From the very beginning, citizens of this world are fond of Indian cuisine because of its delicious taste and high variety in the dishes. It’s all because India is quite similar to the world as constitutes a huge number of states, groups, communities and cultures in it. Indian cuisine integrates an extensive variety of regional and traditional cuisines. By diversity in soil type, culture, climate, occupations, and ethnic groups, these cuisines vary prominently from each other and use locally available spices, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Indian food is also influenced by religious and cultural choices with traditions. Also, Central Asian and Middle Eastern influences have found on North Indian cuisine from the years of Mughal rule.
Due to the trade relations, colonialism, and foreign invasions have played a vital role to instigate certain foods to the nation. Indian cuisine has molded the international relations; the spice trade between India and Europe was the primary catalyst for Europe’s Age of Discovery. Spices were bought from India and sold all over the Europe and Asia. Indian cuisine has made an impact to other cuisines around the globe.
Some of the Indian recipes are date back five thousand or even more years. The Indus Valley civilization even hunted turtles and alligators, with all the wild grains, and plants. Many foods from the Indus period (3000–1500 B.C.) are still prevalent today. Some include wheat, barley, rice, eggplant, tamarind, and cucumber. The citizens of Indus Valley started cooking with oils, ginger, green peppers, salt, and turmeric (in powder form).
The Aryans came to India between 1500 and 1000 BC introduced lentils, leafy vegetables, and milk (with its byproducts like yogurt and ghee (clarified butter)). The Aryans also used spices such as cumin and coriander. Aryans used Black pepper widely. Later Greeks brought saffron with them, while the Chinese introduced tea in India. The Portuguese and British carried red chili, potato, and cauliflower with their invasions around 1700 A.D.
Indian cuisine reflects an 8,000-year long history of various breeds and cultures interacting with the subcontinent, leading to the heterogeneity of flavors and regional cuisines found in modern-day India. Later, trade and commercial relations and exchanges with British and Portuguese influence added to the already diverse Indian cuisine.
Early diet in India mainly constituted of legumes, grains, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, honey, and with fish, eggs, and meat but not essentially. The staple foods eaten these days include a variety of whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), lentils (dal), rice, and pearl millet (bājra), cultivated in the Indian subcontinent since 6200 BC.
A food classification system that categorized any item as Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic developed in the Yoga traditions. The Bhagavad Gita recommends various dietary practices. Consumption of beef was taboo except for Kerala and the northeast, due to cows were considered as ‘Mothers’ in Hinduism.
Conventional & Unconventional Ingredients
Staple foods of Indian cuisine include whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), pearl millet (bājra), rice, and a variety of lentils, such as toor (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), masoor (most often red lentils), and moong (mung beans).
Lentils may be used as a whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils are used widely. Some pulses, such as chana or chole (chickpeas), rajma (kidney beans), and lobiya (black-eyed peas) are very common, especially in the northern regions. From chana (gram) and moong, the flour (besan) is processed.
Many Indian dishes are prepared in vegetable oil, but peanut oil is also popular in the northern and western region of India, while mustard oil in eastern India, and coconut oil along the west coast, especially in Kerala. Gingerly (Sesame) oil is quite common in the southern region since it imparts a fragrant, nutty aroma. In recent decades safflower, cottonseed, and soybean oils have become more popular across India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is another favorite cooking medium. Butter-based ghee, or desi ghee, is frequently used. Chicken and mutton tend to be the most widely consumed meats. Fish consumption is prevalent in some parts of India, but they are not widely consumed except for coastal areas, as well as the northeast.
The most important and frequently used spices and flavorings in Indian cuisine are whole or powdered chili (mirch, introduced by the Portuguese from Mexico in the 16th century). The black mustard seed (Sarso), cardamom (elaichi), cumin (jeera), turmeric (Haldi), asafoetida (Hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lahson). One traditional spice mix is known garam masala, a powder that typically includes some dry spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon (dalchini), and clove (laung).
Each culinary region has an incredible garam masala blend— even some renowned chefs may also have their recipes. Goda masala is comparable, which is sweet but mixed with spices, very popular in Maharashtra region.
Some leaves commonly used for flavoring include coriander leaves, bay leaves (tejpat), mint leaves, and fenugreek leaves. The usage of curry leaves and roots for flavor is typical of Gujarati and South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are often seasoned with saffron, cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences.
Foods of the Indian Society
The fact is that Indian food varies by region and religion. Northern Indians eat more flatbreads, while in southern India people prefer rice. In the coastal area, such as Kerala and Bengal, fish is the most liked diet. In spite chicken and mutton (sheep) are much loved in throughout the mountainous regions. Many Hindus avoid eating beef, while Muslims avoid pork. Also, many Indians—particularly Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains—are usually vegetarian.
Spices are used in most of the Indian dishes. When it comes to hot, spices such as chili, peppers, and garlic help the human body sweat and cool it down. In colder weather, spices such as cloves, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg help to warm up the body.
Indian cuisine is varied, but many of the recipes are prepared in a similar way as the original. The preparation starts with the frying of garlic, onion, ginger, or spices such as cumin seeds in different types of oils at a high temperature. Meats, vegetables, flavorings such as yogurt, and spices such as turmeric are added. The dish then cooks at low heat until the ingredients are cooked well. At the end of the preparation, leafy herbs such as cilantro and flavorings such as lemon juice are added, before the serve.
Food for Religious ceremonies and Holiday Celebrations
Nearly every holiday in India requires a special meal. Diwali is the biggest festival of Hindus, which occurs in October-November. The exact date is decided by the lunar motion and so varies from year by year. On this festival some of the traditions are shared: homes are cleaned, new clothes are stitched or purchased, and an elaborated meal is served.
Besides, everybody buys sweets such as Laddu, Barfi, and other types of sweet gift them to their relatives and friends.
Holi is another big festival of Hindus which is celebrated in the starting of spring. On occasion, people splash each other with colored water and smear one another with different colors. Many also take bhang, a yogurt drink.
The day usually ends with a feast and musical activities. Halwa “cakes” are often served for breakfast on special occasions, such as birthdays.
Indians eat several light meals a day. Many families begin their day at dawn with prayers of different Gods. Then they take chai (Indian tea), and some salty snack will follow. In breakfast usually may include a regular Indian dish such as plain paratha, or aloo paratha (flatbread, stuffed with potato and then fried), or toast with eggs. Some other favorite breakfast recipes include halwa (made with different materials like ground wheat, butter, sugar and sliced almonds) or upma, which is a spicier south Indian version of halwa.
An afternoon snack often is served around 5 or 6 pm. It includes tea with the salty and spicy Namkeen (snacks or appetizers). While sometimes they visit a street stall where they get tasty snacks like Samosa
(a stuffed with potatoes, spices, chili, cheese, and peas) or bhelpuri (a combination of puffed rice, yogurt, tamarind sauce, and boiled potatoes).
Also, fruits such as guava, mango, pineapples, pomegranate, grapes, and watermelon may be served then. The dinner is served quite late traditionally and includes two or three vegetable dishes along with rice, chapati, and salad. In many families, all the members take hot milk, added with sugar and a touch of cardamom before going to bed.
A fact is Indian food is quite different from other parts of the world not because of taste but also of cooking methods. It reflects a perfect combination of various cultures and ages. Just like Indian culture, food in India has also been influenced by different civilizations.
The recipes of India are world renowned for its spiciness. Throughout India, from North to South, spices are used widely in food. But the fact is that every single spice used in Indian dishes carries some not only the nutritional values but also have medicinal properties.
North Indian Food
Starting with the food of North India, Kashmiri cuisines represent the tremendous influence of Central Asian. In Kashmir, most of the dishes are prepared around the main course of rice found abundantly in the beautiful valley. Another nice item cooked here is the ‘Saag’ that is prepared with a green leafy vegetable known as the ‘Hak.’
But in other states of the Northern region of India like the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh show high consumption of chapattis as the staple food. Again, these chapattis are prepared with a variety of flours such as wheat, rice, maida, besan, etc. Besides chapattis, other closely related bread baked in these regions include Tandoori, Rumaali, and Naan, etc. However in the north of the country impact of Mughlai food is quite evident.
East Indian Food
In the eastern region of India, the Bengali and Assamese styles of cooking are very prominent. The staple food of Bengalis is a yummy blend of rice and fish. Usually, Bengalis love to take varieties of fishes in their meals. A unique method of preparing the delicacy is very well known as ‘Hilsa’ in the process wrapping it in the pumpkin leaf before cooking. Another very unusual ingredient that is used in the Bengali cooking is the ‘Bamboo Shoot.’
A significant number of sweets are prepared in this region, by using milk include the ‘Roshogullas,’ ‘Sandesh,’ ‘Cham-cham’ and much more.
West Indian Food
In the western part of India, the desert cuisines are famous for their unique taste and varieties of ingredients. Rajasthan and Gujarat sustain the representation of the dessert flavor of Indian food. Here an immense variety of dals and achars (pickles/preserves) is used that replaces the lack of fresh vegetables/foods in the region.
In Maharashtra, the food is usually a great blend of both north as well as southern cooking styles. Here people take both rice and the wheat with the same interest. Along with the coastal line of Mumbai, a broad variety of fishes is available. They offer some of the delicious preparations include dishes like the Bombay Prawn and Pomfret.
In Goa, that is further down towards the south; you can easily get the influence of Portuguese reign on the cuisine there. Some of the major recipes of the region are the sweet and sour Vindaloo, duck baffled, sorpotel and egg molie, etc.
South Indian Food
In the southern part of India, the lavish use of spices, fishes, and coconuts in the mind-blowing recipes, as most of them have coastal kitchens. In the foods of Tamil Nadu use of tamarind is frequently made to impart sourness to the dishes.
The cooking method of Andhra Pradesh is supposed to make excessive use of chilies, which apparently enhances the taste of the dishes to the next level.
In Kerala, some of the delicious dishes are the lamb stew and appams, Malabar fried prawns, Idlis, Dosas, fish molie and rice puttu. Another notable item of this region is the sweetened coconut milk. Another dish is Puttu, which is glutinous rice powder steamed like a pudding in a bamboo shoot.