India on a Platter

written by | Posted on December 19th, 2012

Indian restaurants dot countries around the world; they are popular, but unfortunately, diners often come away with the idea that Indian cuisine is nothing but North Indian cooking, that the food is typified by chicken tikka masala and naan, and that it tends to be overly rich and very spicy. Like most cliches, this is far from true—Indian cuisine is a diverse mixture of flavors and tastes reflecting a variety of cultures and regions.

Goan Cuisine
Goan cuisine is as zesty as its people. Seafood and rice hold the reins in the daily meal. Prawns, lobsters, crabs, and jumbo pomfrets are used for soups, salads, pickles, curries and fried food. It runs the gamut from fried fish to exotic concoctions like fish Racheiado and Pao com chourico—spicy Goan sausages served in a bread roll. Highlights of Goan cuisine are the pork preparations like pork vindalho and Sorpotel.

Kashmiri Cuisine
Kashmiri food is the result of an intermingling of cultures from Persia and Afghanistan. Both Kashmiri Hindus as well as Muslims are passionately fond of meat, although there is a distinct difference in the cooking styles adopted by them. Kashmiri Muslim cuisine boasts some delectable and mouthwatering dishes like gushtaba (meatball in white yoghurt sauce), rista (meatball in a fiery red sauce), rogan josh (tender lamb cooked with Kashmir spices) and mirchwagan korma (a spicy lamb preparation). The generous use of saunf (fennel powder), adrak (ginger), the ubiquitous Kashmiri mirch (chili) and saffron is common to both cuisines.

Bengali Cuisine
From bitter gourds and batter fries to fish, meat and chutney, Bengal’s culinary repertoire contains an immense variety of dishes. Bengalis, people from the East Indian state of West Bengal, are known for their partiality to fish, all the same their culinary repertoire contains a range of vegetable dishes. Apart from the use of common vegetables, Bengalis also use banana flower, the pith of the banana plant, unripe jackfruit and succulent drumsticks. One of the most common dishes on a menu is the jhol or thin stew in which vegetables or fish are cooked. Apart from fish and mutton, Bengalis delight in eating prawns, lobsters and crabs. The roe of hilsa fish is a delicacy.

Tamil Cuisine
Tamil cuisine is spicy and makes use of some common ingredients like turmeric, dry red chillies, mustard, cumin, fenugreek and tamarind. Most cooking methods are rooted in family tradition. The most popular breakfast items in South India are idli (steamed cakes made of fermented black lentils and rice) and dosa (fermented pancake made from rice and black lentil batter), usually served with chutney and sambhar (vegetable stew made with tamarind and yellow lentils).

For more information, visit incredibleindia.org.