No Chillis for the Buddha
Have you wondered why there is no mention of chilis, anywhere in the Early Buddhist Texts (and possibly nowhere in the entire Pali Canon)? I did a little research into the history of chillis: “The History of Spicy Food”, and look at the map showing where all the chilis in the world were found in the year 1400 - nowhere close to Asia!
So it’s basically certain that the Buddha would have never once savored the flavor of a chilli (but perhaps black pepper, yes).
Disclaimer: Read no further if you have an intense, patriotic love of Sri Lankan cuisine
Still reading? You’ve been warned!
Furthermore, the spice-turbocharged cuisine of the Sri Lankans probably originated from the influence of Islam invading India, back in the 1500’s. I was researching the history of the heavy use of onions in Indian (and Sri Lankan) cuisine. I came across the following interesting information from this article:
“…the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang noted in his visits to India between 629 and 645 AD: Onions and garlic are little known, and few people eat them; if anyone uses them for food, they are expelled beyond the walls of the town.
…T. Achaya in “Indian Food: A Historical Companion” notes that onions were not mentioned in Vedic literature till 2nd century BC and then as despised foods which were forbidden to those seeking an austere life. Ayurveda regards onions as rajasic and tamasic, leading to passion and ignorance, and not suitable for those trying to meditate and lead a pure life. Onions are also thought to be an aphrodisiac and so not suitable for those seeking spirituality.
…This passion can be credited to the cuisine of the Mughals which was rich and used onions in many meat dishes and biryanis.”
So it seems the origin of the intense passion for Onions in India and Sri Lanka is a recent phenomenon: The Mughal empire in India only started in the 1500’s!
Update: An Indian acquaintance clarified that not all of India is highly passionate about onions. It’s only modern-day northwest India, which still passionately eats (effectively ubiquitous) onions like the Sri Lankan Buddhists do. He further clarified that the northeast of India avoids onions, and the south of India only uses them sometimes as a garnish (and this is sort of a luxury item).