Take a trip around eight Asian countries’ cuisines without leaving home
This week we are in the sub continent of India!
Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions. Also, Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences have occurred on North Indian cuisine from the years of Mughal rule] Indian cuisine is still evolving, as a result of the nation's cultural interactions with other societies.
Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations, and colonialism have played a role in introducing certain foods to the country. For instance, the potato, a staple of the diet in some regions of India, was brought to India by the Portuguese, who also introduced chillies and breadth. Indian cuisine has shaped the history of international relations; the spice trade between India and Europe was the primary catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery. Spices were bought from India and traded around Europe and Asia. Indian cuisine has influenced other cuisines across the world, especially those from the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, the British Isles, Fiji, and the Caribbean.
Indian cuisine reflects an 8,000-year history of various groups and cultures interacting with the subcontinent, leading to diversity of flavours and regional cuisines found in modern-day India. Later, trade with British and Portuguese influence added to the already diverse Indian cuisine.
Early diet in India mainly consisted of legumes, vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, honey, and sometimes fish, eggs, and meat. Staple foods eaten today include a variety of lentils (dal), whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), rice, and pearl millet (bājra), which has been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent since 6200 BCE. Over time, segments of the population embraced vegetarianism during Śramaṇa movement] while an equitable climate permitted a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains to be grown throughout the year. A food classification system that categorised any item as saatvic, raajsic, or taamsic developed in Yoga tradition. The Bhagavad Gita proscribes certain dietary practices.
Many types of meat are used for Indian cooking, but chicken and mutton tend to be the most commonly consumed meats. Fish and beef consumption are prevalent in some parts of India, but they are not widely consumed except for coastal areas, as well as the north east.
Consumption of beef is taboo, due to cows being considered sacred in Hinduism.Beef is generally not eaten by Hindus in India except for Kerala and the north east. However, many Christians, Muslims, Jews and other faiths do eat beef. Muslims will not eat pork.
Staple foods of Indian cuisine include plenty of vegetables green and root, a broad variety of grains including pearl millet (bājra), rice, sorghum, wheat, and many ancient grains from which flours are prepared including the staple of whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa). A huge variety of lentils add the essential protein in the diet of vegetarians most common of which are chana (chick pea), masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and moong (mung beans). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. Some pulses, such as channa or cholae (chickpeas), rajma (kidney beans), and lobiya (black-eyed peas) are very common, especially in the northern regions. Chana, urud and moong are also processed into flours – Chana flour is Besan or Gram flour.
Many Indian dishes are cooked in vegetable oil, but peanut oil is popular in northern and western India, mustard oil in eastern India,and coconut oil along the western coast, especially in Kerala, Gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south since it imparts a fragrant, nutty aroma. In recent decades, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and soybean oils have become popular across India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is another popular cooking medium.] Butter-based ghee, or deshi ghee, is used frequently, though less than in the past.
The most important and frequently used spices and flavourings in Indian cuisine are whole or powdered chilli pepper (mirch, introduced by the Portuguese from Mexico in the 16th century), black mustard seed (sarso), cardamom (elaichi), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lasoon). One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon (dalchini), and clove. Each culinary region has a distinctive garam masala blend—individual chefs may also have their own. Goda masala is a comparable, though sweet, spice mix popular in Maharashtra. Some leaves commonly used for flavouring include bay laves (tejpat), coriander leaves, fenugreek leaves, and mint leaves. The use of curry leaves and roots for flavouring is typical of Gujarati and South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are often seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences.