Cuisine Of India
The finest of India's cuisines is as rich and diverse as it's civilisation. It is an art form that has been passed on through generations purely by word of mouth, from guru(teacher) to vidhyarthi(pupil) or from mother to daughter. The range assumes astonishing proportions when one takes into account regional variations. Very often the taste, colour, texture and appearance of the same delicacy changes from state to state.
The hospitality of the Indians is legendary. In Sanskrit Literature the three fomous words 'Atithi Devo Bhava' or 'the guest is truly your god' are a dictum of hospitality in India. Indians believe that they are honoured if they share their mealtimes with guests. Even the poorest look foward to guests and are willing to share thir meagre food with guest. And of particular importance is the Indian woman's pride that she will not let a guest go away unfed or unhappy from her home. Indians are known for their incredible ability to serve food to their guests invited or uninvited.
South Indian Cuisine :
The cuisine of the south is largely non-greasy, either boiled or steamed and therefore very light on the stomach. Rice is the staple of the south Indian meal. Traditionally south Indian food is served on a banana leaf and each dish has its own specific place on the platter and has to be served in a particular order.
The meal consists of several courses of rice, which is eaten with a different dish like sambar, rasam and curd during each course. There are several accompaniments like curries, made of either vegetables or meat, vegetable stews, raitha, papad and pickles. Curd is usually a must for all vegetarian meals. Coconut is used liberally both as garnish and also as part of the masala.
South Indian snacks are most popular all over the country. The ubiquitous idli, dosa and vada, are eaten with sambar by the bowlsful and spicy coconut chutney. While idli is steamed rice cakes, dosa is a pancake and vada are deep fried dal doughnuts.
Mughlai Cuisine :
The influence of the Mughal rulers who ruled India is perhaps most felt in their food. A major contribution towards this is the tandoor which is an earthen oven, used to make rotis and kababs, which are pieces of meat marinated in spices and skewered over a coal tandoor. Some of the famous Mughlai dishes include tandoori chicken, seekh and boti kabab and even tandoori fish.
Mughlai food is very rich, its sauces consisting of curd, cream and crushed nuts like cashew. The biryani from the kitchens of the nawabs of Hyderabad, is a flavoured and spiced rice cooked with ghee and chicken or meat, and is a meal-in-a-dish eaten with raitha and salad. Aromatic spices and ghee make Mughlai food a very rich form of cuisine.
Gujarati Cuisine :
Gujarat has a wide variety of savoury food, pickles and sweets. Roti itself is prepared in a number of variations from the petal soft phulkas to the bone dry khakra, which is a spiced, crunchy preparation usually taken on journeys.
The population which is predominantly Jain doesn't include spices like onion and garlic and yet, the food is so interesting and delicious, which goes to prove the culinary skills of the people of Gujarat.
The Gujaratis have a sweet tooth and this shows in their cooking. Every dish is sweetened, be it a vegetable preparation or the simple dal, even pickles and chutneys are flavoured with jaggery and sugar. Seasoning of food is given great importance with mustard, fenugreek, thyme and asafoetida used both for flavour and as digestive aids.
Bengali Cuisine :
The staple diet of the Bengalis is rice and fish. A true Bengali will consider a meal incomplete without fish and celebrations are never done without a fish preparation. Mustard oil is the medium of cooking as it imparts a unique flavour and taste especially to the fish items. Fish is cooked in a variety of ways -steamed, fried and boiled with various spices for different flavours.
Mention Bengal and one is immediately reminded of the delicious sweets of the state - gulab jamun, rasagulla, sandesh, cham cham and many more. If Gujarat has a profusion of savoury items, Bengal matches it with its sweets. Made of milk and cottage cheese, these are light and delectable.
Coming to the food, the staple diet of the people of Bengal and Orissa includes rice and fish, especially fresh water fish. Even Brahmins of Bengal eat fish and no celebration is complete without it. The principal medium of cooking is mustard oil. A distinct flavour is imparted to the fish dishes by frying them in mustard oil before cooking them in gravy. Fish is also steamed by the Bengalis.
Bengalis have a special seasoning called 'Panchphoran' which includes five spices - mustard, aniseed, fenugreek seed, cumin seed and black cumin seed. The garam masala is made up of cloves, cinnamon, cumin and coriander seeds, mace, nutmeg, and big and small cardamoms.