India’s Colourful Foods

Whatever tickles your taste buds, India’s various cuisines will definitely hit the spot!

If you, like many others have the illusive perception of losing weight and looking like an Ethiopian when visiting this country, think again!

India is a magical paradise for people who love food. Its diverse food culture strongly reflects the country’s history, religious beliefs and geographical position.

Before going to India all my loved ones made sure that I was well fed, with the fear of my not having access to a decent meal during the six month period I had planned to stay here. To be fair, I could have afforded to put on a little meat, but little did I know how rich India’s food really is.

The majority of Indians are Hindus and traditionally vegetarian. They believe that the cow is a sacred animal therefore, in many places, they do not eat beef. However, in Muslim areas, mutton, lamb and chicken are consumed in almost every meal. Fish is most commonly found in all coastal regions in the south, but rarely seen in other parts of the country.

The unique taste of Indian food is in its spices, hence being rightly known as the ‘home of spice’. There is no other country in the world that produces as many kinds of spices as India does. Much of their food is frequently flavoured with whole or powdered chilli pepper, mustard seed, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, coriander, garlic, cinnamon and cumin and various other spices depending on the region. One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon and clove, this mixture also varies from one region to another.

In the southern areas, most dishes are considered to be lighter than in the north and the use of curry leaves and roots for flavouring is typical here. Idli is a traditional daily breakfast, made from a batter of fermented black lentils and ground rice steamed into delicious little cakes and served with homemade chutney and sambar. Upma is another common breakfast dish, consisting of a thick porridge made from dry roasted semolina, cooked with vegetables, nuts, curry leaves and various colourful ingredients, served with coconut chutney and lime slices and is an absolute delight!

The further north one goes, the richer and heavier the food gets, with dishes in the Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir states based mainly on whole wheat, rice, lentils, meat and vegetables and each containing large quantities of spices, condiments and curds which are rich in butter and ghee.

Once you cross over to Himachel Pradesh and the mountainous and hilly regions, the cuisine is found to be simpler and extremely nutritious. Here, one can find a huge variety of dals cooked in a labour intensive manner over a slow flame. There is a lot of variety in the cooking patterns in the northern states, mainly as taste preference varies from one region to other.

Tibetan dishes are commonly eaten in places along the northern border, due to many Tibetan people who migrated here in the 60’s. This cuisine is simple, healthy and so heart-warming, especially on a cold day. Everyday meals generally consist of noodle soups, such as thukpa and thentuk, steamed or fried vegetable momos (dumplings), tigmo (Tibetan steamed bread) made from barley flour and butter tea in areas such as Dharamsala, Ladakh and Sikkim where the largest Tibetan communities live today.

India’s cultural and historical diversity as well as the different religious beliefs are strongly reflected in its various cuisines. India has over twenty spoken languages, likewise an equally numerous amount of cuisines. With such a vast variety of tastes, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

If you love food and enjoy enhancing your taste buds, this country is certainly a place worth visiting :)