3:08 pm - Sunday October 20, 3039

Indian Food

India is a land of diverse culture and ethnicity. This diversity is also reflected in Indian food. Every culture of India has its unique and exclusive style of cooking. Over the centuries, each new wave of settlers in India brought with them their own culinary practices which, with time, blended into the Indian food as it is known today.

As Japanese Sushi relies on the freshness, tenderness and the actual flavour of the meat, French food uses wine and supplementaries to enhance a good meal, Indian food relies more on the spices in which the food is cooked.

Spices were long considered India’s prime commodity. It is most interesting to see an Indian cook at his job, with a palette of spices, gratuitously sprinkling those powders in exact pinches all over the concoction in front of him. The vast differences in the foods of the various regions of India one can discover only after landing here, as most of the Indian food one finds abroad is the North-Indian / Pakistani kebab food.

Actually, the food is far different when you actually land here. The variation between the food in the various parts of the country is staggering. Yet, there is practically no part of the country which does not have an instant ability to turn a good pound a day worth of
added weight.

North

The north is predominantly meat eating, very fatty, heavy meals. The food is shamelessly rich and extremely tasty. Most of the Indians from the north are of huge build, primarily because they eat awfully much.

Delicacies

  • Biriyani (Flavoured rice with chunks of marinated meat)

  • Dum Pukth (Traditional North-eastern marinated meat cooked in a coal oven)

  • Tandoori chicken (Whole chicken baked in a clay oven after being coated in spicy paste and marinated in herbs)

  • Reshmi Kebab, Tikka kebab (Barbecued chunks of tender meat coated in paste)

  • Rogan Josh (Curried lamb)

Snacks

  • Aloo Chaat (Boiled potatoes and fritters with all sorts of spices thrown in) Sweets

Sweets

  • Jalebi (Round sweet fries made from batter)

West

West Indian food is generally written off as the least exciting of Indian cuisines. However, the crabs cooked here are arguably the best. There are also a number of interesting snacks and tit-bits and of course, the super-pungent, Goan food.

Delicacies

  • Crabs, Pomfret fried (Steamed crabs cooked in paste and flat pomfret, Indian salmon fried in tandoori paste)

  • DhanSakh (Chicken or vegetables cooked in a special gravy of spices, not usually pungent)

  • Vindaloo (Pungent Vinegar Marinade, Goan food)

Snacks

  • Dhoklas (Spongy cubes made of rice paste)

  • Wada pao (Boiled potato mash fried in a coat of paste and served in a bun, the Indian burger)

  • Bhel / Pani Puri (Sliced vegetables and rice crispies served with sweet tamarind sauce and pungent chilli sauces)

Sweets

  • Shira (Sweetened concoction made with fresh cream and rice)

Appetizers / Digestives

  • Paan (Pan is a digestive. Pan is a betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamom – it is not specifically west Indian, though Mumbai is a good place for Pan connoisseurs ).

  • Chaas (Chaas is basically buttermilk, a regular feature of any Gujarati meal. It works wonders after a heavy meal)

East

East Indian food is fish and rice based. The best sweets in the world are undoubtedly the Bengali cottage cheese based goodies. Most of the food is cooked in mustard oil and the fish can be extremely tricky to handle for those not used to eating this stuff regularly.

Delicacies

  • Doi maach (Fish cooked with curds)

  • Mustard gravy ‘Eelish’ (A bony fish fried in mustard oil)

  • Mishti Doi (Sweetened yogurt)

Snacks

  • Shingara / Samosa (Mashed spiced potatoes fried in paste)

  • Puchka (aka Pani-Puris in Mumbai, crisp fried balls filled with cumin flavoured syrup)

Sweets

  • Sandesh (Sweetened Cream balls)

  • Rossogolla (Cream cheese balls in sweetened syrup)

  • Gulab Jamun (Flour yogurt balls browned and sweetened)

South

South Indian food is more on the vegetarian side, based a lot more on rice preparations. There are practically no breads in south Indian food.Though most of the food is mild in terms of spice, certain regions of the south have very spicy sauces to go with the food.

Delicacies

  • Hyderabadi Biriyani (Flavoured rice, with chunks of marinated meat)

  • Uthappam (Fried rice paste)

  • Rassam (Very pungent watery appetizer with a strong spice base)

  • Coconut based mutton (Lamb cooked with shredded coconut and paste)

  • Chettinad preparations (Very spicy coconut and cumin based foods)

Snacks

  • Dosa (Fried Rice paste, the Indian version of the pizza)

  • Idli (Steamed balls of rice paste)

Beverages

Alcoholic drinks are not ordinarily considered part of Indian meals. Digestives, ususally yogurt based, are generally served with meals. The most popular drink in India is tea. Coffee is popular in South India.

  • Tea : The tea in India is made by boiling tea leaves in milk and water. It is usually very sweet and seldom served with the tea brew and milk separate. The tea from the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong is the best available anywhere in the world. Most visitors make it a point to carry back some tea when going back from India.

  • Coffee : In India, coffee isn’t the best in the world, but the filter coffee from South India is fairly good. In India, it is understood that you want milk with your coffee, therefore it is never served black unless specifically so demanded. It is also usually quite sugary.

  • Lassi : Lassi is basically whipped yogurt. It is practically consumed in litres in the northern parts of the country. It can be sweet or salty, usually sweet and fairly thick.

Coolers

  • Coconut water is the most popular cooler in coastal regions including Kerala, Goa and Bombay.

  • Nimbu Pani, This is basically fresh lime juice, very effective as a cooler in the sweltering heat of the plains.

Booze

Practically all brands of foreign whisky are available in the Metropolitan cities. Now even tequilas, good white rum and speciality drinks / liquers like Pasoa, Irish Cream, Kahlua, Malibu, Peach Schnapps and Southern comfort have hit the markets. More upmarket liquers are still difficult to come across though.

Bartenders in India do not know the first thing about a Martini. The drinks aren’t mixed too efficiently very often and besides a Bloody Mary and a Screwdriver, most bartenders (except those employed at fancy 5 star pubs) know precious little about fixing cocktails.

There is a huge variety of excellent Indian beer. Although compared to Australian beers, most are fairly mild, they are good nevertheless – and for aficionados of the Aussie variety, Fosters is now available in India. Kingfisher is an excellent brand of beer.India also has a tendency towards ‘strong’ beers which have higher alcohol content, these are not recommended, but there are those who have tastes tilted towards these. Stouts are not available in India.

India has just started coming up with good wine – the Grover Vineyards have a good red and a decent pink. Riviera White is preferred by many, but not particularly recommended.

Indian rum, gin and vodka are just about passable, nothing spectacular. Visitors will be issued All India Liquor Permits on request by Indian Embassies, Missions or Tourist Offices or from the Tourist Office in London. These aren’t really required though – everybody drinks without a permit here. The interesting thing is that an alcohol permit is a document that states the requirement for a person to drink ‘for medical reasons’.

There is a prohibition rule in the states of Gujrat, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana. Certain days, usually national holidays and festivals are ‘dry days’ when drinks are not served in retail establishments.

Local Spirits

Toddy
This drink is made from palms and ferments during the course of the day as temperature conditions change. Best had in the early morning hours, nothing like waking up with some toddy.

Tharra
This is the name given to local liquors made from cane, orange or pineapple. Can make you stink like nobody’s business, and is notorious for its killing capabilities.

Feni
The Goan drink, made from cashews or coconuts is the perfect beach drink. It was originally a very basic and local drink, much like toddy, recent it has been commercialised.

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