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Delight in India







Foods of India

Indian food is as varied as anything else in that country; there is no easy definition of an "Indian meal". Indian food is often thought of as very spicy, but there are some simple breads, sweet deserts, and milder 'one-pot dishes' that defy the norm.

Many Indians are vegetarian, but then, some are not. There are regional specialities, different ways to serve the meal, and staple ingredients in each state. This combines to create a diverse cuisine that never becomes boring.

Eating Styles

Regional Food

Snacks and Drinks

Recipes: All kinds of Indian food to try!

Eating Styles:

Indian food is often eaten with the hands, however, this custom is guided by some basic rules. For instance, it is considered impolite to allow the food to pass the first joint of the fingers. The fingers should never touch the mouth directly. In addition, only the right hand may be used in eating.

Since most Indian meals include a kind of flatbread, that is traditionally used to scoop or roll vegetables or rice. A spoon is provided for soup, but the bread may even be used to eat that! Meat, if served, may be eaten with a knife and fork, but it will more often be served pre-cut, so it may be easily managed by the fingers.

Indians usually eat their largest meal at midday, prefering to end with a light evening meal. People either bring their midday meal to work or use a lunchpacking service called "tiffin" that delivers traditional hot meals to their workplace. If possible, many Indians like to come home for the midday meal.

Regional Food:

Click on an area of the map above for information about the food of that region.


Possibly the most famous Punjabi contribution to Indian food is the tandoori style of cooking. This method uses large earthen ovens that are heated to high temperatures using coal fires. Once hot, many types of meat, breads, or vegetable dishes may be cooked inside. This method gives food a distinctive flavor and seals in the aroma of the item.

Many people in Punjab eat some meat. Thus, the state has developed many chicken and lamb dishes that are coated in spicy onion and mustard or sweet cream sauces. This is thought to be an influence of the Mughals during their time in India. Milk products such as yoghurt lassis and fresh cheeses are also an important part of the Punjabi diet, as are pulses and wheat.

Gujarati food is mainly vegetarian. The staple grain of the area is millet, with wheat as a secondary grain. Other products include peanuts, sesame, and many types of vegetables. Pulses are very important in this region as a source of protein, whether as a side dish or made into soups called dahls, as the majority of the population does not eat meat.

Gujarati food is usually served as a "thali" meal, meaning that all items are served at once on a large plate. A traditional thali includes two vegetables cooked with spices, dahl, a flatbread, rice, pulses, and a sweet. There are also simple meals of mild rice and lentils known as "khichdi", served with a lightly spiced buttermilk or yoghurt soup called "kadhi".

In contrast to the mainly vegetarian Gujarati food, Maharashtrians enjoy eating meat and fish with their meals. Fish may be stuffed or lightly fried, and meat is braised and spiced with sweet and sour ingredients. Peanuts and cashew nuts are widely used, as is the distinctive kokum berry, a sweet deep purple item with a slightly tangy taste.

On the coast, people eat crab, prawns, and shellfish. Maharashtrians also popularised fried rice-flour balls called "vada" (now eaten throughout the country) and a type of thin pancake called amboli made of semolina, urad dal, and fermented rice. A common sweet dish is puran poli, a flatbread stuffed with gram flour, brown sugar, and honey.

Bengal is known for its fish and its sweets. Located on the eastern coast of India, fish has become a staple of the Bengali diet. It may be sauted in yoghurt or marinated in Bengal's famous spice mixture. This region uses five basic spices, known collectively as "pachphoron". They are: aniseed, cumin seed, black cumin seed, mustard, and fenugreek. Even the oil that is used is mustard oil.

Many sweets eaten all over India originated in Bengal. Most are milk or cottage cheese based, including rasgolla, gulab jamun, and sondesh. Bengali sweets are often served with a sticky sweet syrup, and may even be found ending a traditional Gujarati or Goan meal!
Kerela, Karnataka, and the South:

Kerela food, from southern India, is traditionally served on a large banana leaf. The method is still used for feasts today. The staple food of southern India is rice. Different preparations of the grain may even be eaten for breakfast. The other staple is the coconut. Coconut is made into chutney, served as a refreshing desert, and incorporated into vegetable or fish dishes as a flavoring. This often gives Kerela food a surprising flavor that mixes sweetness with spices.

One can see the uses of these ingredients in many of the famous dishes of the south. For example, rice flour and urad flour are made into a batter and steamed to form rice cakes called "idli", eaten with a type of stew made of pulses and vegetables called "sambhar". Another dish, "appam", is a thin crepe made with rice flour and the sap of the cocomut palm. It is eaten with the "sambhar" mentioned above.

Snacks and Drinks:

Snack Food:

Indian snacks may be salty, spicy, or sweet. Street vendors sell many different kinds, including warm dishes. Sometimes, they are substantial enough to serve as a light meal! The "pav bhaji" is a patty made of mixed vegetables that have been mashed and shallow fried and then served on a slice of bread. Another popular snack throughout the country is "bhel", a mixture of puffed rice, crunchy chickpea flour chips, onions, tomato, green peppers, and tamarind chutney.

"Pani puri" are small, hollow breads stuffed with a bit of potato, onion, or chickpea and topped with a "pani" of seasoned water. Nuts are another common choice, but they are roasted with a hot spice blend of turmeric, paparika, and cumin powder. Often a little lemon juice is squeezed on top.

The most common drink in India is tea. This is prepared with milk, sugar, and a blend of ginger,nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Most people will drink this tea, called "chai" with breakfast and in the late afternoon. In fact, it may be served at any time and is a popular refreshment for guests.

An example of a common cold Indian drink is "lassi", which is a yoghurt or buttermilk drink that is sweetened and flavored with rose, mango, or served plain.

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