Just as India is an eclectic and diverse country, so is its food. India supports a massive population with many linguistic and cultural nuances, and you can see this variety in the many different foods that make up Indian cuisine. And while there are many distinctions between regional tastes in India, there is a commonality: spices. Most Indian dishes feature a unique and interesting spice blend that delivers a rich flavour and aroma.
Food for Indian people is a very serious matter. Preparing delicious meals is elevated to an art, and family recipes are passed from generation to generation. Like in many parts of the world, meal times serve as an opportunity for the family to get together and bond. An Indian dinner would include several courses from basic rice and bread to entrée like dishes that may include meat and vegetables, and finally dessert. One of the most impressive aspects of Indian food is that it caters to every diet including vegetarians, vegans, and meat lovers.
Some religious beliefs guide meal choices for the people. There is a sizeable Buddhist population that would be strictly meat free, and Hindus avoid beef as cows are considered holy. There is also a large contingent of Islamic Indians who would not eat pork. As such, the food you would eat throughout the country will vary significantly on the region you are visiting.
Another interesting aspect of Indian cuisine is that there is a lot of external influence. The style of food and the spices that are used can be traced to Persian and Arab roots in some areas and European (specifically British and Portuguese) in other regions. For example, Munghal style food with rich, thick sauces and dry fruit and nuts is linked to Persian occupation. On the other hand, Vindaloo and Xacuti, world famous Indian dishes, have associations with Portuguese colonialism.
Nevertheless, in the most basic terms, there are four regions of Indian food. North Indian food is famous for thick, moderately spicy curries featuring dried fruits and nuts. Dairy is commonly used and dishes are savory and sweet. Alternatively, South Indian cuisine is very hot and there are many rice-based dishes. Dry and curried vegetables are paired with meat dishes, and chutney and poppadums are common in this area. East Indian dishes are perhaps the simplest. From ingredients to preparation, the focus is on flavourful simplicity; steaming and frying are common cooking techniques, and fish dishes are also popular along the coast. Moving inland, pork becomes a more favoured ingredient; and East Indian sweets are the best in the country. Finally, West India is incredibly diverse when it comes to styles of food. From spicy vegetarian dishes to meat based curries, there are a rich variety of flavours and ingredients that make up this region’s food.