Ever wondered about what constitutes Indian cuisine? Walked past an Indian kitchen and thought about the secret behind that alluring aroma? The simplest answer – An explosion of Flavor! Dining on Indian food can be an unforgettable experience that leaves you craving more before you are even done! You discover tastes and flavors you never knew existed and most of us will work up a healthy sweat! How do I know? Through experience of course! Here is the main thing you need to know about Indian food – just like Indian people, it is colorful, full of variety and almost impossible to categorize accurately. I will bravely attempt to categorize it based on restaurant menus for all our sakes! You would typically find that the menu consists of “North Indian” and “South Indian” varieties. Another distinction you may notice is ‘Vegetarian” (Veg) and “Non-vegetarian” (Non-veg) varieties. How do you make sense of it? Read on to find out!
North Indian Food vs South Indian Food
North Indian food consists of wheat-based staple breads like Chapatti, Naan and Puri. The rice used is usually long-grained and aromatic (Basmati) and is used to make savory and sweet dishes like Pulao and Kheer respectively. Gravies in North Indian cuisine are made with tomato, cashew or masala bases and cooking is done using ghee and yogurt. Snack food is amazingly delicious and tangy like Paani Puri and Aloo Tikki. North Indian desserts are milk based like Ladoo, Rasmalai, Gulab Jamun and Jalebi. You will be spellbound by these impeccably flavored dishes. South Indian food, on the other hand, has breads made of rice flour like Thosai, Idly and Uthappam as the staple component. The rice eaten is short grained and usually par boiled (Ponni Rice) whereas long grained rice is used for special dishes like Biryani. Gravies are made using coconut milk and different sets of spices according to the meats and vegetables that are being cooked. One unique feature of South Indian food is the wide variety of side dishes – like in Chettinaad cuisine – that is usually served on a banana leaf. Here is a fun fact by the way – besides being excellent biodegradable alternatives to plates, the banana leaves also release Vitamin C when in contact with the heat from the food. Snack food includes Chili Bajjis and Onion Bajjis that, paired with spicy chutneys, make your mouth water. Desserts like Payasam, Kesari and Halwa are classic, simple and irresistible! For bursts of flavor, sweat breaking spiciness and a truly adventurous culinary experience, South Indian food is a MUST- TRY! Vegetarian Indian food usually is made without the use of egg. However dairy products like milk, yogurt, ghee as well as onions and garlic are used in cooking so it is not considered vegan. Be sure to check with the staff before ordering your dishes at an Indian restaurant if you are a vegan!
The secret behind all the flavor and color in Indian food is a blend of exotic spices that make up the foundation for almost all Indian recipes. The spices that feature prominently in North Indian and South Indian cuisine are also famous for their healing properties. Hippocrates was probably talking about these spices when he said “Let food be thy medicine.” So the next time you pop by an Indian restaurant and savor a morsel of delectable Indian food, remember the beautiful secrets these aromatic dishes contain!