FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE REGIONAL CUISINES OF INDIA
It’s easy to talk about “Indian food” in a blasé manner, considering ourselves experts because we know the menu at our local takeaway like the back of our hand. But really, that is doing it a great disservice. After all, India is vast; really vast. A subcontinent made up of 28 states and seven union territories it’s home to a wide diversity of people and cultures, with influences drawn from all over the globe, including the Moguls, Portuguese, Persians and British. So, then, it’s perhaps not surprising that every state has its own cookery style and tastes based on seasonal produce, local traditions and cultural influences. As a general rule, in the colder, northern states, warming, aromatically spiced dishes are eaten, whereas in the more intense heat of the southern states, the food tends to be lighter, with more use of coconut. Here, we take a closer look at some of the main characteristics of the cuisines of different regions.
(Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh,
The food of northern India is heavily influenced by its history, topography and climate, with strong Central Asian influences in both its food and culture.
The climate results in an abundance of specific ingredients, such as wheat, rice, maize, dairy, mustard seed, dried fruits, pistachios, almonds, saffron, turmeric and cumin. There’s a big influence from the Mughal empire too, which ruled during the 16th and 17th centuries — paneer, ghee and yoghurt all frequently featured in the dishes served in the opulent courts.
Dishes in the north — and Punjab especially — often revolve around the tandoor oven, which is used to cook meats and breads.
Amritsari macchi: River fish coated in a chickpea batter then deep-fried and served with various chutneys.
Roghan Gosht: (aka Roahn Josh): Slow-cooked lamb stew using fennel, ginger and rattan jyot (made from tree bark).
Jalebi with Rabdi: Swirls of deep-fried batter, topped with a creamy condensed-milk sauce, spices, sugar and nuts.
Malai kofta: Fried pastries filled with spiced potatoes, onions, peas and lentils.
(Karnataka, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh,
Tamilnadu and Kerala)
Loganathan Ramasamy, is Head Chef at My Local Indian (mylocalindian.com) which produces restaurant-quality, authentic Southern Indian food which is freshly cooked and frozen, to seal in and preserve the aromas and flavours, and delivered direct to homes. He tells us more about the cuisine which he loves.
“Explorers, traders and adventurers have been drawn to Kerala for more than a thousand years, from all corners of India and the world. This melting pot of culinary and social history has influenced recipes down the centuries, resulting in a mix of flavours, ingredients, textures and tastes that are unique to this tropical paradise at India’s southern tip. From spectacular Chinese fishing nets on the waterside, to the synagogues, churches, temples and mosques that sit side by side in bustling streets that lead to the docks and the spice markets — the ports of Kerala’s western shore, lapped by the waters of the Arabian
Sea, live their history in vibrant colour. Traders, migrants and invaders were drawn here by the exotic spices that made many a fortune over the centuries and which colour the rich palette of Keralan cuisine.
“Lovers of Indian food will be familiar with dishes mainly using chicken and lamb, however Keralan dishes often have a seafood base, with tumeric, cardamom, pepper and coconut gently infusing with the delicate flavour of the fish. Arabian explorers and traders brought with them their love of rich and meaty beef and mutton stews, and these too, flavoured with cumin, clove, ginger and black pepper are popular dishes. Vegetarians are also very well catered for in Keralan cuisine, with the freshest vegetables and tropical coconut, mango and pineapple featuring in many dishes, as well as warm and comforting dhal and chickpea-based recipes.”
Achayan’s Beef Ularthiyathu: Tender beef slow roasted in a mixture of spices, onions, curry leaves and coconut flakes.
Keralan Fish Curry: Sea bass chunks cooked with aromatic spices, coconut cream and tangy tamarind.
Toddy Shop Kappa: Tapioca mash seasoned with a mixture of spices, ground coconut and curry leaves.
Munnar Chicken: Chicken cooked in rich spices finished with coconut milk cutting through the spicy flavour.
(Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, and Assam)
The cuisine of this region is characterised by the seas and rivers. Coconut palms line the coasts, while the fertile plains are covered with mustard and tea plantations. Green vegetables, fruit and rice are all plentiful, thanks to the humid climate and epic rainfalls. Fish from the Bay of Bengal is eaten frequently in place of meat, with cooling yoghurt making an appearance at almost every meal. Mustard oil is often used for cooking (especially in Bengali cusine), giving dishes a distinctive pungent, but slightly sweet, flavour. Food from this area is characterised by subtle spicing, often involving mustard, cumin, anise and fenugreek seeds.
Puchkas: A flaky shell full of sour tamarind water, chaat masala, potatoes, chilli and chutney,
Halmuri: Puffed rice with a mixture of vegetables, nuts and spices.
Machher jhol: A tomato-based fish curry.
Chhena poda: Roasted cottage cheese with cashews and raisins.
Payesh: Rice pudding sweetened with jaggery.
Baah gajor gahori: Pork with bamboo shoots and sticky rice.
(Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and Konkan)
The cuisine in the Western region is highly diverse.
Due to its coastal location, coconut milk, fish and seafood are dominant in the dishes of Maharashtra. In contrast, however, the interior regions rely much more heavily on grains and cereals. Gujurat is especially well known for its vegetarian dishes, as well as chutneys. Goa acted as a major trade port and colony for Portugal, resulting in a distinctive and unique blend of Indian and Portuguese culinary elements. Goan cuisine uses pork and beef with greater frequency than other regional cuisines in India, fish is also a staple. Goan cuisine usually tends to be hot and spicy and uses a lot of coconut milk, coconut paste, vinegar, and tamarind juice.
Koliwada: Spicy battered and fried fish.
Kombdi vade: Chicken curry and deep-fried bread.
Kismur: A type of salad made using dried shrimp or fish, coconut and onions.
Choris pao: Local bread stuffed with pork sausage.