Popular Magazine Insolite
- The Gods Of Indian MythologyOctober 17, 2016
Fragrant spices and silky sauces are the trademarks of Indian gastronomy. Like all cuisines, Indian fare is built upon a few basic components. A variety of breads, sauces, relishes and pickles complement the main foods of India. The typical Indian meal plays to almost all the senses, with an assortment of colors, smells, flavors and textures.
Spices are at the heart of almost any Indian dish. For centuries, foreigners have vied after the aromatic and flavorful seasonings used in Indian cuisine. The most commonly used spices in Indian food include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chiles. Black, brown and white mustard, as well as celery seed, paprika, saffron and tamarind are also frequently used. Depending on the region, dishes may call for coconut, certain types of nuts and onions. Masala is a premade blend of spices used in many main dishes and sauces. In Indian cuisine, spices complement each other; recipes are developed so that no particular spice or flavor stands out or overpowers other flavors.
In Indian cuisine a few basic ingredients go into most dishes. Traditionally churned from yogurt, ghee is a type of clarified butter or butter without milk solids or water. Indian chefs use ghee to brown ingredients, such as onions or garlic, and as a base. Yogurt makes silky, smooth sauces and bubbly flat breads. Paneer, reminiscent of cottage cheese, often adds texture to foods or is stuffed into breads. Typically gravies consist of meat, spices and vegetables, such as chickpeas, potatoes, spinach and beans, are served as a main dish. Myriad vegetables and fruits add flavor and texture to main dishes: raisins, beans, chickpeas, coconut and onions.
Indians typically create gravies to serve over rice with flatbread or wafers, which they dip into the sauce. For example, a popular Punjabi dish, dal mahkni, is a butter-based lentil gravy dish served over rice. Another popular meal is curry chicken, which consists of a tomato-based sauce. One dish that doesn’t use gravy, is tandoori chicken, which is marinated in yogurt and masala. Basmati rice is a common staple served with many dishes throughout the meal.
Side Dishes and Desserts
Unlike westerners, Indians prepare unleavened breads, like roti, naan and phulka, daily. Sometimes cooks will stuff the bread with meats, vegetables or garlic. Puppadams and papads are salty, crispy, thin wafers made from lentils or rice dough, which Indians dip into sauces or relishes. Relishes add additional texture and flavor to most foods. The most popular type of relish is chutney, which is made from pulpy fruit. In Indian cuisine, just about any food can be pickled. Because of their long shelf life, pickles are important sources of sustenance for travelers and impoverished families. For dessert, Indian diners typically prefer creamy, milk or flour-based puddings and ice creams.
Cultural and Religous Influences
Culture and religion deep influence the foods that Indians eat. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam — the major religions of India — all have particular dietary restrictions. For instance, Hindus and Sikhs do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork, therefore, lamb, chicken and goat are the most widely used meats in Indian cooking.