Confucius once said, "The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live." Eating habit of an individual does reflect the person in you and the eating habits of communities set forth the character of a country. India is no exception and the huge variety of cuisines in this country defines the manifold aspects of the Indian subcontinent. A culinary tour, India, helps you take a trip down the diverse cooking cultures and thereby know the country better.
India, being a kaleidoscope of varied cultures and communities, has every corner of the country speak a different tone, live a different life, eat different food and of course, and add different spices and flavors to life and cooking. Yet, the people maintain a strong unity among themselves. Food and cooking are the two important facets that describe a clan largely. Due to the existence of the huge variety of communities in this country, there is automatically a variety of cooking styles in India. Each state has a typical cuisine and each of these cuisines is unique. Once you delve deep into the cooking tour in India, you get to learn about Indian cuisines beyond 'Chicken Tikka Masala'.
Starting from beverages to main courses to curries to desserts - you get to glimpse a huge array of diverse kinds of food through the country. Broadly speaking, Indian cooking styles change with every geographical turn throughout its entire territory. The North, South, East and Western parts, each reflect a characteristically different aroma and taste that complements the nature of the people of the particular zone.
Despite the diversity in cuisines, there are some food items which are staple food for almost all across the country. Rice and various types of Indian bread like, chappatis, rotis, naan, and puris are consumed along with side dishes of pulses, vegetables, meat, yogurt and pickles. The curries and gravies are the ones that mainly differ in each zone.
North India culinary tour, India
Not to take sides, but it is absolutely true that if you have not tasted Mughlai cuisine you have missed it all. The mother of all cuisines for many, Mughlai is the main style of cooking in North India. Having been the seat of Mughal emperors four centuries back, the North Indian kitchens have been strongly influenced by the shahi Mughlai dishes. Essentially focusing on rich, thick and spicy curries and the generous use of cream, milk and dry fruits such as almonds and cashews, this cooking style is the key signature the royal Sultanate of the yore. Kormas, Pulao, Biryani, Jalfrezi, are some of the common names in Mughlai menu.
However, North Indian cuisine is not restricted to Mughlai but also comprises Kashmiri and Punjabi/Tandoori cooking styles. The Kashmiris and Punjabis use dry red chillies, chilli powder, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin, garam masala, fennel and lotus roots as their main ingredients. A typical Kashmiri meal would mean you sitting on the floor and gorging on rich delicacies like Rogan Josh, Yaknein Pulao and yummy koftas and kababs while Tandoori style cooking includes delicacies like, tandoori roti and naans, stuffed parathas, Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken, Fish Amritsari, Daal Makhani and Mutter Paneer.
South India culinary tour, India
The peninsular India is more of a land of hot spices where they are grown in abundance and was once the main trade outlet during the visit of Vasco da Gama to Cochin. Cooked from fresh produce in most cases due to the over-adequacy of rainfall and hence, flourish of agriculture, the dishes mostly constitute of spices like tamarind, curry leaves, mustard, pepper, dry red chillis and coconut. All the four states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka) boast of exclusive types of dosas, Uttapams and idlis (steamed stuffed rice pancakes) and each bear a different taste and style. Rasam, a spicy lentil soup and Payasam, a dessert made of rice and rich thick milk, are hot favorites of all South Indians.
The royal Nizami Hyderabadi biriyani of Andhra Pradesh, hot and spicy Chettinad cookery of Tamil Nadu, and Malabari cooking of Kerala comprising mainly seafood and coastal dishes, are some of the signature cooking methods of South India. While Hyderabadi kitchens smell strongly of saffron, mint, coriander and nuts, the Chettinad spread is hot and spicy enough to well up your eyes and nose. The seafood is a special genre of art in Kerala as well as other coastal states and it generally revolves around fish, crabs, mussels, shrimp and prawns cooked in coconut milk, turmeric, and red chillis.
East India culinary tour, India
The eastern India kitchen essentially exudes the aroma of rice and fish, be it in West Bengal or Orissa or Assam. Ingredients like, mustard oil (unlike the rest of India where mostly white oil or ghee is used), mustard seeds, red and green chillies, Paanch Phoran (a combination of five spices - mustard seeds, white cumin seeds, fennel seeds, onion seeds and fenugreek seeds) mainly dominate the cuisine of eastern India. Bengalis dote on machher jhol (fish curry), poppy seeds and rice. They just love to eat and taste any dish from any part of the world and are considered as great connoisseurs of food in general. However, the staple diet of the Bengalis mainly revolves around fish and rice, and the steamed hilsa or bekti or prawn malaikari are some of the richer side dishes here.
The North Eastern states are mostly influenced by Mongolian and Chinese cookery styles. These mostly comprise momos, thupka (Sikkim), pork curry, Moi Buruk (Tripura) and alcoholic drinks made from fermented rice.
West India culinary tour, India
With the rain Gods not being particularly generous to the western part of India, the people there rely mostly on preserved items like, pickles and chuntneys, lentils and pulses for their daily food. Mostly vegetarian, these people live on milk products, pulses and pickles; fresh vegetables are hardly available here. The Rajasthani and Gujarati thalis, consisting of a complete meal including a whole lot of curries, fries and desserts, are some of the famous attractions on your culinary tour to India.
The Gujaratis use a lot of sugar and jaggery in their cooking and Undhia, dhokla, puran puli, thepla, khaandvi, mathia, gathia and kachoris are some of the favorites of the people of this part of India. The Rajasthani food is rather spicy and has an overuse of red chilli powder, as in contrast to their Gujarati counterparts. Mostly prepared from gram flour, Dry fruits, spices and yogurt, the Rajasthani delicacies are generally cooked in pure ghee. Some of the typical Rajasthani preparations include churma, daal baati, dal-bafle and kadhi. Laal maas or red meat curry is a common preparation among non vegetarian people there.
Maharashtrians love dried and coconut based food cooked in peanut oil with prime delicacies being poha, bhel puri and pav bhaji; while Goa boasts of Portuguese influence in their food habits, with special dishes like Vindaloo and Xacuti.
Desserts in culinary tour, India
Desserts form a very important part of any cuisine and Indian desserts vary hugely. You will love to smack the jalebis, laddoos, barfis, lassi, kulfi in the North India, rabri, rasgullas, pithe in East India, gajar ke halwa, churma, Shrikhand, Karanji in West India and payasam, appam, peda, in South India.
With your sweet tooth completely satisfied, your cooking tour to India comes to a full circle and now you will have the lark singing - you have actually traveled beyond Chicken Tikka and Butter Masala.