Food In India
- "There's so much variety all over the country, your taste buds will never get bored"
- To the western mind, India is perceived as largely vegetarian. This is not necessarily true
(IIP) - One of the best things about India is the cuisine! There are so many wonderful places to eat out and you'll find that the food is nothing like the standard fare offered by Indian restaurants at home. There's so much variety all over the country, your taste buds will never get bored.
The culture of food
Indians take their food very seriously. Cooking is considered an art and mothers usually begin to teach their daughters and pass down family recipes by show-and-tell, fairly young in life. Mealtimes are important occasions for family to get together. Most meals comprise of several dishes ranging from staples like rice and breads to meat and vegetables and rounded off with a dessert. In a lot of Indian homes, foods are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. For example, some families buy their favorite type of wheat, wash it, dry it in the sun and then take it in to a flourmill to have it ground into flour exactly the way they like, as opposed to buying flour from a store! This is changing in bigger cities where people have increasingly hectic lives and are happy to use ready-to-eat, pre-made ingredients.
To eat (meat) or not to eat?
To the western mind, India is perceived as largely vegetarian. This is not necessarily true. To a larger extent, religious beliefs (as compared to personal preference) dictate what a person cannot eat. For example, Islam forbids its followers from eating pork while a lot of Hindus do not eat beef. Followers of the Jain faith abstain from all meats and even avoid onions and garlic!
The matter of influence
- Throughout history India has been invaded and occupied by other cultures and each has left its own mark on Indian cuisine. Some of the predominant influences have been:
- Aryan - which focused on the mind-, body-enhancing properties of foods;
- Persian and Arab - which led to the Mughal style of cooking with rich, thick gravies and the use of dry fruits like cashews and almonds in dishes;
- British - which gave India its love of tea and put the European twist into some dishes. Anglo-Indian cuisine was the delicious result;
- Portuguese – which left its mark on parts of India in the form of dishes like the world-renowned Vindaloo and Xacuti.