A country of more than 1 billion people, with over a dozen languages, 800 recognized dialects, and several religions, India is as diverse as it gets! The geography of India is extremely varied, with mountains, beautiful rivers, vast deserts, and extensive plains. This allows for a wide array of crops, flowers, wildlife, and climates — all of which are reflected in the diverse food culture of the country.
India's cuisine has been influenced greatly by the multitude of invaders throughout the country's history; the Mughals, Turks, Europeans, and Portuguese all left their mark. By adding their own cooking styles and ingredients, they provided a rich diversity, resulting in a unique cuisine. What holds this diverse cuisine together are the aromatic and flavorful spices. The art of Indian cooking is in blending the spices so that they are in perfect harmony in each dish.
The diverse Indian landscape provides a variety of fruits and vegetables. In addition, the abundant coastline provides a lot of seafood. Each region in India is known for its own distinct cuisine — largely influenced by the physical and social environments. In each region, however, food is served in a similar way — all together, as opposed to the Western way of serving food in courses. Tables are also jazzed up with condiments like pickles and chutneys, adding pizzazz to any meal. Regardless of the region you are in, Indians are known for their incredible hospitality. Northern Indian cooking is rich in meats, nuts, and amazing breads. The cuisine of western India is simpler, focusing on rice and lentils. The eastern coastline is blessed with abundant seafood, which is reflected in the cuisine of the region. Southern India is famous for its legendary pickles and chutneys.
Religion also influences the cuisine a great deal. There are sects of Indians who don't eat any root vegetables, the Muslims do not eat pork, and the Hindus do not eat beef. There are special ingredients used to prepare religious meals, specifically for the purposes of breaking “fasts.”
Indian cooking categorizes foods into six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent. A well-balanced Indian meal contains all six tastes. This is accomplished, in part, by accompanying the dishes with a wide variety of condiments.
The Everything® Indian Cookbook is all you need to start making fabulous Indian feasts in your own kitchen.