Indian Food Culture
Indian food is different from rest of the world not only in taste but also in cooking methods. It reflects a perfect blend of various cultures and ages. Just like Indian culture, food
in India has also been influenced by various civilizations, which have contributed their share in its overall development and the present form.
Foods of India are better known for its spiciness. Throughout India, be it North India or South India, spices are used generously in food. But one must not forget that every single
spiceused in Indian dishes carries some or the other nutritional as well as medicinal properties.
North Indian Food
Food in the north India, to begin with, Kashmiri cuisines reflect strong Central Asian influences. In Kashmir, mostly all the dishes are prepared around the main course of rice found
abundantly in the beautiful valley. Another delicious item cooked here is the ‘Saag’ that is prepared with a green leafy vegetable known as the ‘Hak’.
But on the other hand states like the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh show high consumption of chapatis as staple food. Again, these chapatis are prepared with a variety of flours
such as wheat, rice, maida, besan etc. Besides chapatis other closely related breads baked in these regions include Tandoori, Rumaali and Naan etc. However in the northern region impact
of Mughlai food is quite obvious.
West Indian Food
In western India, the desert cuisine is famous for its unique taste and varieties of food. Rajasthan and Gujarat are the states that represent the dessert flavor of Indian food.
Here animmense variety of dals and achars (pickles/preserves) is used that simply substitutes the relative lack of fresh vegetables in these areas.In the states like Maharashtra, the
food is usually a mix of both north as well as south cooking styles. Here people use both the rice and the wheat with same interest. Along the coastline of Mumbai a wide variety of
fishes is available. Some of the delicious preparations include dishes like the Bombay Prawn and Pompfret.
In Goa, that is further down towards south, one can notice Portuguese influence in the cooking style as well as in the dishes. Some of the major dishes of this region are the sweet
and sour Vindaloo, duck baffad, sorpotel and egg molie etc.
East Indian Food
In the eastern India, the Bengali and Assamese styles of cooking are noticeable. The staple food of Bengalis is the yummy combination of rice and fish. Usually the Bengalis love
eatingvarieties of fishes. A special way of preparing the delicacy known as ‘Hilsa’ is by wrapping it in the pumpkin leaf and then cooking it. Another unusual ingredient that is commonly
used in the Bengali cooking is the ‘Bamboo Shoot’. Various sweets prepared in this region, by using milk include the ‘Roshogollas’, ‘Sandesh’, ‘Cham-cham’ and many more.
South Indian Food
In the southern India, the states make great use of spices, fishes and coconuts, as most of them have coastal kitchens. In the foods of Tamil Nadu use of tamarind is frequently made
in order to impart sourness to the dishes. It simply distinguishes the Tamil Food from other cuisines.
The cooking style of Andhra Pradesh is supposed to make excessive use of chilies, which is obviously to improve the taste of the dishes.
In Kerala, some of the delicious dishes are thelamb stew and appams, Malabar fried prawns, Idlis, Dosas, fish molie and rice puttu. Another famous item of this region is the sweetened
coconut milk. Yet another dish is Puttu, which is glutinous rice powder steamed like a pudding in a bamboo shoot.
The Role of Religion in Indian Cuisine
The majority of India’s billion-plus people practice Hinduism, which forbids eating beef. Many, but not all, Hindus are vegetarian, as are many Buddhists. Indian Muslims do not eat
pork or any pork products, and meats must be halal. The Christian minority in India is not subject to religious restrictions on food, and this is noticeable especially in Goa,
where local Catholics eat and serve both beef and pork. Another religious minority in India are the Jains, who practice a specific, strict form of vegetarianism that forbids eating root
vegetables and eggs as well as meat and fish.
A Typical Indian Meal
The traditional meal of India, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, has, at its core, roti (whole-wheat flatbread) or rice, and dal, a lentil-based stew. To make a full meal, these
basic elements are usually accompanied by any combination of vegetable dishes, sometimes a meat, chicken, fish or seafood-based dish; and an array of condiments and garnishes, typically
chutneys, relishes and pickles.The flavors of a traditional Indian meal cover a full spectrum, with spicy, sour, sweet and sometimes bitter notes balanced with nuance. Spices are used
liberally but expertly, in carefully balanced proportions and blends. Very hot, strongly flavored foods are eaten across India, but most meals include milder and cooling components too.
Indian people usually drink plain water with meals, although occasionally they might opt for lassi, a drink of thinned yogurt that might be salty or sweet. Chai is a popular hot drink
in the north, while those in the south of India more often enjoy coffee with condensed milk. Indian desserts tend to be very sweet, with various versions of fudge, rice pudding with
spices and raisins, and doughnut-like balls soaked in syrup among the more popular treats.
Popular Indian Dishes: Curry and Dal
Curry is the food most often associated with Indian cuisine, but rather than a single dish, it’s whole, wide category of food. Curries are essentially any dishes with a sauce, which
might be based around tomatoes, coconut milk, browned onions or yogurt, always with various spices and seasonings.
There are also “dry” curries with a thick seasoning rather than what we think of as a sauce or a sauce reduced enough to only coat the other ingredients. Indians tend to refer to these
dishes by their individual names, rather than calling them “curry.”
Dal refers to any number of lentil or dried pea-based stews, which range from thick to soupy. The simplest version comprises split lentils simmered with turmeric until soft, then
topped with a “tarka” of spices quickly fried in hot ghee.
Indian Staples: Bread and Rice
Roti is the simplest of many kinds of flatbread eaten as a staple food in India. It’s made using fine whole-wheat flour and water and cooked on a griddle. Indian people tear off
pieces of roti and use them to scoop up mouthfuls of other foods. Many other flatbreads are eaten across India, including leavened breads like naan and breads enriched with ghee such as
paratha.Breads are often stuffed as well.
Biryani is a northern Indian rice dish influenced by Persian cuisine. Rice is seasoned with saffron, turmeric, nuts and whole spices, and it’s sometimes layered with marinated meat
or hard-boiled eggs. The whole dish is often sealed under a pastry crust before baking.
Popular Condiments and Snacks
Chutneys, relishes and pickles are part of any traditional meal of India, and they come in countless varieties. Some are yogurt-based; others are sweet preserve-like, and some are
akin to simple salads or slaw. Condiments also might be simple blends of fresh herbs with nuts.
Bhajis are a popular street-food snack similar to fritters. They are made by deep-frying vegetables, commonly, onion, potato or eggplant, in a spiced batter, and they usually come
with a dip or sauce.