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23rd December 2022
Chef Rick Stein famously presented an entertaining exploration of Indian cooking on the BBC. As he’s fond of pointing out – there’s a whole lot more to Indian cuisine than chicken balti or a vindaloo. In fact, there’s just as much variation in Indian cuisine as there is in European cooking – with each region of India having its own distinctive style. Here’s just a few of them.
People the world over often identify Indian cuisine with Punjabi food, with dishes such as Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken coming from this region. Mainly based on wheat, spices, and ghee (clarified butter), the food is made for the Punjabi lifestyle in which most rural folk burn up a lot of calories while working in the fields. Pulses or dals, cooked on slow fire and flavoured with characteristic Punjabi tadka are also typical.
The rich Awadhi cuisine of the Lucknow region was made popular by the Nawab (Lord) of Awadh who, to deal with food shortages, ordered his men to cook food in huge handis (vessels) to feed the masses. This eventually led to a style of cooking called dum – the art of sealing ingredients in large handi and cooking over a slow fire. Typical Awadhi preparations are galouti kababs, boti kababs and biryani.
Bengali food is characterised by the use of mustard oil and five basic spices: zeera (cumin), kalonji (nigella), saunf (fennel), methi (fenugreek) and sarson (mustard seeds). The cuisine generally consists of a variety of rice dishes and freshwater fish delicacies. Bengali sweets such as Rasgulla and Sandesh are popular all over the world.
Based on the concept that food shapes the personality, mood and mind, in a Brahmin household dishes are prepared with a great deal of attention to cleanliness, balancing nutrition, flavour, texture and variety. Different spices play an important role in the dishes. Fenugreek as a digestive aid, cumin for its multiple usages, dried legumes and beans as nature’s tiny capsules of proteins, pepper for colds and coughs, turmeric as a healer – every ingredient used has a purpose beyond taste and texture. Rice and dal is usually the staple – the food is characterised by dishes cooked on the griddle such as dosas, and thin broth like dals called sambar.
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Check out our India pages for details of what do and see when exploring the country. Experiences of the local food can be woven into any trip in India. All trips offered by our local partner there are entirely bespoke to you – feel free always to adjust and change to meet your requirements. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.