Thursday, May 12, 2011

Indian cuisine

Indian cuisine is the general name for foods of the Indian subcontinent, characterized by the extensive use of various spices, herbs, and other vegetables, and sometimes fruits grown in India and also for the widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society. Each family of Indian cuisine includes a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. As a consequence, it varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically-diverse subcontinent.
Hindu beliefs and culture have played an influential role in the evolution of Indian cuisine. However, cuisine across India also evolved as a result of the subcontinent's large-scale cultural interactions with Mongols and Britain making it a unique blend of some various cuisines. The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited as the main catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery. The colonial period introduced European cooking styles to India, adding to the flexibility and diversity of Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine has influenced cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.


Indian cooking derives from a 5000-year-old timeline, during which culture has changed, geographical boundaries have changed significantly leading to confusing terms such as sub-continental cuisine while other parts of a region want a separate culinary identity. Indian Cooking has however evolved significantly over time and the varying influences brought into the country by the various rulers and travelers, it has not lost its original identity, rather become richer with the assimilation of the myriad influences. This is very apparent in some of the unique regional cuisines.


The earliest formal civilizations were the Mohenjo-daro and Harappan civilizations. At around 3000 BCE, sesame, eggplant, and humped cattle had been domesticated in the Indus Valley, and spices like turmeric,cardamom, black pepper and mustard were harvested in this region concurrently. Many recipes first emerged during the initial Vedic period, when India was still heavily forested and agriculture was complemented with game hunting and forest produce. In Vedic times, a normal diet consisted of fruit, vegetables, meat, grain, dairy products and honey. Over time, some segments of the population embraced vegetarianism. This was facilitated by advent of Buddhism and a cooperative climate where variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains could easily be grown throughout the year. A food classification system that categorized any item as saatvic, raajsic or taamsic developed in Ayurveda. In this period vegetarianism also flourished throughout India, beef eating was prohibited which has become a long-standing feature in Hinduism and India.

Middle Ages

This period was the period of several North Indian dynasties, including the Gupta dynasty which was noted for its love of the arts; also known as the Golden Age of India Art. Travelers who visited India carried with them knowledge and products like tea and spices. Later India saw the period of Central Asian and Afghan conquerors. This period also saw the emergence of the Mughlai cuisine that people now associate with India. It includes the addition of several seasonings like saffron, the addition of nuts and cooking in the "Dum" or sealed pot method of cooking. 18th century saw the establishment of British rule in India. The British loved the elaborate way of eating and adapted several of the food choices to their taste and developed curry as a simple spice to help them cook dishes with Indian spice. This period resulted in the emergence of the Anglo-Indian cuisine and the emergence of certain "Raj" traditions like that of "high-tea" an elaborate late afternoon meal served with tea.

Regional cuisines

India is a diverse country, each region has its own food specialties, primarily at regional level, but also at provincial level. The differences can come from a local culture and geographical location whether a region is close to the sea, desert or the mountains, and economics. Indian cuisine is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Sea food plays a major role in the cuisines of Andaman & Nicobar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands were, and still are inhabited by indigenous tribes. Since they had very little contact with the outside world, raw fish and fruits were their staple diet for a long time. However, as many people from other regions of India came and settled here, different types of food and their methods to cook came with them, and this did cast an influence on the eating habits of the people of Andaman and Nicobar. Because the population is mainly derived from migrants from regions of India, many cuisines of India can be found in the islands.


Panta Ilish – a traditional platter ofPanta bhat with fried Hilsa slice, supplemented with dried fish (Shutki), pickles (Achar), dal, green chillies and onion – is a popular serving for thePohela Boishakh festival.
Assamese cuisine is the cuisine of Assam, a state in North-East India. It is a mixture of different indigenous styles with considerable regional variations and some external influences. It is characterized by very little use of spices but strong flavors due mainly to the use of endemic exotic herbs, fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, dried or fermented. Fish is widely used, and birds like duck, pigeon etc. are very popular. Preparations are rarely elaborate—the practice of Bhuna, the gentle frying of spices before the addition of the main ingredients so common in Indian cooking, is absent in the cuisine of Assam. A traditional meal in Assam begins with a khar, a class of dishes named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour dish. These two dishes characterize a traditional meal in Assam. The food is usually served in bell metal utensils made by an indigenous community called Mariya. Tamul (betel nut, generally raw) and paan generally concludes the meal.


Palak paneera dish made up ofspinach and paneer cheese.
Raita is a condiment based oncurd and used as a sauce or dip.
Bihari society is not very rigid on vegetarianism, but people avoid eating non-vegetarian food daily. Bihari people typically eat boiled rice and daal with cooked vegetables during lunch, and roti during dinner. They do not usually eat roti and boiled rice together. Because of strong Hindu-Muslim heritage river fish, chicken and mutton (mainly goat mutton, since many people view lamb (sheep) meat as offensive) are the popular meats. Meat-based dishes are eaten mainly with boiled rice.Dairy products are consumed frequently throughout the year, with common foods including yoghurt (known as dahi), buttermilk (calledmattha), butter, ghee (clarified butter), and lassi. There is a custom of eating poha (flattened rice) with yoghurt and sugar. The cuisine of Bihar has some similarity with North Indian cuisine, but is also influenced by East Indian Cuisine (for example, as in Bengali cuisine, mustard oil is used in cooking). It is highly seasonal, with watery foods such as watermelon and sherbet made of pulp of the wood-apple fruit being consumed mainly in the summer months, and dry foods and preparations made of sesame or poppy seeds mainly in the winter months. Bihar is famous for Sattu Parathas, which are parathas stuffed with fried chickpea flour, Chokha (spicy mashed potatoes), Fish curry, LittiBihari Kebab, and Postaa-dana kaa halwaa. Another common dish is alu-bhujia (not to be confused with Bikaneri Bhujia, also known as rajasthanibhujia), made from potatoes cut like French-fries and cooked in mustard oil and mild spices, and eaten with roti or rice-daal. Apart from this, tangy raita made from lauki (winter melon) or unripened papaya, yoghurt, and spices (paste of green chilly, ginger, garlic and mustard) is popular in many parts of Bihar.


Dhokla is a popular Gujarati snack.
Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian. The typical Gujarati Thali consists of Roti (a flat bread made from wheat flour, and called rotli in Gujarati), daal or kadhi, rice, andsabzi/shaak (a dish made up of different combinations of vegetables and spices, which may be stir fried, spicy or sweet). Cuisine can vary widely in flavor and heat, depending on a given family's tastes as well as the region of Gujarat they are from. North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kachchh, and South Gujarat are the four major regions of Gujarat that all bring their own style to Gujarati food. Many Gujarati dishes are distinctively sweet, salty, and spicy at the same time. The cuisine changes with the seasonal availability of vegetables. In mango season, for example, Keri no ras (fresh mango pulp) is often an integral part of the meal. The spices used also change depending on the season. Garam Masala and its constituent spices are used less in summer. Regular fasting, with diets limited to milk and dried fruits, and nuts, are commonplace. Kachori, Jilebi, undhiyu ,Kakra are some of the snacks famous in Gujarat.


Food in Haryana is prepared using no modern materials, such as added artificial flavors and preservatives. Because Haryana is rich in cattle population, milk products are extremely common.
People of Haryana are fond of food preparations such as Kadhi Pakora, Besan Masala Roti, Bajra Aloo Roti, Churma, Kheer, Bathua Raita, Methi Gajar, Singri ki Sabzi and Tamatar Chutney. All through your way to Haryana, you will come across a number of Dhabas or roadside food stalls serving food.
Lassi and Sherbat are the two popular beverages of Haryana. On many roads in Haryana,it is common to come across a booze shop, since there are a number of liquor shops in this Indian state, due to the traffic of many truck drivers.


Karnataka food served on aplantain leaf.
The cuisine of Karnataka includes many vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines. The varieties reflect influences from the food habits of many regions and communities from the three neighbouring South Indian states, as well as the state of Maharashtra and Goa to its north. Some typical dishes include Bisi bele bath, Jolada rotti, Chapati, Ragi rotti, Akki rotti, Saaru, Huli, Vangi Bath, Khara Bath, Kesari Bath, Davanagere Benne Dosa, Ragi mudde, and Uppittu. The famous Masala Dosa traces its origin to Udupi cuisine. Plain and Rave Idli, Mysore Masala Dosa and Maddur Vade are popular in South Karnataka. Coorg district is famous for spicy varieties of pork curries while coastal Karnataka boasts of many tasty seafood specialities. Among sweets, Mysore Pak, Dharwad pedha, Chiroti are well known.Although the ingredients differ from one region to another, a typical Kannadiga Oota (Kannadiga meal) includes the following dishes in the order specified and is served on a banana leaf: Uppu(salt), Kosambari, Pickle, Palya, Gojju, Raita, Dessert (Yes, it is a tradition to start your meal with a dessert – Paaysa), Thovve, Chitranna, Rice and Ghee


Sadya items ready to be served, Clockwise from top Paayasam, Bittergourd thoran, aviyal, Kaalan, Lime Pickle, Sambar, Buttermilk with Boiled rice in center
Spicy fish from Kerala.
Kerala cuisine is a blend of indigenous dishes and foreign dishes adapted to Kerala tastes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and consequently, grated coconut and coconut milk are widely used in dishes and curries as a thickener and flavouring ingredient. Kerala's long coastline, numerous rivers and backwater networks, and strong fishing industry have contributed to many sea- and river-food based dishes. Rice is grown in abundance, and could be said, along with tapioca (manioc/cassava), to be the main starch ingredient used in Kerala food.Having been a major production area of spices for thousands of years, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon play a large part in its food. Most of Kerala's Hindus eat fish except the Brahmin community and because Kerala has large minorities of Muslims and Christians that are predominantly non-vegetarians, Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. Rice and fish along with some vegetables is the staple diet in most Kerala households. Kerala also has a variety of breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, appam, idiyappam,puttu, and pathiri.


Dishing out a delicious variety of seafood with ample mix-up of coconut is the specialty of Lakshadweep Cuisines. From spicy non-vegetarian stuffs to healthy vegetarian delicacies, the island is ready with every possible kind of mouth-watering dish. The culinary influence of Kerala is quite evident in the cuisines of Lakshadweep. Since the island has a close proximity with Kerala, hence the cuisines reflect the taste of the inhabitants of that place. The local food of Lakshadweep primarily comprises coconut and sea fish. The people of the island have a great inclination towards the coconut water as it is the most abundant aerated drink of the place. As a tourist destination, Lakshadweep is one of the most-visited spots of India. People from all over the world come to this island to explore the unexplored coral reefs, the virgin forests and the surrounding serenity. In order to cater to the needs of the tourists the governing authority of Lakshadweep, along with several private bodies have established quite a number of restaurants and eatery joints. Apart from specializing in local food, these restaurants also serve a series of inter-continental dishes. From Chinese and Thai to Indian and Korean, the eatery corners of Lakshadweep provide a lip-smacking array of delectables to those who wish to have a taste of global cuisine. Apart from multi-cuisine eatery zones, one can also get the original taste of Lakshadweep during major festivals when the people of the island prepare special dishes in their own home. Almost all the dishes have a touch of coconut since it is an integral ingredient of Lakshadweep cuisines.


Ragada in a pani puri, a popular snack from Mumbai.
Maharashtrian cuisine covers a range from being mild to very spicy dishes. Bajri, Wheat, rice, jowar, vegetables, lentils and fruit form important components of Maharashtrian diet. Popular dishes include puran poliukdiche Modak and batata wada. The staple dishes of Maharashtrian cuisine are based on Bajri, Jowar and Tandul. The cuisine of Maharashtra has its own distinctive flavors and tastes. It can be divided into two major sections–the coastal and the interior. A part of Maharashtra, which lies on the coast of the Arabian Sea, is loosely called the Konkan and boasts of its own Konkani cuisine, which is a homogeneous combination of Malvani, Gaud Saraswat Brahmin, and Goan cuisines. Besides the coastal cuisine, the interior of Maharashtra—the Vidarbha area, has its own distinctive cuisine known as the Varadi cuisine. As in many states of India, rice is the staple food grain in Maharashtra. Like the other coastal states, there is an enormous variety of vegetables in the regular diet and lots of fish and coconuts are used.Grated coconuts spice many kinds of dishes, but coconut oil is not very widely used as a cooking medium. Peanuts and cashew nuts are widely used in vegetables and peanut oil is the main cooking medium. Another feature is the use of kokum, a deep purple berry that has a pleasing sweet and sour taste. Kokum, most commonly used in an appetizer-digestive called the sol kadhi, is served chilled. During summer another drink called panna made from bioled raw mango is consumed. Rest of the Maharashtra apart from Konkan, uses ground nuts, jaggary, wheat, jowar and bajra extensively. Maharashtrian meal consists of rice and bread both along with 'varan'/'aamtee' – a type of lentils and spiced veggies. Maharashtrian dishes for 'UPwas' have a special mention as most of them are favourites for life time e.g. sabudana khichadi.


Luchi, is an unleavened flour bread deep fried in oil, mostly eaten in Orissa.
Chungdi Jhola, is a spicy gravy based Prawn curry with different flavours of spices.
Oriya cuisine is rich and varied, while relying heavily on local ingredients. The flavors are usually subtle and delicately spiced, quite unlike the fiery curries typically associated with Indian cuisine. Fish and other seafood such as crab and shrimp are very popular. Chicken and mutton are also consumed. Panch phutana, a mix of cumin, mustard, fennel, fenugreek and kalonji (nigella) is widely used for tempering vegetables and dals, while garam masala (curry powder) and haladi (turmeric) are commonly used for non-vegetarian curries. Pakhala, a dish made of rice, water, and yoghurt, that is fermented overnight, is very popular in summer, particularly in the rural areas. Oriyas are very fond of sweets and no Oriya repast is considered complete without some dessert at the end.Vegeterian foods also include foods prepared without onion and garlic as in temple prasadam and bramhin cuisine.


The union territory of Pondicherry in the country of India was a French settlement for a long time. The French way of life has left a deep impact on the lifestyle of the people in the union territory of Pondicherry, and French cuisine has become a large influence in cuisine in the territory. The French and the Indo style have given birth to an innovative taste. The influence of the neighboring areas like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala is also visible.
Some of the hot favorite cookery items in Pondicherry are Coconut Curry, Tandoori Potato, Soya Dosa, Podanlangkai, Assad, Curried Vegetables, Stuffed Cabbage, Baked Beans


Dal makhani, is a treasured staple food from Punjab.
Rajma Chawal (Kidney beans served with rice) is a popular Punjabi dish.
Punjabi cuisine can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range of dishes. Home cooked and restaurant Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly, with restaurant style using large amounts of clarified butter, known locally as ghee, with liberal amounts of butter and cream with home cooked concentrating on mainly upon preparations with Whole Wheat, Rice and other ingredients flavored with masalas (spices). Roh Di Kheer, is cooked using rice. Rice is cooked for a long time in sugar cane juice.Within the area itself, there are different preferences. People in the area of Amritsar prefer stuffed parathas and milk products. In fact, the area is well known for quality of its milk products.There are certain dishes which are exclusive to Punjab, such as Mah Di Dal and Saron Da Saag (Sarson Ka Saag).The food is tailor-made for the Punjabi lifestyle in which most of the rural folk burn up a lot of calories while working in the fields. The main masala in a Punjabi dish consists of onion, garlic and ginger. Tandoori food is a Punjabi speciality especially for non-veg dishes. Many of the most popular elements of Anglo-Indian cuisine – such as Tandoor, Naan, Pakoras and vegetable dishes with paneer – derive from the Punjab.


Rajasthani thali.
Rajasthani cooking was influenced by the availability of ingredients in this arid region. In Rajasthan water is at a premium, and hence the food is generally cooked in milk or ghee, making it quite rich. On the other hand, Besan or gram flour is a mainstay of Marwari food mainly because of the scarcity of vegetables in this arid land.
There is a distinctness in the Rajasthani cuisine which comes from a tradition that is old and tranquil, and from a culture that has churned the best from its neighboring states of Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. Scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking. Major dishes of a Rajasthani platter includes Daal-Baati, Tarfini, Raabdi, Bail-Gatte, Panchkoota, Chaavadi, Laapsi, Kadhi and Boondi, and snacks like Bikaneri Bhujia, Mirchi Bada and Pyaaj Kachori.


Momos served in a tomato-based broth
Sikkim has its own unique dietary culture with specific cuisine and food recipes. In the Sikkim Himalayas traditional foods are an integral part of the dietary culture of the various ethnic groups of people consisting of the Nepalese, Bhutias and Lepchas. Rice is the staple food. Meat and dairy products are also consumed depending on availability. Besides these, various traditional fermented foods and beverages, which constitute of about 20 per cent of the basic diet for long centuries are prepared and consumed. The dietary-culture of this region is mostly reflected in the pattern of food production. Depending on the altitudinal variation, finger millet, wheat, buckwheat, barley, vegetable, potato, soybeans, etc. are grown. Some of the common traditional cuisine with their food recipes has been presented for introduction of dietary culture of the Sikkim Himalayas, as well as for product diversification.

Tamil Nadu

Idlis served with chutney andsambar.
Tamil food is characterized by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, its distinct aroma and flavour achieved by the blending of spices including curry leaves, tamarind, coriander,ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater. The word "curry" is derived from the Tamil word 'kari' which means "an additive to the main course or a side dish" Rice and legumes play an important role in Tamil cuisine. Lentils are also consumed extensively, either accompanying rice preparations, or in the form of independent dishes. Vegetables and dairy products are essential accompaniments. Tamil Nadu is famous for its spicy non vegetarian dishes (just like Andhra Pradesh). The southern regions in Tamil Nadu, namely; Madurai, Kaaraikudi or Chettinaadu are famous for their spicy non vegetarian dishes.


A bowl of thukpa.
The Tripuri (Tipra or Tipperah) people are the original inhabitants of the state of Tripura in North East India. The indigenous Tripuri people comprises the communities of Tipra,Reang, Jamatia, Noatia, Uchoi and others. The Tripuri people have their own culture and cuisine. The Tripuris are non-vegetarian, though there is a minority modern vaishnavite Hindu vegetarian following. The major ingredient of Tripuris cuisine for non-vegetarian food includes pork, chicken, mutton, turtle, fish, prawns, crabs, and frogs.

Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradeshi thali (platter) with Naan bread, Daal, Raita, Shahi paneer, and Salad.
The Uttar Pradeshi cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes but a vast majority of the state enjoys sober vegetarian meals with Dal, roti, sabzi and rice constituting the essentials of daily food habits. Pooris and kachoris are relished on special occasions. Uttar Pradesh has also been greatly influenced by Mughal (Mughlai cuisine) cooking techniques which is very popular worldwide. The samosa and pakora, among the most popular snacks in all of India, are also originally from Uttar Pradesh.Awadhi is a type of West-Central Uttar Pradeshi cuisine found in the state's Awadh Region.


Saag is a popular Kumaoni dish made from any of the various green vegetables like Spinach andFenugreek
The food from Uttrakhand is known to be wholesome to suit the high-energy necessities of the mountainous and wintry region. It is traditionally cooked over wood fire. The cuisine mainly consists of food from two different sub regions Garhwal and Kumaon, though the basic ingredients of both Garhwali and Kumaoni cuisine are the same, there are some basic differences that tell apart the two. The distinctive trait of the Kumauni cuisine is the tightfisted use of especially milk and milk-based products as cows from hilly areas do not yield high-quality or amount of milk. The similarity between both of them is the liberal use of Ghee and charcoal cooking. Both Garhwalis and Kumaunis are fond of lentil or pulses and ‘Bhaatt’ or rice. To combat the extreme winters and possible exhausting of food, they also use Badi (sun-dried Urad Dal balls) and Mangodi (sun-dried Moong Dal balls) as substitute for vegetables at times. Main dishes from Uttarakhand include Chainsoo, Kafuli, Jholi, Thechwani, Baadi, etc.
The dishes prepared by the people of Uttarakhan are similar to Uttar Pradesh. They eat rice, pulses, chapatis, vegetable. Tomatoes, onions and spices are used to make the food delcious.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eating habits

People in India consider a healthy breakfast, or nashta, important. They generally prefer to drink tea or coffee with the first meal of the day. North Indian people prefer roti, parathas, and a vegetable dish, accompanied by achar (pickles) and some curd; people of western India, dhokla and milk; South Indians, idlis and dosas, generally accompanied by various chutneys.
Lunch in India usually consists of a main dish of rice in the south and east and rotis made from whole wheat in the northern and western parts of India. It typically includes two or three kinds of vegetables. Lunch may be accompanied by items such as kulcha, nan, or parathas. Curd and two or three sweets are also included in the main course. Paan (betel leaves), which aid digestion, are often eaten after lunch in parts of India.
Indian families will gather for "evening breakfast" to talk, drink tea, and eat snacks.
Dinner is considered the main meal of the day, and the whole family gathers for the occasion. Dinner may be followed by dessert, ranging from fruit to traditional desserts like kheergulab jamungajrailaqulfi orras malai.


Paan usually accompanies post dinner

Several customs are associated with food consumption. Traditionally, meals were eaten while seated either on the floor or on very low stools or cushions. Food is most often eaten without cutlery, using instead the fingers of the right hand. Often roti (flat bread) is used to scoop the curry without allowing it to touch the hands. Other etiquette includes eating with one hand only, preferably the right hand. Along the coast to the south, where the staple is parboiled rice, rural dwellers raise a hand full of rice to eat while urban folks tend to only use the fingers and thumb. In the wheat growing/consuming north, a piece of roti is gripped with the thumb and middle finger and ripped off while holding holding the roti down with the index finger. Traditional serving styles vary from region to region in India.
One universal aspect of presentation is the thali, a large plate with samplings of different regional dishes accompanied by raita, breads such as naanpuri, or roti, and rice. Most South Indian meals end with plain curd and rice. In South India, cleaned banana leaves, which could be disposed of after the meal, were traditionally used as an alternative to plates. When hot food is served on banana leaves, the leaves add aroma and taste to the food. Leaf plates are still utilized on auspicious and festive occasions but are much less common otherwise.
Traditional ways of dining are being influenced by eating styles from other parts of the world. Among the middle class throughout India, spoons and forks are now commonly used, although knives are not.