background on Asian Food
can eat a different Indian dish everyday, but still not repeat it
for an entire year! Indian food is as diverse as its culture, its
religions, geography, climatic conditions and traditions. All of
these combine to influence the preparation of Indian food. Essentially
spicy, the cuisine is, however, not always hot. It is the different
combination of a handful of spices that produce the most delectable
dishes in the world.
India, preparation of food is an art, perfected over time and passed
through generation by just word of mouth. Food is also an important
part of Indian festivals and traditions; no festival or celebration
is complete without a feast. Special preparations are a must during
food of India offers a staggering range of dishes to the gourmet
with an adventurous palate. The character of cuisine in India is
essentially regional; reasons for this must be found in the sheer
size of the country which forced every area to develop a style of
cooking of its own. As a result, not only dishes, but flavors, colours,
methods of cooking, down to even the style of cutting the vegetables
prior to be cooked changes as often as the landscape does.
has helped along this diversity is the amazing number of religions
and the sects and sub-sects within them; each of them often have
strict dietary codes. For example, Hindu Brahmins may not eat onions,
ginger and garlic which meant that a special cuisine came up around
that bias and so on.
most striking contrast in eating habits shows up between the meat-and-bread
eating northern regions and the pulse-and-rice southern regions.
For example Dal (lentils), the all-time favorite across India, differs
in cooking style from region to region. The dal makhni of the north
is made with liberal amounts of butter and cream, while in Gujarat,
the western part, it is a sweetish preparation. In the south, it
is cooked along with countless vegetables.
forms of milk products like, curd, cream and paneer (cottage cheese)
is used in cooking in the north. In contrast, the south Indians
use this sparingly. Instead, they use coconut in almost every dish.
Here, it would be apt to mention that even the cooking medium differs
as, the north Indians use mustard or vegetable oil, while the south
Indians use groundnut or sesame oil. Keralites use coconut oil for
almost all the dishes.
'Roti' or 'Chappatis' or 'Parathas' (unleavened bread fried on a
griddle) accompanied with a wide assortment of "curries",
which include spicy vegetables and lentils is the typical north
Indian food. Punjabi food is a lively mixture of varied spices,
with a tempting aroma. Punjabi 'tandoori' cooking is popular throughout
the world. Huge earthen ovens are half buried in the ground and
heated with a coal fire lit below it. Marinated meat, chicken, fish,
paneer, rotis and naans of many types are cooked in this novel oven.
Another popular combination is the 'makki ki roti' and 'sarson ka
food from North India also traces its descent from Persian ancestors
and then more definitely from the 16th century Mughals. The Mughals
brought with them Persian and Afghan cooks who started North Indians
on the rich and fragrant Persian rice dishes, such as pilafs and
biryanis (meat-based pilafs). Garnished with pounded silver (vark),
these dishes along with spicy kormas (braised meat in creamy sauces),
koftas (grilled spicy meatballs) and kababs used to grace the tables
original cuisine of western India is principally vegetarian. This
is largely due to the enterprising, but strictly vegetarian, Marwari
community from Rajasthan, who have now spread all over the country.
The Marwari cuisine is a good example of how the best was made of
locally available stuff. It is spicy and extremely rich with almost
everything being doused in ounces of ghee (clarified butter) and
is famous for its mouth-watering aroma. Essentially, the cuisine
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) which are polished off with rice and pooris
(puffed whole wheat fried breads).
interesting aside here is the Goan cuisine, which effectively mixes
local Konkan and Portuguese flavors. The Goan cuisine with its tongue-curling
hot vindaloo curries and distinctive sweet and sour dishes is very
popular all over the western ghat region. The Indian salmon and
Bombay Duck is popular which is neither from Bombay nor a
duck, but a small sun-dried fish cut and sold in strips.
food offers a variety of crunchy crisp snacks like the 'vada pav',
'misal' and 'pav bhaji'.
India is close to the sea and gets plenty of rain. Hence rice and
fish are staple all over here. The hilsa (a variety of fish) and
macherjhol (fish curry) is legendary all over India. Curry is not
the only thing with which fish is eaten; it is smoked, grilled,
fried, made into pakoras (patties), stuffed into green coconuts
and now into burgers too.
other good thing of the eastern cuisine (Bengali) is their delicate
sweets. The difference here is that the sweets of the north India
are based on khoya (milk which thickened slowly until it forms a
sweet dough), which is quite heavy. However, those of east India
are based on milk, curd and chena (light cottage cheese) and hence
are much more lighter on the palate. 'Rasogullas', gulab jamuns',
'malai sandwich', 'chena murkhi', 'anarkali' and 'rajbogh' are just
a few of the endless delicacies served. The 'mishti dhoi', yogurt
sweetened with jaggery, is made in every home.
is served everywhere and always in south India and flour-based breads
are rare, if at all. Rice is used to polish off the very spicy curries
of the south, which are liquidier than those of the north. These
curries are often pulse-based and if this sounds restricting, you'll
be surprised at what a few spices here and there can do to completely
change the taste of things. The south Indians put chillis, mustard,
coconut oil and various other spicy seeds to very effective use
to conjure up mouth watering dishes like dosas (rice pancakes stuffed
with potatoes and vegetables), idlis (rice dumplings served with
sambar), and so on.
lot of care and thought goes into the preparation of every Indian
dish. A study into their recipes reveals a lot of surprises. Every
single ingredient of the dish is there with a purpose and compliments
each other. In fact, the succession of dishes also keeps in mind
the flavour and 'nature' of the spices, whether hot or cool.
and herbs used in Indian cooking are either fresh or dried
in which case the flavour changes for each form. However, that is
not all: the dried spices and herbs are used in various ways. They
can be used whole or grounded (more often than not still pounded
at home!) and they may be roasted, fried, deep-fried, half-done,
all according to the taste that the cook wants
to give to the eventual dish.
of the commonly used ingredients in Indian food are: Chilli (hot
fiery red or green); Coconut; Garlic; Ginger; Basil, coriander (cilantro),
mint and parsley; Fenugreek (methi); Saunf; Garam Masala; Mustard
Seeds; Tamarind (Imli); Saffron (Kesar) and Rose water (gulkand).
hot, it's cheap, it's quick, it's satisfying and it's available
at almost every street corner. That explains both the appeal and
the success of Chinese restaurants everywhere. Add to that their
convenience, variety, availability and you have a winning formula.
like to eat Chinese food because it is nutritious and it has a menu
of rice, chicken, fish, meat and vegetables, cooked in pungent,
spicy sauces. It has a lot of variety. And as for the Indian community
they crave: Fried prawns, chilli chicken, the Bombay-style Manchurian
soup, chicken pakoras, vegetable hot garlic wonton and vegetable
bazzie in Manchurian sauce and meats with courgettes and onions.
unique fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine - so typically demonstrated
by the rise in popularity of Manchurain style dishes - does actually
have some history to it. In the early 1900s the Hakka Chinese migrated
to India from Canton to escape the opium warfare and political issues.
When they were exposed to Indian cuisine, they borrowed many spices
and concepts to incorporate in their own food. And finally perfected