The cuisine of India is one of the world’s most diverse cuisines, characterized by its sophisticated and subtle use of the many spices, vegetables, grains and fruits grown across India. India’s religious beliefs and culture have played an influential role in the evolution of its cuisine. Vegetarianism is widely practiced in many Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities. Each geographical region has contributed wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. Religion and climate are two factors that have significantly impacted the development of cooking styles and food habits in India.
History and religious and foreign influences influences and climate impact:-
Extensive immigration and intermingling of cultures through many millennia has introduced many dietary and cultural influences. India’s diverse climate, ranging from deep tropical to alpine, has made a broad range of ingredients readily available to its many schools of cookery.
Over 80% of Indians follow the Hindu religion and its offshoots such as Jainism. Hinduism prescribes respect for life forms and has contributed to the prevalence of vegetarianism in India, particularly in the North. One impact of this on cuisine is that lentils and beans are the main sources of protein as opposed to fish and meat. Although cows are sacred to Hindus, milk is considered auspicious and milk products such as curd, vegan cottage cheese and sweets made of milk solids are part of the cuisine. Spices are generously used to provide variety in the vegetarian diet. Certain sects of Hinduism forbid the use of onions and garlic in food, and so substitute flavorings such as cumin seeds, ginger, and cashew paste have been incorporated into the cuisine. In many cases, food has become a marker of religious and social identity, with various taboos and preferences (for instance, a segment of the Jain population consume no roots or subterranean vegetable) that have driven certain groups to innovate extensively with the food sources that are deemed acceptable.
The longstanding vegetarianism within sections of India’s Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities has exerted a strong influence over Indian cuisine. Many recipes first emerged during the initial Vedic period, when India was still heavily forested and agriculture was complemented with game hunting and products from the forest. Later invasions from Central Asia, Arab, the Mughal empire, and Persia, had a fundamental effect on Indian cooking. The main difference from traditional Hindu cuisine was the use of meat and fish. West and Central Asian cooking techniques and ingredients (such as the use of dates and nuts in rice dishes, and grilling of meat into ‘kebabs’) were adopted. Muslim rulers were great gourmets, famous for their lavish courts and elaborate meal rituals and many of the dishes they patronized are today part of the Indian gourmet heritage. The Islamic conquest of medieval India also introduced such fruits as apricots, melons, peaches and plums and rich gravies, pilafs and non-vegetarian fare such as kebabs, giving rise to Mughlai cuisine (Mughal in origin). The Christian tradition in India is as old as Christianity itself, with St. Thomas entered India. Later, the Portuguese and British accelerated the growth of Christianity. Christians also ate meat and fish, but developed their own cooking techniques. In Kerala, where Christianity took root over time and in tandem with local culture, food incorporates many local ingredients and cooking techniques and has few European influences. In Goa and Calcutta, where Christianity came with the British and Portuguese and conversion happened more rapidly, food reflects European customs and traditions (for example, rum-flavored cake is a traditional favorite at Christmas in Calcutta)
One key difference in cuisine linked to climate is the type of staple cereal consumed. Wheat dominates in the North Indian diet, whilst rice is the key cereal in South India. North India is famous for its many varieties of wheat breads. ‘Rotis’, ‘naans’, ‘paranthas’, and pooris are but a few of the many varieties available, distinguished by the type of wheat flour (whole or refined), method of cooking (fried, cooked on a griddle, or baked in a clay oven), shape and size (single layered, multiple layered, large or small) and whether plain or stuffed with vegetables. South India has innovated in rice preparations.
The staples of Indian cuisine are rice, whole wheat flour and a variety of pulses, the most important of which are red lentil, bengal gram, pigeon pea or yellow gram, black gram and green gram. Pulses may be used whole, dehusked, for example dhuli moong or dhuli urad, or split. Pulses are used extensively in the form of dal (split). Some of the pulses like chana and “Mung” are also processed into flour .
Most Indian curries are fried in vegetable oil. In North and West India, groundnut oil has traditionally been most popular for frying, while in Eastern India, mustard oil is more commonly used. In South India, coconut oil and sesame oil are common. In recent decades, sunflower oil and soybean oil have gained popularity all over India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is also a popular cooking medium that replaces Indian ghee (clarified butter).
The most important and most frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, asafetida, ginger and garlic. Popular spice mixes are garam masala which is usually a powder of five or more dried spices, commonly comprised of cardamom, cinnamon and clove. Every region has its own blend of Garam Masala. Some leaves like cassia leaf, coriander leaf, fenugreek leaf and mint leaf are commonly used. The use of curry leaves is typical of all South Indian cuisine. In sweet dishes, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, and rose petal essence are used.
watch for these recipes soon!
- Kasundi Chicken
- Vegetable Jhalfraizee
- Andhra Brinjal Pachadi
- Dates and Rice Kheer
- Dahi kebab
- Jain Noodle Cutlet
- Mangodi Cabbage
- Peethiwali Puri with Aloo Chana
- Pumpkin and Pineapple Crumble
- Tamatar Khatta