India and its cuisines

For many, Indian food means just curries - any spice-based meat or vegetable dish with a sauce. This could not be further from the truth. Ask an Indian in India where you can have ‘curry’ and you will probably get a blank look. Just like there is no dish called “Butter Chicken” in India, the word ‘curry’ does not exist in Indian vocabulary

Call me biased, but I believe that Indian cuisine is the best and the most diverse in the world. The best analogy is that there are 22 major languages in India, written in 13 different scripts, with almost 800 spoken dialects! It is impossible to know how many cuisines are there in India, but it is safe to say that since there are 29 states in India, there are at least as many cuisines.

Indian cuisine is just about as easy to explain as rocket science. The cuisine reflects an 8,000-year history. There have been so many rulers and settlers over the centuries who brought to India their own spices, style of cooking and taste preferences. Add to that the diversity in type of soil, climate and the topography. Finally mix it with the religions, ethnic groups, traditions and belief systems, it is impossible to keep up with the culinary kaleidoscope. Don’t be surprised for a menu in a typical Indian restaurant to be 40 pages!
 

The only way to explain Indian cuisine is that the North, East, South and West are the four different main regional styles in Indian cooking. North India was influenced by the Moghuls who ruled India for three centuries until the British replaced them in the 1800’s. Their cuisine was rich with cream, dried fruits, tandoors and kebabs. And that’s the legacy they left behind. South Indian food is the exact opposite. Rice is the centre of their cuisine and is eaten at all meals. This cuisine is not as rich; it is simple yet flavourful.

The cuisine of the west region can be divided into two major sections— the coastal and the interior. The interiors use a lot of peanuts with lot of chillies, whereas the coastal areas have a healthy helping of coconut. The cuisine of Eastern states can be described as delicate and subtle, with fish and rice at the centre of the diet. The only common thread between the cuisines of India can be watery, dry, red, green, hot, very hot or unbelievably hot.
 

There is no national dish of India. But the drink of the nation is certainly the chai (or the humble tea). But the tea in India is far from the tea bag that is used in Western countries. A cup of Chai in India brings the nation together.

Even the simple tea becomes ‘masala chai’ which is a concoction of various spices in exact proportion, brewed to perfection. Available in 5 star hotels as well as at road side ‘tea stalls’, it is the quintessential antidote to heat and stress of Indian life and is served before, after and in between meals. It is a way of life in India, where you meet a friend for a cup of tea at the local tea stall.

The current Prime Minister of India was once a "Chai wala". Come with us to share a cup of "Cutting Chai".