Exploring Indian Culture with its Diverse Cuisine
Indian cuisine is different across the country, yet the spices tie them together. Up north to down south, the unification of cultures is directly proportional to food. Let’s dive into the sea of emotional unification with lip-smacking flavours and authentic food.
4 Most Popular Cuisines that Redefine the Diverse Indian Culture
North Indian Cuisine
Super hot summers and bone-chilling winters define the geography of North India. From Jammu to Madhya Pradesh, north Indian cuisine is influenced by central Asian culture and food.
Most gravies in north India are thick, spicy, and creamy. Dairy products, nuts, and ghee play an important role in everyday food. North Indians generally prefer flat breads over rice or a combination of both in their meals. Since we get an abundance of seasonal vegetables throughout the year, vegetarian dishes are extremely popular in this region.
East Indian Cuisine
From west Bengal to Assam, the region is full of beautiful mountains and beaches. Owing to the climate, the East Indian region is home to rice, green vegetables, and fruits. The food and culture is highly influenced by Chinese and Mongolian cuisines. Momos, to Las maas and Sandesh, and Rasmalai. All these exclusive dishes use spices like panch phoran, mustard seeds, and chillies.
West Indian Cuisine
States in West India have vastly different climates and so is the cuisine. Because Gujarat and Rajasthan are dry climates, vegetables are stored in the form of pickles. Goa has a lot of Portugal influences and is well known for beef, vinegar, etc. Rajasthani food is largely vegetarian but also has dishes like laal maas. Gujrat dishes have a sweet aftertaste, Maharashtrian cuisine consists of Malvani and Vidarbha cuisine that uses a lot of coconuts. From Vindaloo to Bhelpuri and down to Ghewar, cuisine from the west of India are piquant and diverse.
South Indian Cuisine
All regions of South India have something in common: coastal areas. Although not all cities, most of them use coconut as a major ingredient in their cuisine. Hyderabad is the place to experience authentic Nizami food which is full of nuts and dry fruits, saffron, and pure elegance. Rice is the bread and butter of South Indian cuisines. From Karnataka to Kerala and Tamil Nadu, you’re sure to experience a burst of flavours.
Common Spices and Flavors Used in Indian Food
The soul of food lies in ingredients and spices used to provide nuances with every pinch. Spice enhances the flavour, palatability, and colour of everything you cook. Here are some commonly used spices in Indian cooking.
The first step in making most of the curries is the sound of spluttering cumin seeds tempered in ghee or oil. It brings out the natural sweetness of the dish and delivers the most flavor when roasted and used whole. You can also make pastes, chutneys, and sauces.
Did you know it is a proud member of the parsley family? Native to Egypt, the pungency of cumin seeds make food more sumptuous.
Every time you leave a hotel, how much fennel seeds and mishri do you consume? Touted as the mouth freshener across the nation, fennel seed has more than one use in Indian kitchens. The licorice flavour profile of fennel makes it an ideal ingredient to be used in both sweet and savory recipes. You can fry them prior to making a curry to ease their aroma into the pan. And hey, they also help in weight-loss you know.
This aromatic spice has its roots in two different places: Cassia (China), True Cinnamon ( Sri lanka). It is extensively used in making spice blends like garam masala, middle eastern tagine mixes. Cinnamon sticks are the long brown and cigar-shaped spice that has an earthy and peppery flavour. Especially beneficial for sugar patients, as cinnamon enhances the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose. It is one of the raw/khada masalas that is used in many Indian curries. You might already have a pack of cinnamon sticks or powder that you also use in baking.
All hail the queen of spices! Malabar, Vazhukka and Mysore have different varieties of cardamom available across seasons. It serves as a flavouring agent as well as a medicinal herb. The sweet-smelling resinous fragrance of cardamom oozes comfort when incorporated in both sweet and savoury dishes.
What’s Indian cooking without turmeric? The most sought-after ingredient when it comes to dealing with cold, cough or any flu-like symptoms is turmeric. It is a wonder spice that adds colour, flavour, and anti-bacterial properties to every food item. From dal to khichdi, butter chicken, and golden milk, everything is incomplete without turmeric. It’s grown in several parts of India and looks a lot like mini ginger when seen in its original form.
Dehydrated seasoned fruit of the genus capsicum, red chillies are one of the most used spices in India. Indians were exposed to this spice via Portuguese towards the end of the 15th century. Be it to add tadka to a dish or to bring out a nuanced flavour in the dish, red chillies enhance the flavour profile of most dishes. In India, you’ll find various varieties of chillies grown in Mizoram, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala. Buy the best red chillies now at Cora!
Rich flavour, and spicy aroma are all what clove is about. It sure does have amazing health benefits as well. Used in rice, meat, and vegetable dishes across the country, Clove serves as an essential ingredient. It’s added along with other raw spices and herbs to flavour all your dishes.
Indian Side Dishes
You know the cuisines, you know the spices, why not get to know the most popular side dishes? All Indian cuisines comes with a variety of side dishes, let’s explore some of these delectable, heavenly items.
Butter Paneer Masala
Rich, creamy, buttery, tangy, and slightly on the sweeter side, Paneer Butter Masala is the Queen of all paneer dishes. A thick, orange coloured gravy, garnished with a drizzle of cream on top makes for a perfect side dish with garlic naan, jeera rice, or butter phulkas. This velvety gravy usually calls for cream but you can substitute it with yogurt and cottage cheese with tofu for a healthier version.
Kebabs arrived in India with the Afgan invaders, who picked it from the Turks. It is believed to be the brainchild of hungry soldiers who used their swords as skewers to roast chunks of meat. From Kakori, to Chapli, Tunde, Giloti and Sutli, there are many varieties of kebabs available across India.
Every state in South India has its own way of making Sambar. It’s a lentil-based vegetable stew, served with rice, dosa, idli, and many other rice-based dishes. Karnataka has a sweet-tasting sambar, Andhra has it diluted and Kerala makes it with flavours of coconut. Even the vegetables that go into making a delicious sambar differ from state to state. Either way, you’re bound to experience an aromatic, palatable and delicious sambar wherever you go.
A traditional Bengali dish appreciated all over India! Who doesn’t like potatoes? I for one think life is incomplete without them. Flavour of pungent mustard oil and green chillies make this a classic no-onion and garlic Bengali dish. Aloo Posto is made by frying potatoes thickly coated in posto which is a paste made from poppy seeds. Funnily enough, the British have little contribution to Aloo Posto’s existence. When the cultivation of poppy was enforced by the British, and there was a dearth of other vegetables, a farmer’s wife experimented with Posto. And since then it has traveled across the nation.
Savory cakes made from Bengal grams or semolina are a delicacy of Gujrat. Have it in breakfast, a side dish for lunch, or a snack-time delight, you’ll never fall out of love with it. It’s a low-calorie, protein-packed snack cooked with little to no oil and is ready within a short period of time. The tempering of neem, and mustard seeds add another level of relish to the already tempting dish.
Goan Veg Curry
A classic cream-based Goan curry is an everyday dish that you can whip up easily. Coconut milk makes this recipe easily digestible and yummy. Use any type and number of vegetables as you like with a tinge of vinegar and aromatic spices. If you can’t go to Goa, bring Goa to you with this fragrant curry.
Rajasthan has a long history of cooking buttermilk with chickpeas, jowar, and so on. Kadhi is particularly light on the stomach, and simultaneously delivers a punch of flavours in the palate. Scarcity of water made milk, yogurt, and ghee carriers of cuisine. Much like all Marwari cooking, Kadhi is also vegetarian and full of spices. Enjoy the tang of Kadhi with rice, phulkas, parathas, or even puris if you will.
Dal Makhani has its fair share of lovers and haters. From Dhabas, Punjabi restaurants to Fine dining, this delicacy has traveled places. Peshawar gave birth to Dal Makhani in the 1940s. Accredited to its creamy texture, this Punjabi dish is now enjoyed across India. Originally this recipe calls for yogurt, however, you can take a page from Kundan Lal Gujral’s book and add tomato puree as well as pure cream to give it a twist.
Indian Desserts & Sweets
Get your sweet tooth working with these sought-after Indian desserts and sweets.
Feeling Royal yet? Chances are that you might start exhibiting your aristocratic tendencies soon after tasting this delicious dessert. Also known as double ka meetha in Hyderabad, this dessert is a rich and decadent Mughlai item with ghee-fried bread slices soaked in cardamom sugar syrup, topped with creamy rabdi and nuts. Have your guests licking their fingers with this luscious cuisine.
Made with desiccated coconuts, coconut burfi requires only sugar, cardamom, and ghee to give it the extra push it needs. Thenga (coconut) burfi is popular all over South India and is made on every festive occasion.
A delicacy of Mysore palace, Karnataka is available throughout the year but is specially prepared during Dussehra festivals. The ingredients are simple such as gram flour, sugar, ghee, turmeric, and cardamom. It’s the instant melting quality of Mysore Pak that makes it special.
A die-hard fan of this sugary, soft cheese ball? Known as Khira Moahana in the 11th century, this desert has taken India by storm. Various versions of Rasgulla were invented in Odisha. However, Bengalis would like to disagree as they believe it was launched in Calcutta by Nabin Chandra Das. Either way, It is loved and cherished by the entire nation and is prepared during festivals and celebrations.
One of the most loved and cherished dessert of Karnataka in southern part of India. It is quite similar to a north Indian preparation called sooji ka halwa. More often than not, you’ll find this dessert paired with Khara bhath and together they’re called Chow Chow Bhath. Kesari has different variantons made with fruits like pineapple that add a hint of tanginess to the dessert and garnished with dry fruits on top.
Is Indian Food Healthy
People only exposed to excessive oily dishes and spicy blends can think Indian food is far from being healthy. However, years of ayurvedic practices and satvik food involving slow-cooked vegetables with only the necessary amounts of ingredients make Indian cuisine both healthy and delicious. Every cuisine can be unhealthy if you don’t add the right ingredients or overdo it.
The Rich Flavors and Diverse Taste of India
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India displays food diversity at every level. As a culturally rich country, India’s delicacies are abundant in nature. Each state provides a unique flavour and the above-mentioned cuisines are a part of the variety India’s culinary experience has to offer.
"Celebrate the diversity of food with desi flavours".