Indian Food

Without doubt one of the world’s most sophisticated and diverse food cultures, however only one part of the Indian cuisine is mainly known to the world and that is the style of  Indian food served in restaurants worldwide which is Northern Indian, also known as Mughlai or Punjabi. However there are four other broad categories of Indian cuisine; North Eastern, Southern Indian, East and West Indian. These foods are mostly vegetarian, but many include lamb, goat, chicken meat and even fish.

 

Indian food is broadly divided into four categories, and then further sub-divided into 32 regional cuisines.

One Country many Styles

Indian cuisine consists of many regional styles which date back thousands of years, although now it is broadly accepted that there are 32 distinct food regions.

 

Northern India

Punjabi, Mughlai, Kashmiri, Rajasthani, Awadi, Kumauni and Uttar Pradesh

North Eastern India

Assamese, Meghalayan, Manipuri, Naga, Sikkimese, Tripuri and Arunachalese

Southern India

Hyderbadi, Kerala, Tamil, Andra, Karnataka, Udupi, Mangalorean and Saraswat

Eastern India

Bengali, Bihari, Oriya and Bhojpuri

Western India

Goan, Gujarati, Marathi, Malvani & Konkani, Sindhi and Parsi.

 

Indian dishes are generally reasonably spicy and characterized by the extensive use of spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Vegetarianism is an important part of Indian society and is reflected in the cuisine. Indian food varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the demographics of this ethnically-diverse subcontinent.

 

Whilst Hindu beliefs and culture have played an influential role in the evolution of Indian cuisine, food styles have evolved as a result of many cultural interactions over the centuries making Indian food a unique blend of many cuisines.

 

Preparation & Cooking

Most Indian curries are cooked in vegetable oil. However in northern and western India, peanut oil is used, whilst in eastern India, mustard oil is more common. Coconut oil is also used widely along the western coast, especially in Kerala; Sesame oil (gingelly) oil is common in the south. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is also widely used, as is butter-based ghee, or desi ghee.

Staple Foods

The staples of Indian cuisine are Pearl millet (bajra), Rice, Wheat flour (atta), and a variety of pulses including masoor (red lentils), channa (Bengal gram), toor (yellow gram), urad (black gram), and moong (green gram). Pulses are used either whole, de-husked in dishes such as dhuli moong or dhuli urad – or split (dal) some pulses, such as channa and mung, are also processed into flour (besan).

Spices and the Spice Trade

The spice trade that was created between India and Europe from the early middle-ages onwards is generally agreed to have been the main reason for the more sophisticated development of European food and indeed Indian food culture has been a major influence on different cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and of course the UK.

 

The most important or frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chili pepper, black mustard seed (sarso), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi), fenugreek (methi), asafoetida (hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lehsun).

 

The essential flavour of Indian dishes is dictated by the mix of these spices and perhaps one of the most popular spice mixes is Garam Masala, which typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon, and clove.

 

Each region, and sometimes each individual chef, has a distinctive Garam Masala blend. Some leaves commonly used for flavoring include bay (tejpat), coriander, fenugreek, and mint leaves.

 

The use of curry leaves and roots is typical of Gujarati and all South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences.