Indian food always marks a distinction from other cuisines coming from the rest of the world, not just in taste but also in the cooking methods. Over the years, several civilizations have influenced the food cultures of India and that’s the reason you’d see an enormous amount of cuisines available at hand that has captured the whole of the country and abroad!
Now, just wait a bit, think and then tell me whether you know of such places which have as exquisite dishes as we have?? I bet you won’t!
Diving into History!
Indian cuisines have a tremendous history which is as old as 5000 years! As dialect changes every nook and corner, so does our food traditions and cultures. If you go by regions, you’d come across a whole set of different cuisines doing the rounds and these are precisely influenced by varied civilizations that have been prevalent there one time or the other. Our food cultures have been greatly influenced by Mangolian, Chinese and Persian cuisines to be precise.
When Aryans came to India, they settled around the Indus valley and in the absence of rainfall, began cultivating wheat instead of rice. The carvings and paintings of the time depicts stone mills that they used to have for grinding the wheat. Gradually, the food habits and cultures went through the ravages of time and slowly created a niche in the culinary world.
The recipes that we know of today are not the same as our ancestors used to have and this is because they were never recorded and were only passed on from one generation to another orally, based on memories. The Guru-Shishya Parampara was evident in the kitchen too.
Over the years, new things were added and even removed from these recipes and our culture of cuisines kept on changing and developing from time to time.
Food Cultures across the Nation!
India has different cultures and traditions when it comes to food items and undoubtedly, they are as varied as the people themselves. So just sit back tightly and let’s have a tour of each of the food cultures of our country from East to West and North to South!
The North Indian Food Culture
North India which includes, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh have a wide variety of cuisines available for us to relish.
Here the food culture is greatly influenced by thick curries that are spicy and one that goes well with flatbread like Chapati or Naan. North India is a home to Tandoori Rotis and Kulchas. Biryanis and Pulaos also constitute a major part of food habits of people residing here. Also, dried fruits and nuts are used in almost all the dishes.
Use of ghee and dairy products are a must in North Indian food. Barbecued meat is one of the specialties of this region which has lured people from across the globe to this place. Most used veggies include potatoes, peas, onions, carrots, and all sorts of beans.
North Indian Foods are invariably a joy to eat and possess a mind boggling effect due to their spicy content and rich, and exotic texture.
The South Indian Food
South India encompasses the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Telangana, and Kerala. If you have a fiery palate, then I would recommend you to go for South Indian dishes, since they are considered to be the hottest of all Indian food!
People here are very much into rice and rice-based cuisines. Some of the specialties that are popular in the entire nation are Dosa, Idli and Sambhar. Again, Rasam is a famous dish that is a must have on almost all South Indian tables!
Kerala possesses Malabari Cooking which includes savory seafood dishes, whereas Hyderabad has Nizami food culture that ranges from spicy to sour to sweet! Tamil Nadu has Chettinad cuisine, one of the fieriest food of all which is mostly vegetarian. Likewise, Andhra Pradesh has Andhra cuisine which comprises a vast range of sea food items that is again vegetarian. South India surely has a variety of cuisines that one can have while visiting the place.
The West Indian Food
This region is said to be the most diverse in terms of food culture, especially the areas which constitute Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa. These cultures were initially influenced by tribes and later on by business communities. Here, the food culture has three layers which comprises Kokani dishes, Maharashtrian food and the Parsi- Anglo Indian food.
If you go by states then you’ll see that Rajasthani dishes are mostly spicy and vegetarian, whereas Gujrati cuisines have a slightly sweet texture, being influenced by the Chinese cuisines . If you talk about Maharashtra, then these coastal lands are famous for Malvani and Vidarbha cuisines, that makes up the to-do lists of so many tourists!
The East Indian Food
East India that comprises West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, and Orissa has a distinct food culture that is greatly influenced by Mangolain as well Chinese cuisines. The region has a culture of steaming and frying and people maintain a gentle balance between vegetarian and non- vegetarian food. Yogurt, coconut, maize and gram flour are used in almost every dish and are a common ingredient there.
No matter how much you claim to have a sweet tooth, you can never be a rival to a guy coming from East India. Not even a potential one! This is because Sandesh, Rasogulla and Kheer which is every Indian’s favorite, precisely come from this region, including a variety of sweet treats that are world renowned. Doubtlessly, their love for sweets and desserts are quite evident in their food cultures.
Just as Americans are at the Thanksgiving table and Chinese people can’t forget their chopsticks, the Indians have a culture of eating food with their hands. This tradition has its roots in Ayurveda since, it is believed that eating with hands evokes emotions. With this, one becomes more conscious about taste, aroma and texture of the food. Likewise, there is a culture of eating food on banana leaves, particularly in South India.
Whatever the habits maybe, one can find the same zest and love among the people for cuisines that maybe a delicacy of one region but is popular across the nation. This truly makes us stand out from the rest of the world in terms of our diversity of food available for consumption!
Indian dining traditions are based on etiquette and all these have evolved and taken their present shape through a fairly sizable time. No matter how distinct our food heritage has grown, it will always be bound by the aromatic spices that we all use and relish. Surely, it is our elaborate traditions and food cultures that have created and boosted our cultural identity!