oil (brought from Africa by slaves)
- Farofa is a spicy flour used in many dishes
Mr. Bruno then provided recipes and concepts for a few dishes, including Feijoada and Moqueca.
Brazil with Antonio Lacerda
An Ayurvedic therapist from Brazil, Professor Antonio gave a video presentation from NW Brazil. Baiao is a music and dance of the region, and it’s also the name of the dish he prepared for the audience to watch him cook. His presentation discussed the history of the dish. “While they are dancing, the partners dance very closely, in the same way that rice and beans are mixed in this dish.”
“Baião de dois is a traditional recipe from the northeastern region of Brazil and it can have a vegetarian preparation and a non-vegetarian form, for which we add jerked beef, bacon or other types of meat and processed meat. It is important to highlight that in the northeastern region of Brazil the climate is arid and many people live in poverty, far from cities and in places where there is not a wide variety of types of food available. Thus, rice and beans is a cheap food and accessible to a large part of the population.”
Professor Antonio further established the importance of the local version of ghee. He writes, “Manteiga-de-garrafa, Bottled Butter. Also known as ground-butter, it is a type of butter that remains liquid at room temperature. It is sold in glass bottles and it is a typical and widely consumed product in the Northeast region of Brazil. Such dairy products are obtained by cooking the cow’s cream of milk until all the water has evaporated and only the butter fat and solid particles of the cream remain. Once it is made, it can be consumed in up to two months. Its manufacture is largely handmade, with predominantly informal marketing, such as street markets, small local stores and rural properties. Some Brazilian Ayurvedic practitioners know this butter as the “Brazilian Ghee” .
The professor explains that this meal can be seen as Mishra Kudana, since it uses Shooka dhanya (rice varieties) and shimbi dhanya (pulses), cooked well and eaten together. “This meal is heavy for digestion, provides strength, good for the heart, nutritive and carminative.”
Furthermore, “the use of bottled butter adds Snegda guna to the meal,” that can be useful in regions with hot and dry climates like northeast of Brazil. Also, butter improves the taste and digestion and nourishes the body. Traditional Queijo-Coalho or Rennet Cheese is when then milk coagulates directly in the stomach of the cow. Cost-effective
Here is an overview of the recipe:
- Soak black eyed peas and boil with salt and bay leaves
- Al dente beans, not overcooked (shundel style)
- Wash rice, add 1 spoon of olive oil, onion chopped fry , mix in rice, add the water from the beans. Add salt and pepper, cook;
- Chop cheese and saute in butter (bottle butter or ghee) until browned.
- Butter, onion, garlic, water from beans, beans, rice, biquinho pepper and other spices, cheese cubes. Coahlo cheese. Garnish with coriander.
Representing the Balkan Republic of Slovenia was Herbalist Bojana Iskra. Ms. Bojana talked about the staples of the state: Buckwheat, Mushrooms, Pumpkin Seed Oil; Honey. Honey is such an important part of the life and land of Slovenia. “We have 10,000 bee keepers; but only 2 million people!” the speaker exclaimed.
Slovenia experiences 4 seasons. Slovenians look forward to spring time, because of dandelion with cooked syrup, beans, and taters. But perhaps the most Ayurvedic-based dish is Jota, a sauerkraut and bean hotpot. The dish has a long history throughout the region: it was called Iutta (Gaelic) and Jote (Friuli) before it came to Slovenia as Jota (Slovenian). Here too, it is a regional dish, primarily made in the Southwest of Slovenia (Karst), and Northwest of Italy (Fruili). In winter, when it’s cold out, Jota is served hot by creative housewives who use whatever is available to them: cabbage, turnip, potatoes, beans. In summer, the same dish is served cold.
These are the Slovenian super food ingredients. Fermented cabbage-- probiotic. It helped make the food last longer. It digests ama and replenishes enzymes, create agni. Onion and Garlic (boosts function of immune system, useful in cold weather), Pepper, Cumin, Bay Leaf, Salt. Rinse sauerkraut to remove acicidty.
“Veda is knowledge. It’s not one country. It’s everyone’s knowledge.” -- Dr. Somit Kumar
AVP’s own Dr. Somit Kumar talked about Turkish cuisine in relation to Ayurveda. He started by showing how Turkish, Persian and Indian civilizations had a lot of interaction historically.
In Turkey, three of the most revered ingredients are honey, sesame, and ghee. Honey is so universal, it balances kapha. Sesame/ Tahini (eaten with honey as breakfast), is for Vata balancing. Ghee is best for Pitta dosha. Ghee is prevalent in the Balkans, Persia, Turkey. Other cultures might use sunflower seeds, linseed: anything as vata reducing is fine! What’s important to note is that it’s across traditions and countries. We need more collaboration, research, exchange of ideas, to show the prevalence of Ayurvedic systems throughout the world.
Dr. Somit talked about Turkish 16th century texts which propounded concepts of Ayurveda. He explained that in Turkish summers, agni is low, therefore, metabolism is low. Cold climates increase metabolism, so it’s important to add fermented food to balance it. He then enunciated specific similarity in cuisines of Turkey and India
- Brinjal: patlajan in Turkey
- Brinjal and Meat is popular in Turkey. So is beans and meat. We can see the same in Brazil.
- Bread: Every culture has bread.
- Round turkish bread with sesame. But it’s not really turkish.
- As in India, different regions had different breads. Based on the climate, it could be lightly fermented, or no fermentation. In some places, they then fill with cheese, etc., and roast on tava.
- Lavash is like Chapati
- Black sea: Corn Bread;
- Black Sea: Fresh water fish
- South: Sea fish
- Each country according to climate, conditions, they adapt. It follows ayurvedic principles.
- Use of milk products
- Iran: Yogurt and by products, cheese were staple probiotics.
- Turkish use Takra/ Chaach
- Wine as aperitif
- Indian fruit juice and spice.
- Turkish Raka: made of wheat!
- Ayurveda: Aampana: proposes to have a wine along with a meal.
- Turkish: Kofta curry
- Turkish: Borek is a filled Poori, like a wheat kachori.
- Sharbat/ Compot (Russian): Shud-udhaka: Improve appetite.
The panelists then responded to a number of audience questions, going deeper into the topics they brought up.
Q: Why wash quinoa?
A: Quinoa main rasa is madhura and astringent, not bitter. So remove the bitterness through washing.
Q: What is the purpose of sauerkraut?
A: Jota has sauerkraut which has probiotics (28 strains of bacteria). Like all fermented foods, sauerkraut contains probiotics that boost the digestive system. But what's great, sauerkraut contains multiple different strains of probiotics. One study found 28 strains of bacteria in sauerkraut. This is important because different strains provide defenses against bad bacteria, so the more strains fermented food has, the more health benefits it will carry.
Q: Tell us more about the berries of Latvia and their usage.
A: Strawberries are all GMO now. Wild strawberries are sweet and bitter (forest). In hybrid it’s now sweet and sour.
Cranberries (sour-- similar to amlaki: except for lavana taste it has all rasas), blueberries (sweet), Apples (summer--sour; autumn-- sweet). There are good berries for blood pressure, CV conditions.
Q: What’s the importance of grains and using after drying?
A: In India, we have the concept of Shasti Saalika: Rice in 60 days. Buckwheat is also the same, and then dried it. Indian tradition also harvests and eats it next year, then it’s better for diabetes, etc. Glycemic index is adapted. All the countries have the rasas and ideas about food.
Q: Talk to us about the festivals of your country.
A: Midnight summer festival: First sun (agni); garland of leaves in swastik (space created); wood (earth); Newly harvested; 9 herbs; water. It uses all the elements, just like a Havan might in India. This was part of the pre-christian culture of Baltic and Scandinavian countries. There are still sacred spots, rocks, based on the elements. The power of the elements is there. 5 elements.
Dr. Somit Kumar’s presentation also enlightened the viewers on why Ayurvedic principles are available in certain traditions. He said that all traditional civilizations chose places in moderate climates. Moderate wind, rain, sunlight. Equal time for sun and light. That’s important for circadian rhythm. Mountainous regions were not original habitats of humans.
The Ayurvedic approach was to customize according to the geography, job, prakruthi, vikruthi. The Satmya (Ethnic, Lifestyle, dietetic adaptability). Who can eat, how to eat, when to eat? All the panelists have spoken about this so far.
Ayurveda also discusses dietetics: Effect of diet on mind. This is through:
- 5 elements (Panchabhutas)
- 6 tastes (Shad rasas)
- 20 twenty attributes (Vimsathi gunas)
We are preoccupied with micronutrients now. But it’s actually the rasas that are important in many places. Each rasa has different physical attributes. Each season has a different taste requirement. In winter, sweet, sour and salty. Oily and Hot potency. In the summer: Less meat, more sweet, little oily, cooling potency. This algorithm is based on the metabolism in the season. Cold countries need more meats, tubers, grains. Ayurveda Rtucharya has been followed across all cultures. Traditional cultures were always about the biggest heavy meal at lunch in the height of sun. Traditional cultures proposed to the people to maintain a good lifestyle and diet, which will reduce chronic disorders. Now there is Intermittent fasting. Many cultures used to have 2 big meals so it was automatic intermittent fasting. Gut Microbes helps with mood. Everyone is eating non-local foods, that’s not good for their mental health. Emotional health. Certain genotypes are needed for specific foods. Indian genotype vikriti is not suited for pizza every day. But everyone eats food from around the world.