Indian Cuisine is as diverse just as its culture, religions and traditions. Varieties of spices, vegetables, grains, lentils, oil seeds, Tea leaves, etc are grown in different parts of India. Indian food is famous around the globe. Because different spices are used in Indian cooking that adds flavours and aroma to the food. The Indian food is not only tasty but it is wholesome and packed with so many nutritious values. Every year millions of overseas travelers visit India. They not only get to explore India but they also get to enjoy the delicious local food during the India Trip.
History of Indian Cuisine
Indian cuisine is believed to be 8000 years old. History tells us other cultures made great influence on the Indian cuisine. There are many food ingredients that were brought to India by the traders & invaders. Ingredients like; Chillies, Tomato, Potato, Kidney Beans, and refined sugar were brought to India by Portuguese in 16th century. These ingredients have become a major part of Indian cooking. India’s very famous snack “Samosa” was brought by the Arabs. They used the filling of meat but Indians transformed it into their own version by filling it with potato. Because large part of India’s population is vegetarian. Also very popular dessert “Gulab Jamun” came from Persia with Muslim sultans. That tells us how Indian food has emerged over time.
Different Taste & Flavours
India is huge country and every part of India is different in terms of language, culture, tradition, religion and food. People living in different parts of India have their own local taste. For instance North Indians prefer more wheat made items like; chapatis, parathas, naans, etc. As wheat is the major crops grown in North India. The Mughlai style of cooking had a major influence on North Indian cooking. Very basic ingredients you will find in every North Indian dish are; onions, garlic, tomatoes, Clarified butter (Ghee), cream, cardamom, clove, Asafoetida, cumin, etc. There are many popular dishes of North India; some of them are Biryani, Chole Bhature, Naan, Shahi Paneer, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Korma, Kashmiri Dum Aloo etc.
As for people in South India consume a lot food items that are made of rice and coconut. As both rice and coconut is grown in the region. South Indian food is said to be the spiciest food in India. Rice is the commonly cooked food item in every South Indian home, it is served lentils, sambar, etc. South Indian curry dishes have lot of water content similar to soup and they use coconut or coconut milk in their gravies instead of heavy cream. This makes the south Indian food healthier than the North Indian food. Being close to sea coast, South Indians consume lot of seafood like; fish, shrimps, crabs, etc. Some of the popular south Indian Veg dishes are Dosa, Sambar, Idli, Vada, Puttu, Rasam Rice, Uttapam, Payasam etc.
A proper Indian meal consists of six flavours; sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy and astringent. In every Indian restaurant they have “Thali” as an option in their menu. Thali means a big plate that contains 5 to 6 different local dishes along with chapati, rice, papad, chutney and a sweet. This Thali is the combination of all six flavours.
Varieties of spices used in Indian cooking
Varieties of spices are grown in every part of India based on the climate and soil conditions. India is also known as “Land of Spices”. Spice that are grown in India are; Turmeric, Chillies, Coriander Seeds, Cardamom, Clove, Saffron, Peppercorns, Cumin seeds, Fennel seeds, Fenugreek, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Carom Seeds, Indian Bay Leaf, Curry leaves, Garlic, Ginger, Mustard seeds, Tamarind etc. All these spices have different medicinal properties like; Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is really good for heart & cancer patients, for arthritis and depression.
Every spice has its own different types and uses. For instance; Fenugreek is used in the form of seeds in many dishes like Kadhi Pakora, etc. Fenugreek leaves are used as vegetable in a dish called Aloo Methi (Made of Fenugreek leaves and potato) consumed in winter. Dry Fenugreek (Known as Kasuri Methi) leaves are also used in different curries to add aroma and flavor. As fenugreek is available in winter so in India people sundry its leaves and preserve them to use it in curries throughout the year. Fenugreek seeds has many health benefits like; it balances the Cholesterol, good for digestion, soothe muscle pain etc.
Many spices used in Indian cooking were not native to India. Spices like; chillies, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, cumin, saffron etc were brought to India by the traders and invaders.
Regular Indian Meal
What does a regular Indian meal look and taste like? The answer to this is; Indians do not use heavy cream or too much butter/oil. Minimal spices and oil is used in the daily home cooked meal. In every Indian house daily food is prepared in very simple manner, but still intact with flavours and nutrition.
Regular Indian Breakfast
A regular Indian breakfast is different in every part of Indian. But the main items that are always present in an Indian breakfast are Partha (Indian flat bread) and tea. A lot of Indian people like to have Paratha in their breakfast. Even Paratha have different types like; Plain Pratha (Flatbread without filling, it goes well with any dry vegetable like aloo gobhi), Aloo Paratha (Flatbread with Potato FIlling), Gobhi Paratha (Flatbread with Cauliflower filling), Mooli Paratha (Flatbread with Radish Filling ), etc. Indian Masala Tea, curd, pickle goes well with paratha.
Other Indian dishes that are often consumed in breakfast are ;Poori Sabji (Fried Flatbread with Potato Vegetable), Kanda Poha (Flattened Rice cooked with onion and Indian spices), Namkeen Seviyan (Vermicelli Cooked with green peas and Indian spices), Besan Cheela (Gram flour spicy pan cake), Upma (Semolina cooked with Indian spices) , Vada (Fried doughnut with Indian spices ), Idli (Made of rice flour and is cooked in steam), Thepla (Another Indian flatbread), Dalia (Broken Wheat) etc.
Tea is an integral part of every Indian breakfast which can accompany every breakfast dish.
Regular Indian Lunch
During lunch people are mostly at their office. Most of them carry home cooked food with them for lunch. Indian lunch comprise of lentils (Daal), Curries, Indian flatbread (Chapati), Rice, pickle, raita (made from curd), chutney (made from mint and coriander leaves) and Salad.
Mostly an Indian lunch will include these dishes; Dal, Rice, Chapati, Aloo Gobhi (potato & Cauliflower dry vegetable), Masala Bhindi (Okra cooked with Indian spices) Baingan Bharta (Charcoaled Brinjal cooked with Indian spices), Vegetable Pulao (Rice cooked with Indian vegetable and spices, goes well with curd) Chole Chawal (Chick pea curry with rice), Rajma Chawal (Kidney beans curry with rice), Paneer gravy (Indian cottage cheese cooked in tomato gravy), etc.
Regular Indian Dinner
Dinner for an Indian is a really important meal. As it is the family time, every member of the family sits together and eats dinner. This is the most relaxing meal for an Indian. Because on breakfast they don’t get much time as they are in a hurry to reach office. During lunch time they don’t’ get much time either to enjoy the meal or sometime due to busy schedule they had to skip the lunch. So that’s what makes the dinner and important meal of the day.
Regular Indian dinner is similar to lunch. It includes;Daal, Rice, Chapati, Curries, dry vegetables (Aloo Gobhi, Jeera Aloo, Mix vegetable, etc), papad, pickle, salad, chutney, etc.
Indian meal is incomplete without Sweets. Every Indian loves eating sweets after meal. Varieties of sweets are made in India. Whole dry milk and cashew nuts powder are the major ingredients that are present in most of the Indian sweets. Some of the very famous sweets of India are; Kaju burfi, Boondi ladoo, Besan Ladoo, Peda, Petha, Khoya Burfi, Rashgulla, Kulfi (Indian Icream), Mishti Doi (Sweet flavored curd), Kheer, Shahi Tuka, etc.
Even eating a Gur (Jaggery) after a meal suffices an Indian. Jaggery is good for digestion. It s made by boiling sugarcane juice until it is reduced to thickness and changes its color to brown.
Many people like to have mango as a dessert after their meal in summers. As it is a popular fruit that is grown in many parts of India. Mango is the king of all fruits and can be found in Indian market during summers. There are about 1500 varieties of Mangoes in India. Many popular dishes are made of mango like; Aamras (Mango Pure, made from the pulp of ripe Mangoes), Aam Panna (Very well known Indian drink made of raw mangoes and known for its heat resistance properties), Aam sabji (Raw Mango is cooked with Indian spices and eaten along with chapati or plain paratha)
Indians love snacking between meals and they do have many options. They love to have snacks along with their evening tea. Some of the most popular Indian snacks are Samosa, Pakoras (Vegetables like onion, potato etc are coated with batter and fried), Dhokla (made of gram flour and cooked in steam), Khasta Kachori, Mathri, Namak pare, Namkeen, Fafda, Gatia, etc.
Especially during rain Indian people love to have tea with pakoras. They enjoy the rain while snacking.
Now there are many versions of samosa available in India. Since cuisine from around the world is becoming popular in India. So the samosa has taken a turn and is reinvented. Now you can find Chinese Samosa (stuffed with noodles), Pasta stuffed samosa, Cheese stuffed samosa, chocolate samosa, cottage cheese samosa, etc.
Indian Street food
Indian people are real foodie and that is why they have varieties in their food. Many delicious dishes can be found on the streets of India. Some of the most popular Indian street food are Dhai Bhalla, Bhalla Papri, Aloo Tikki, Chole Bhature, Tunde Kabab, Pani Puri, Bhelprui, Matar kulcha, Litti Chokha, Misal pav, Pav Bhaji, Vada pav, paneer tikka, Kathi roll, etc.
There are other dishes from around the world that have now become the part of Indian street food. Especially Chinese cuisine has taken over the Indian street food market from past few years. Many people prefer Chinese food over Indian street food but that doesn’t mean Indian street food is less tasty. It’s just people are liking new flavours over the regular flavours. These are the dishes that were brought to India; Momos (Dumplings), Chowmein (Noodles), Veg Spring Rolls, Veg Manchurian, Hakka Noodles, burgers, pizzas, Grilled sandwich, wraps, Chilli Chicken, etc.
Indian festival food
When we talk about Indian festivals, it means big celebration with family and friends. As there are many different religions in India and every religion have their own festivals. Every festival is celebrated with full enthusiasm. Food has always been very important part of Indian festival celebration. Indian festivals are like a big feast where many royal dishes, sweets, snacks, etc are prepared. Some of the festivals of India are; Diwali, Eid, Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Bhai Dooj, etc.
Some of the famous festival dishes are; Shahi paneer, Paneer tikka masala, Dal Makhani, Malai Kofta, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Biryani, Suji halwa, Gujia, Kheer, Burfi, Ras malai, Gulab Jamun, Rabri with Jalebi, Gajar Halwa, Besan Ladoo, Rasgulla etc.
In India there is different types of food for every occasion, whether it is festival, wedding celebration, or it is an offering for the ancestors. Indians always make use leftover food to avoid wasting food. Many people use leftover rice for making rice paratha (rice stuffed Indian flatbread). Even leftover dry Sabji (dry vegetable) is used for making chapati samosa. In this they make a fresh chapati and fold it twice then fill it up with leftover Sabji. There are so many more tricks that Indians do to make use of the leftover food.
So travel India and explore the varieties in Indian food.