India is a vast country. Within its borders are all kinds of landscapes and a wide range of climates. Throw in a vibrant mix of cultures and a long, rich history and it's little wonder that the food of the subcontinent is so diverse. Just a brief outline of some the regional characteristics that makes Indian cooking, in our (admittedly biased) opinion, the greatest cuisine.
North, South, East and West
Staple foods of India
Pearl millet (bajara),Whole-wheat flour (atta), Variety of lentils, Rice, masoor (red lentils) toor (pigeon pea), urad (black gram), moong (mung bean), channa (chickpea), Rajma or kidney beans, lobiya are very common, especially in the northern regions. Channa and mung are also processed into flour (besan).
North Indian Cuisine is largely influenced by the Mughal style of cooking. In their nearly 500 years rule over India, they contributed a lot to India including cuisine. Since the Mughals were originally from central Asia, the cuisine bears much similarity to the central Asian style of cooking.
Abundant uses of butter based curries and dried fruits and nuts are striking features of north Indian cuisine. North India lives on Roti, Chappatis, Paratha and Tandoori all made from wheat. Lots of oil, ghee, butter along with rich spices are used for cooking which lend the north Indian food a very strong flavor. Meat also have special place in north Indian cuisine.
Rice is the staple diet, while fish is an integral component of coastal South Indian meals. Coconut and spices are used extensively in South Indian cuisine.
The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes using of rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater. Idli, Dosa, Uthappam, Appam, Pongal and Paniyaram are popular dishes forbreakfast.
Rice is served with Sambar, Rasam and Poriyal for lunch. Andhra cuisine is characterized by pickles and spicy curries. Chettinad cuisine is famous for non vegetarian and Hyderabadi cuisine is popular for its Biryani.
East Indian cuisine has a distinct character that sets it apart from the cuisines of other parts of India which include the North East regions of India in the high Himalayan mountains.
The Bengal, Oriya, Bihar area has warm climate, mostly adequate rainfall, lush forests, coastal areas with ample seafood make fresh ingredients easy to come by encouraging this cuisine to be light on spices and allowing the main fresh ingredients to take center stage.
The European explorers and the Muslim settlers brought their own culinary styles, resulting in a rich culinary tradition of their own. East Indian confections are famous and owe their roots to Hindu culture. The sweets too of this region tend to be less dense, lighter, making them a bit more appealing to westerners than some of the denser confections of other regions in India.
Mustard seeds and paste, chillies (both green and red), Paanch Phoran (a mix of five spices – white cumin seeds, onion seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds). Yoghurt, coconut, maize and gram flour are common ingredients. Milk and dairy products play a huge role in the preparation of sweets in Eastern India.
Panch Puran (Five spice mix) used in Bangladesh but now used in Pakistan and India
Shorshe Llish (Hilsa fish) cooked in mustard gravy
Western India reveals a vibrant choice of vegetarian as well as non - vegetarian dishes. The original Western Indian Cuisine can be categorised as vegetarian, however a very small section of the society consume non vegetarian food. Indian regional cuisine is majorly influenced by religion and external invasions. Essentially, the cooking in the western region of the country is simple with dishes like alloo bhajis (spicy potatos), karhi (chickpea dumplings in yoghurt sauce), dal batti (lentil dumplings oozing with ghee dunked in dal) and preparations polished off with rice and pooris (puffed whole wheat fried breads).
Spicy blend of vegetables cooked in tomato gravy and butter