The finest of India's cuisines are as rich and diverse as the country's civilization! Indian cooking is a form of art that has flourished through generations purely by word of mouth. Indian cuisine, renowned for its exotic gravies, is wide ranging in variety, taste and flavour. Given the geographic diversity of the country, each region has its own cuisine and distinct style of preparation.
North Indian Cuisine:
North Indian flavours have become an important part of international cuisine. Beloved for its specialized 'Tandoori' dishes, North Indian cuisine is popular world wide, be it with the Asians, Brits, Americans, Aussies and now even the Kiwis! The conventional Indian Tandoor is now widely used and advocated by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay.
Food from North India is characterized by its thick and tasty gravies. Bread is preferred over rice. North Indians love chillies, saffron, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, ghee (clarified butter) and nuts. Their meals are hearty and often include several specialized non-vegetarian Mughlai dishes (especially chicken) and famous vegetarian delicacies. Sweets, especially those made of milk and ghee (like mithai, rus-malai, kheer, rabri) are a huge favourite too !
West Indian Cuisines:
West Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat are largely vegetarian, owing to their hot and dry climate. Due to the peculiar climate conditions, vegetables are preserved as pickles and chutneys, so they last longer and can be consumed throughout the year.
The state of Maharashtra, which includes the city of Mumbai (land of Bollywood) is famous for its coastal food and extravagant meals prepared with strong Gujarati influence. Peanuts and coconut are important ingredients as they are freely available in the region.
On the extreme west, the Indian beach paradise, Goa, specializes in fresh fish and exotic seafood. The local Goan dishes have a strong Portuguese flavour, with extensive use of chillies (like the famous Nandos Peri-Peri) and coconut.
East Indian Cuisine:
Simple is the key word for food of this region of India. Steaming and frying are popular methods of cooking. In coastal regions fish is the non-vegetarian food of choice. The people of no other region in India can rival the love for sweets and desserts that Eastern Indians have! The geographical location of this region means its food bears the strong influence of Chinese and Mongolian cuisine.
South Indian Cuisines:
South Indian cuisine is perhaps the hottest of all Indian food. Meals are centered around rice or rice-based dishes and dosa (south Indian crepe made from rice and lentils). Rice and / or dosa is combined with Sambar (a soup-like lentil dish tempered with whole spices and chillies) and rasam (a hot-sour soup like lentil dish), dry and curried vegetables and meat dishes, fish and prawn dishes, and a host of coconut-based chutneys and poppadums (deep-fried crispy lentil pancakes). South Indians are great lovers of dark filter coffee.