The traditional food of India has been widely appreciated for its fabulous use of herbs and spices. Indian cuisine is known for its large assortment of dishes, and the cooking style varies from region to region. India is quite famous for its diverse multi-cuisine, available in a large number of restaurants and hotel resorts, which is reminiscent of unity in diversity. The staple food in India includes wheat, rice, and pulses, with chana (Bengal Gram) being the most important one. To know more about Indian traditional food, read on.
Indian cuisine is characterized by the use of various spices, herbs, and vegetables, and sometimes fruits grown in India, as well as the widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society. Each family of Indian cuisine includes a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse Indian subcontinent. India’s religious beliefs and culture have played an influential role in the evolution of its cuisine. However, cuisine across India also evolved as a result of the subcontinent’s large-scale cultural interactions with ancient Greece, Persia, the Mongols, and West Asia, making it a unique blend of various cuisines. The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited as the main catalyst for Europe’s Age of Discovery. The colonial period introduced European cooking styles to India, adding to the flexibility and diversity of Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine has influenced cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia.
Maharashtrian (or Marathi) cuisine is the cuisine of the Marathi people, those from the state of Maharashtra in India. Maharashtrian cuisine covers a range from mild to very spicy dishes. Wheat, rice, jowar, vegetables, lentils, and fruit form important components of the Maharashtrian diet. Popular dishes include puran poli, ukdiche Modak, and batata wada. The staple dishes of Maharashtrian cuisine are based on bread and rice: Ghadichi Poli or chapati, an unleavened flatbread made of wheat, is more common in urban areas, while Bhakri, a bread made from millets like jowar and bajra, forms part of daily food in rural areas. The bhaaji is a vegetarian dish made from a vegetable, with Goda masala essentially consisting of some combination of onion, garlic, ginger, red chili powder, green chilies, and mustard. A particular variant of bhaaji is the rassa. Vegetarians prepare rassa or curry of potatoes and/or cauliflower with tomatoes or fresh coconut kernel and plenty of water to produce a more fluid behavior than bhaaji. Varan is nothing but plain dal, a common Indian lentil stew.
Aamti is a variant of the curry, typically consisting of a lentil (tur) stock flavored with goda masala, tamarind or amshul, jaggery (gul), and in some cases, coconut as well. One of the masalas that give Maharashtrian cuisine its authentic flavor is the goda (sweet) masala or kalaa (black) masala. Non-vegetarian dishes mainly use chicken, mutton (mainly goat), fish, and other seafood. The Kolhapuri taambda rassa (red curry) and pandhra rassa (white curry) of chicken and mutton from the southern city of Kolhapur and the varhadi rassa or (varhadi chicken curry) from the Vidarbha region are especially well-known throughout Maharashtra.
The coastal regions of Konkan are more famous for fish and seafood dishes. A typical lunch or dinner usually starts with Poli (bread), accompanied by one or more bhaaji(s) (vegetable) and a koshimbir (salad), along with some side dishes (usually pickles). This is usually followed by a second course of varan, aamti or rassa with rice. As with most of Indian cuisine, however, each region has its own quirks, preferences, and variations of the above general format. Koshimbir is a very common and healthy addition to the plate, typically made from raw vegetables mixed with yogurt and ground roasted peanuts, Danyache Kut.
Raitas made with different types of vegetables such as cucumber or carrots are variants of koshimbir. The plate (thali) served has a specific place for each food item served. The bhaaji is served on the right-hand side of the plate, while the chutney and koshimbir are served from left going up the periphery of the circular plate. The papad and bhaji are served below the koshimbir, with the rice and poli served at the bottom of the circle, closest to the diner’s hand. The puran is served at the top in the inner concentric circle. The amti and rassa are served in separate bowls placed on the right-hand side of the diner.
Water is placed on the left-hand side. It is considered ill-mannered to use the left hand while eating Gujarati Food. The traditional Gujarati food is primarily vegetarian and has a high nutritional value. The typical Gujarati thali consists of varied kinds of lip-smacking dishes. Gujarati cuisine has so much to offer, and each dish has an absolutely different cooking style. Some of the dishes are stir-fried, while others are boiled. Gujarati food is more often served on a silver platter. Gujaratis use a combination of different spices and flavors to cook their meals, and this is what makes their food truly exotic.
The traditional Gujarati thali mostly encompasses rotli, dal or kadhi, sabzi also known as shaak, and rice. People in Gujarat eat one or the other type of curry along with rice and roti in almost every meal. Gujarati dishes usually have a very subtle taste that makes them truly distinct from other Indian cuisines. A lot of emphasis is laid on maintaining hygiene while cooking. Most of the Gujarati dishes are sweet, while others have a higher concentration of sugar compared to salt and spices. Sometimes, jaggery is used as an alternative to sugar. Gujarati food is highly energy efficient and does not cause much fuel wastage.
The staple food of Gujarat consists of homemade pickles, chhaas (buttermilk), salad, etc. The main course includes vegetables that are usually steamed and dal. Vaghaar is a blend of spices that is purified in hot oil and then added to the dal. To prevent the body from becoming dehydrated, a lot of salt, sugar, tomato, and lemon are used. Gujarati cuisine differs from season to season depending on the availability of vegetables. People in urban areas are starting some new eating trends. In the summer season, spices such as black pepper and its constituent spices are used in lesser quantities.
People fast on a regular basis and limit their diet to milk, nuts, and dried fruits. In the modern era, more and more youngsters have started developing a taste for oily, spicy food. Even modern chefs are coming up with a fusion food concept by combining Gujarati food and Western food. Desserts, which were in ancient times offered only on festivities or some special occasions, have now found their way into daily meals.
Popular Gujarati Dishes:
- Ghari Ghebar or Ghevar
- Keri no ras
- Puran Poli
Diwali Special Snacks:
Mathia Soonvali Farsan (Snacks):
- Daal Dhokli
- Farsi Falafel
- Khaman Dhokla
- Lilva Kachori
- Sev Khamani
Shaak and Daal: Vegetables and Curries:
- Meethi (Sweet) Kadhi
- Sev Tameta nu Shak
- Bajri no rotlo
Bengali cuisine is appreciated for its fabulous use of panchphoron, a term used to refer to the five essential spices, namely mustard, fenugreek seed, cumin seed, aniseed, and black cumin seed. The specialty of Bengali food lies in the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors.
For Bengalis, food is one of the most essential aspects of their day-to-day lives. Ladies spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking delicious feasts for the family. The staple food of people in Bengal is rice and fish. A typical Bengali needs to have fish in every meal; otherwise, there is a feeling that the meal is incomplete. There is ample stock of fish in every household because fish is cooked frequently, almost on a daily basis. Even Brahmin Bengalis relish fish. Fish is a part of every festivity celebration. To lend a distinctive flavor to the fish, it is deep-fried in mustard oil and then cooked in gravy.
Most of the cooking is done using mustard oil. Traditional Bengali food always ends up with mishti and sweet curd. Bengali food is famous for its mithais (sweets). The origin of typical Bengali sweets can be traced back to traditional household kitchens. The most popular Bengali mithai is rasogolla, which is enjoyed by people all over the country. When it comes to cooking fish, there are unlimited options. You can either fry or cook it with gravy. Some Bengalis prefer eating steamed fish to avoid the intake of extra calories. Another great option is to saute the fish with curd.
The fish market in Bengal is always stocked with a wide variety of fish, the popular ones being salmon, hilsa, bhekti, magur, carp, rui, and prawns. To fully relish their meal, Bengalis eat the food with their fingers. It is indeed quite challenging to find authentic Bengali dishes outside the Bengali kitchen.
Popular Bengali Sweets:
- Chum Chum
Popular Bengali Snacks:
South Indian Food: The cuisine of South India is known for its light, low-calorie appetizing dishes. The traditional food of South India is mainly rice-based. The cuisine is famous for its wonderful mixing of rice and lentils to prepare yummy lip-smacking dosas, vadas, idlis, and uttapams. South Indian dishes are not just delicious but also very easily digestible. The best part is that South Indians do not use much oil for cooking their meals. Sambar is a must in the main course. It usually accompanies most of the food items, be it idli, vada, or dosa. Most South Indian dishes consist of sambar, rasam, vegetable curry, and pachadi (yogurt). When it comes to rice preparations, South Indians are real experts.
Their lemon rice is savored and appreciated by almost all people. Other preparations of rice include coconut rice, carrot rice, and fried rice made by using coconut, curry leaves, urad dal, tamarind, peanuts, chilies, and fenugreek seeds. South Indian chutneys are well-liked by people. In fact, chutney, especially the one made from coconut, is the major attraction for many people to visit a restaurant that specializes in South Indian cuisine. The main ingredients for preparing varied chutneys are coconut, peanuts, dal, tamarind, fenugreek seeds, and cilantro.
Dals cooked in the South Indian style are also quite different from those of North Indian preparation. They are more soupy in comparison to the dals cooked in the North Indian style. The cuisine of South India is hotter than North Indian cuisine. South Indians do not make much use of garam masala and other dried spices. However, turmeric, black pepper, and cardamom are an exception. For the cuisine of South India, it can be said that it is a perfect blend of flavor, color, and taste and also takes care of the nutritional balance. Even the visual appeal of the South Indian dishes is quite alluring.
South Indians usually prefer drinking coffee after having their meals. Well, coffee has become a popular beverage in the entire country. Coconut milk is also quite common in South India. South Indian cuisine consists of the cuisine of four states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. All four cuisines have a lot of things in common; however, they differ in terms of the spice content in their food preparations.
Andhra Food: Andhra food is the spiciest and hottest of all the South Indian cuisines. There is a liberal use of oil, tamarind, and chili powder (Guntur).
An interesting thing is that although Hyderabad is the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, its cuisine is absolutely distinct from that of Andhra cuisine. Popular Vegetarian Foods include Pesarattu, Gongura, Pulihora, and Avakkai (cut raw mango) pickle, while popular Non-vegetarian Foods include Kodi iguru (fry), Kodi pulusu (gravy), Chepa pulusu, and more.
In Karnataka, lunch is mostly served on a plantain leaf. There is a higher percentage of vegetarians in Karnataka, so their cuisine mainly consists of vegetarian dishes. The food of Karnataka is the mildest of all, and the use of chilli powder is done sparingly. They make liberal use of palm sugar or brown sugar. Udupi food forms part of the cuisine of Karnataka. Popular dishes include Ragi rotti, Akki rotti, Khara Bisi bele bath, Kesari Bath, Vangi Bath, Saaru, Bath, Davanagere Benne Dosa, Ragi mudde, and Uppittu. In South Karnataka, Rava Idli, Mysore Masala Dosa, and Medhu Vada are extremely popular. Among the sweet dishes, Karnataka is well known for its wonderful preparation of Mysore Pak, Dharwad pedha, Pheni, and Chiroti.
Kerala cuisine mainly consists of coconut-based foodstuff since Kerala is the chief exporter of coconut. Therefore, coconut is used liberally in their cooking. Kerala is a place well known for its beautiful backwaters and is thus a paradise for seafood lovers. There is an abundance of seafood specialties. Popular Vegetarian Foods include Aviyal and olan, while popular Non-vegetarian Foods include Shrimp coconut curry and fish poriyal.
The cuisine of Tamilnadu consists of plenty of mouthwatering vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Tamilnadu has a lot to offer when it comes to food. Popular Vegetarian Foods include Idli, sambar, rasam, vada, thayir sadam (yogurt rice), thayir vadai, murukku, kootu, poriyal, uthappam, appalam, papadum, and thayir pachadi, while popular Non-vegetarian Foods include Chettinad pepper chicken and karuvadu kozhumu (dried preserved fish-flavored curry).
Punjabi cuisine can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range of dishes. Home-cooked and restaurant Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly, with restaurant-style using large amounts of clarified butter, known locally as ghee, with liberal amounts of butter and cream, while home-cooked food mainly focuses on preparations with whole wheat, rice, and other ingredients flavored with masalas (spices).
Popular Non-vegetarian Food: Chettinad pepper chicken and karuvadu kozhumu (dried preserved fish flavored curry). Punjabi cuisine can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range of dishes. Home-cooked and restaurant-style Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly, with the restaurant style using large amounts of clarified butter, known locally as ghee, along with liberal amounts of butter and cream. Home-cooked cuisine focuses mainly on preparations with whole wheat, rice, and other ingredients flavored with masalas (spices).
Roh Di Kheer is cooked using rice, which is cooked for a long time in sugarcane juice. Within the area itself, there are different preferences. People in the area of Amritsar prefer stuffed parathas and milk products. In fact, the area is well known for the quality of its milk products. There are certain dishes exclusive to Punjab, such as Mah Di Dal and Saron Da Saag (Sarson Ka Saag). The food is tailor-made for the Punjabi lifestyle in which most of the rural folk burn up a lot of calories while working in the fields.
The main masala in a Punjabi dish consists of onion, garlic, and ginger. Tandoori food is a Punjabi specialty, especially for non-veg dishes. Many of the most popular elements of Anglo-Indian cuisine – such as Tandoor, Naan, Pakoras, and vegetable dishes with paneer – derive from the Punjab. Typical non-vegetarian dishes include:
- Chicken: Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka, etc.
- Lamb: Rogan josh, bhuna ghosht, kadhai ghost, raan gosht, dal gosht, saag gosht, nihari gosht, rara gosht, paye da shorba, etc.
- Beef: Nihari beef, beef pasanda, kadhai beef, etc. (especially popular in West Punjab).
- Fish: These are all freshwater fish dishes like Amritsari fish, tandoori fish, fish tikka, fish pakora, etc.
- Kebabs: Various lamb, chicken, and beef kebabs.
- Biryanis: Chicken biryani and lamb biryani.
- Keema Naans: Chicken mince and lamb mince stuffed naans.
- Pickles: Lamb pickle and vegetable pickle.
Vegetarian pulse, bean, and/or lentil preparations:
- Sarron Da Saag (a dish prepared from green mustard leaves and stem) with Makki Roti (bread made from flour of corn).
- Mushroom & Beans Sabzi
- Dal Makhani/Dal Handi: Pulses with butter.
- Rajma (red kidney bean) and rice.
- Dal Amritsari.
- Rongi (black-eyed bean).
- Choley (eaten with Naan or Kulcha).
- Punj Ratani Dal: A 5-lentil dish; the lentils are soaked for at least 8 hours and then cooked in a tandoor along with ginger, garlic, garam masala, tomato, or dried mango.
Other vegetarian dishes:
- Kadhi Pakora (traditional curry with pakoras) and rice. Kadhi (curry) is made by cooking gram flour with curd or buttermilk. Fried lumps (pakoras) of gram flour with salt and chillies are also added.
It is eaten with rice.
- Kadhai Paneer
- Shahi Paneer Cheese is prepared in water with spices.
- Sheer korma (also called Seviyan)
The cuisine of Rajasthan is primarily vegetarian and offers a fabulous variety of mouth-watering dishes. The spice content is quite high in comparison to other Indian cuisines, but the food is absolutely scrumptious. Rajasthanis use ghee for cooking most of the dishes. Rajasthani food is well-known for its spicy curries and delicious sweets.