Indian cuisine is different from other global cuisines in both cooking styles as well as flavor. It can be described as the outcome of varied cultures and traditions and a unique combination of varied global cuisines that got assimilated over the ages. A number of civilizations are responsible for the current form, taste, cooking style, and etiquette associated with the Indian food culture. The food culture in India varies from one region to another, as discussed further below.
Indian food is known all over the world for its spice content. It may however be noted that the varied spices are added to food not just for flavor but also for their medicinal and nutritional qualities. Indian food culture is primarily vegetarian, and this is often influenced by different religious beliefs.
A normal Indian diet typically consists of vegetables, rice, pulses, fruits, legumes, grains, honey, dairy, and occasionally eggs, fish, chicken, and meat. A majority of Indian sweets are made from milk or condensed milk and sugar along with nuts and other added ingredients that differ from one region to another.
History and evolution of Indian food culture
Indian cuisine usually consisted of rice, pulses, roti, wheat, fish, and other grains. It was mostly vegetarian and regulated by varied faiths and this continues to this day. For e.g. Jains are strict vegetarians wherein they do not even consume vegetables which are pulled out from their roots as it kills the organisms that live around the root.
However, the Indian palate has undergone extensive change over the years, due to varied factors such as invasions, migration, Moghul rule, British colonization, and globalization, etc. Different cuisines from around the world have been “Indianized” to suit the Indian palate. For example, after exposure to local foods, Chinese cuisines were modified to include varied spices and altered cooking styles to create a distinctive fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisines. It may however be noted that modern cities in India have numerous specialized restaurants that offer authentic cuisines from all over the globe.
The different cuisines of India
The cuisines in India differ from one region to another. It is broadly categorized into two types, i.e., North Indian cuisine and South Indian cuisine. A few well known cuisines of different regions of India are listed below:
- Kashmiri food presents a flavorful combination of the traditional cuisines of the Kashmiri Pandits and the cooking styles of Persia, Central Asia, and Afghanistan.
- Bengali food typically consists of fish and rice dishes that are deliciously prepared via varied cooking styles and the use of the 5 important spices, viz., black cumin seed, cumin seed, mustard, aniseed, and fenugreek seed.
- Gujarati food is sweet tasting, primarily vegetarian, and highly nutritious.
- South Indian food usually consists of lentils and rice that are combined to prepare appetizing, low-calorie, and light delectable dishes like idlis, sambhars, dosas, and uttapams, etc.
Indian food etiquette
- Indians use their right hand to eat food. Hands need to be washed with water before and after eating food. Spoons and other cutlery are used when dining out.
- In the bygone era, food was served on banana leaves in south India. This custom is now followed only on special occasions such as weddings, etc.
- Leaving food on the plate is considered disrespectful. Food is sacred and everything on the plate needs to be eaten. So, it is wiser to take food in small quantities and order another serving when needed.