Food in India

Diversity can be found in India’s food as well as its culture, geography and climate. Spices are a vital part of food preparation and are used to enhance the flavour of a dish. Correct use and blending of the aromatic spices is crucial to the proper preparation of Indian cuisine. Even oil is an important part of cooking, whether it’s mustard oil in the north or coconut oil in the south, each section of the country has its preferences. Although a number of religions exist in India, the two cultures that have influenced Indian cooking and food habits are the Hindu and the Muslim traditions. The Portuguese, the Persians and the British made also important contributions to the Indian culinary scene. The Hindu vegetarian tradition is widespread in India, although many Hindus eat meat now. The Muslim tradition is most evident in the cooking of meat.

In the Bhagavad-Gita gita Sri Krishna declares that food is of three types as are sacrifices, austerity and charity.

  • Rajasic (hot) food is that one which is bitter, sour, salty, hot and spicy, burning and which gives unhappiness, sorrow and disease.
  • Tamasic (intoxicating) food is that one which is stored and devoid of any juices, dried, foul smelling, decomposed, left over and indigestible.
  • Sattvic (pure) food is that one which increases longevity, purity, strength, health, happiness and taste and which is juicy, oily, durable in nature and liked by sattvic people.

Sattvic food is the base of a good meal.
There are 6 base dishes to prepare a good meal :

  • Dal
  • Rice dishes
  • Vegetable dishes
  • Roti
  • Raita (yoghurt dishes)
  • Chutney

A few of these dishes are enough to make a tasty and nutritious meal.
Especially dal, vegetable and rice are very well to combine.
Beside these six main dishes there are plenty Indian side dishes to choose from.

Very well known Indian (side) dishes are:

  • Thali (an Indian dish with roti, bread and a variety of small dishes either vegetarian or non-vegetarian prepared).
  • Curry, Tandoori, Samosa and Pakora.
  • Bhaji (South Indian version of Pakora), and Dosa.
  • Chutney, Pappadum, Paneer (cottage cheese), Ghurt (Full yoghurt) and Sambar.

Very well known breads are :
Chapatti, nan, idli and paratha.

North Indian kitchen :
A typical North-Indian meal would consist of chapattis or rotis (unleavened bread baked on a griddle) or paranthas (unleavened bread fried on a griddle), rice and an assortment of accessories like dals, fried vegetables, curries, curd, chutney, and pickles. For dessert one could choose from the wide array of sweetmeats from Bengal like rasagulla, sandesh, rasamalai and gulab-jamuns. North Indian desserts are very similar in taste as they are derived from a milk pudding or rice base and are usually soaked in syrup. Kheer is a form of rice pudding, shahi tukra or bread pudding and kulfi, a nutty ice cream are other common northern desserts.

Central India kitchen :
Here you will find the more dry vegetable dishes which are done in some minutes.

South Indian kitchen :
South Indian food is largely non-greasy, roasted and steamed. Rice is the staple diet and forms the basis of every meal. It is usually served with sambhar, rasam (a thin soup), dry and curried vegetables and a curd preparation called pachadi.
Coconut is an important ingredient in all South Indian food.
The South Indian dosa (rice pancakes), idli (steamed rice cakes) and vada, which is made of fermented rice and dal, are now popular throughout the country. The popular dishes from Kerala are appams (a rice pancake) and thick stews. Desserts from the south include the Mysore pak and the creamy payasum.

East Indian kitchen :
The east Indian kitchen is famous of her desserts like rasagolla, chumchum, sandesh, rasabali, chhena poda, chhena gaja, chhena jalebi en kheeri.
These dishes are originally from Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. But they are now also very popular in the North Indian kitchen.

East Zone of India is a hot mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
Fetish of the people of West Bengal for fish, rice and sweet is legendary and contributes a significant lot to the popular cuisine of not just east zone but also the national cuisine of India. Part of Orissa also shares the love for fish and rice with the state of West Bengal due to the long coastline the duo states shares on the Bay of Bengal. Fish and other sea food are in plenty in this region and so are the recipes.

People in Bihar and Jharkhand love their platter with all the colours of seasonal vegetables which grow in abundance and rich variety here. Influence of Buddhism is apparent here as majority of the population practice vegetarianism. The state came under the influence of mighty Mughals once and naturally the famous Mughal cuisine left its mark here too.

Western Indian kitchen :
The cuisine of Western India is diverse.
It exists of 3 regions: Gujarati, Maharashtria and Goa.
Maharashtrian cuisine is diverse and ranges from bland to fiery hot. Pohay, Shrikhand, Pav Bhaji, Vada Pav are good examples of Maharashtrian cuisine.
Goan cuisine is dominated by the use of rice, coconut, seafood, Kokum and cashew-nuts. With its distinct spices and medium of cooking as coconut oil, both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian cuisine is equally popular. The Portuguese made important contributions to the Goan culinary scene Gujarati cuisine is almost exclusively vegetarian. Gujarat is one of three states in India, with prohibition on alcohol, along with Mizoram and Manipur.

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