Indian Cuisine, Indian Food


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Indian restaurants have been flourishing in the capitals of the world and thus, Indian cuisine is no longer a mystery. In UK, Indian curry is the third most popular dish among the Britons. Among the Japanese, the curry rice is relished quite a lot and it is the second most popular dish according to a recent survey. UK has more than 1000 Indian restaurants and USA, Canada and Japan have over 100 restaurants each.  India attracts over 2.4 million foreign visitors every year for an average stay of one month.


It is quite interesting to note that most of the Indian spices have a medicinal value. The most commonly used spices and herbs in Indian cooking are asafetida, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric and aniseed. Turmeric, Ginger and Cardamom are the most commonly used herbs as they have digestive properties. Turmeric gives the dish a pleasant yellow natural colour and helps to preserve the food. Coriander seeds are supposed to have a cooling effect on the body of a person. Saffron, the most expensive spice, creates a nice flavour and fragrance with just a little quantity. Mustard, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, cloves, poppy and caraway seeds are some other spices used in Indian dishes. In India, Masala is commonly used which is a blend of various spices and it is either in a dry or a liquid paste. Garam-Masala is a blend of fragrant spices which include cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, mace, coriander seeds, nutmeg, and black pepper.. It can stored and kept for future use. Nowadays, Garam-Masalas are conveniently available in packets in any grocery.


Range of curries

Indian cuisine has a lot of variety to offer. Indian food can broadly be divided into four different regions corresponding to Delhi for the North, Bombay for the West, Madras for the South and Calcutta for the East.  Many varieties of curry- dishes are made in different parts of India, each of which has its own distinct flavour. For the Indians, curry encompasses a whole class of dishes. There are numerous curries which are prepared with meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and on occasions, fruits. The only common factor in all the curries is that they all contain freshly ground spices, including turmeric, and have a ‘gravy’. The Cooking medium is is pure ghee (clarified butter). Other vegetable fats are now more commonly used as the cooking medium.

Besides the preparation, its presentation of food is also important to Indians. Traditionally, India food is served either on a well washed large banana leaf or in a thali which is a large plate made of brass, steel or silver. On the thali, several katoris (little bowls) are placed to hold small helpings of each dish. A typical meal may consist of a meat or fish dish, two vegetable dishes, dal, yoghurt and a sweet dish of kheer or halwa. Other accompaniments include pickles, chutneys, papads, etc.  Porcelain plates are also used commonly by Indian people.

Indian Cusine, Food of India

  Regional choices North Indian Food 

North India Food, Tandoori Food

Bread is more commonly eaten than rice. The omnipresent chappati is the common man’s dish. Nan is kind of a luxury and is preferred eaten with tandoori food. Another variety of rich bread is parantha which is prepared of wheat flour and is relished by almost everyone. Since most Indian restaurants abroad serve Tandoori food, the foreigners are more familiar with it. Tandoori chicken or mutton is a barbecued food which is spiced and marinated in yoghurt. Tandoori chicken with a nan, green salad and a dessert is a dish which the tourists cannot resist.

Tandoori food is not very spicy and is much similar to western cooking. In Delhi, many varieties  of meat kababs are made like the Boti Kabab, Reshmi Kabab, Pasinda Kabab. The other delicacies of the Northern Indian cuisine are biryani which is a dish made of rice, saffron and marinated lamb or chicken. Pulao is a slightly less complicated version of biryani. There is another exciting version – sweet pulao made with rice, coconut, almonds, mangoes and papayas.

Indian Cusine, North India Food

Besides tandoori food, the other choices available are Rogan Josh, lamb curry, Kofta, Korma or Do-Piaza. Do Piaza is made with lots of onions, Korma is particularly rich and Koftas are curry along with small balls of meat. The large Koftas have a stuffing of boiled eggs. North Indian meal is also accompanied with a helping of dal (lentil soup). For the vegetarian lovers, this cuisine offers several dishes like Panner,  Sag Paneer (cheese with spinach), Bharta, a delicious vegetable made from egg plant and several other dishes combining cauliflower, potatoes and similar vegetables. The dessert mainly includes  kheer, firni (pudding) or halwa. Since Kashmiri food has also been influenced by Mughlai food it has many varieties of meat dishes especially lamb dishes, and is spicier compared to other typical North Indian dishes.


Bengal Special

In Bengal, food is quite plain and rice is the staple diet. Most, Bengalis prefer fresh water fish and fortunately there is an abundance of it in many homes in rural Bengal which have their own fish ponds. Mustard seeds and mustard  oil are generally used as the cooking medium for the various fish dishes. Bekdi, a special fish of Bengal, specially lends itself to Western style of cooking. If Bengali’s first love is fish, then the second is sweets. Special and typical sweet that come from Bengal are Misti Doi which is the sweetened yoghurt, Sandesh and Rasgullas, made in different ways from cottage cheese.  Bengali cuisine is unique in India where plain yoghurt is missing in its menu. Traditionally, no sweets are made at home and are always bought at a confectioner’s.


Delights from west

South India Food,  South India Fiesta

South Indians eat a lot of rice and their curry is as rich as in North India, but it is spicier. Their vegetarian food provides a lot of variety, especially the Brahmin cuisine which is different from the non-Brahmin food. Tamarind chillies and coconut have an abundant growth in the states of south. Sambhar, the staple dish of South Indians, is made with a combination of arhar, yellow lentil, tamarind, spices and vegetables. A typical meal in the South consists of sambhar, rasam (a thin lentil soup), some vegetable preparations which are often cooked with grated coconut and yoghurt and eaten with boiled rice. However, the most popular dishes are dosas and idlis whose popularity spreads throughout the country. Dosas are fried pancakes, whereas idlis are more like teamed dumplings. They  are made with a mixture of ground fermented rice and dal and are served with sambhar and coconut chutney. 


Delights from west

The food  available in Mumbai varies from the food in the rest of the country. This is perhaps due to the presence of small but influential communities of Parsis, Sindhis, Punjabis, Goans and Khoja Muslims. A few years ago, Goa was occupied by the Portuguese and hence the Portuguese influence is evident in its cuisine. One of Goa’s best known dishes is Vindaloo, chicken pork or fish cooked with spices and vinegar. Unlike other Indians, Goans eat a lot of pork. The fresh sausages  and seafood have a special taste. Two other Muslim communities the Boras and the Khojas have their own style of cooking. The Sindhis, prepare a different cuisine which is more often meat-based. The majority of Maharashtrians and the Gujaratis, the original natives of this region, are vegetarians. They have mastered the art of  vegetarian cooking and their cuisine involves minimum spices and light cooking for retaining  the nutritional value of the meals. 



India offers a vast variety of breads. Unlike in the West, these breads are the mainstay of India meals. Chappatis and nans are cooked in an oven or tandoor. Thin and small chappatis are made on an iron griddle placed on gas or fire. The commonest bread is the chappati. Basically, the chappati is just flour and water dough rolled very thin and cooked like a pancake on slow heat. These are hot and fresh.  Some breads like puris are fried in deep fat and paranthas are pan fried with a little fat, preferably ghee. These are quite soft and delicious. Indians also make parathas stuffed with potatoes or other vegetables which are complete meals and are eaten along with plain yoghurt and pickle. Puris are made from the same basic dough rolled out thin and round with a wooden roller and deep-friend in clarified butter or vegetable fat. Similarly, a hot bread made of slightly different dough is called a loochi in Calcutta and it tastes very different from puris. 



India is a country of sweets and each region of India has its own specialties. Most Indian sweets are made by boiling down milk to remove the moisture. It is called khoa. When butter, sugar and many other flavours are added, then these take the form of barfi, malai, kheer, rasgulla, gulabjamun and sandesh. The various regional recipes have different forms of rice puddings, milk puddings, vegetable and fruits dipped in sweet syrup etc. Combinations of all these offer hundreds of varieties of sweet dishes. These desserts can be decorated with raisins, almonds, and pistachio etc. 



Paan is generally eaten by people after having their food. Paan is a betel leaf wrapped around a variety of ingredients. Every paan-seller has his special recipe to make. There are as numerous styles of  preparing paan in India. The paan made of betel leaf is the most popular and it is considered to be digestive.



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