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What is Traditional Indian Food?

By Brentyn, published on 08/10/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Cooking > The Best of Traditional Indian Cuisine

“Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed… I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself.” -Delia Smith

There is nothing better than indulging in culinary treats with cherished friends. Whether you are eating carbonara from Italy, paella from Spain, gyros from Greece, enchiladas from Mexico, pad thai from Thailand, ramen from Japan or chicken tikka from India a great meal has the power to reunite friends and incite meaningful conversations.

While having this gorgeous dinner parties it is important to cook traditional food with fresh ingredients. 

Whilst there are many recipes all over the internet for delicious meals that become conversation starters at luncheons or dinner parties, some of them are not as typical or traditional as we thought.

It would be a shame to a host a traditionally themed party and serve food that is anything but authentic. 

Indian cuisine recipes, restaurants and food stands have been common throughout the UK for the past 200 years. Although Indian takeaway serves over 2.5 million British customers per week, an individual is never certain if the food they are ordering is traditional until they do some research and learn some recipes.

Superprof is here to show residents of the United Kingdom what is typical Indian food from the North, East, South and West of India. Your authentic culinary tour around India starts now!

Authentic Indian Food From the North of India

typical dishes from India Aloo samosas are typical from the North of India and beloved all over the world! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Northern India is set in a breathtaking location near the Himalayas and Indus-Gangetic Plain featuring breathtaking views, temples and scenery. Containing the states and territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, Northern India is geographically huge.

Residents of this area speak some of the four official languages, Hindi, Urdu, English and Punjabi.

Like all areas in India, the North is known for its divine cuisine. Northern dishes are the most popular and widely served in Indian restaurants around the world.

North Indian cuisine includes a lot of savoury meats, vegetables, dals and yoghurts. Since wheat is produced in industrial quantities in this area, naan, tandoori rotis and chapatis are accompanied with almost every meal.

Without further ado, here are some of the most popular and traditional dishes from Northern India:

  • Rogan Josh: an extremely popular and divine dish from the state of Kashmir. The deep red colour comes from the dry Kashmiri chillies used to prepare it. The implementation of about 3-4 spicy chillies may scare some away but they are smoky than anything else. The lamb is mixed in a bowl with yoghurt before cooking to tenderize the meat.
  • Aloo Samosa: the word aloo means potato so these are pretty much potato samosas. From the region of Punjab, these samosas are traditional and delicious. Many different ingredients are required to perfectly make these delicious samosas such as cumin seeds, turmeric powder, coriander leaves, gram masala and cardamom seeds just to name a few.
  • Butter Chicken: universally known as being one of the most delicious plates on the planet, butter chicken is typically from the region of Punjabi and known as murgh makhani in India. This delicious recipe can be made in less than 40 minutes and fills your kitchen with a fragrant smell. In order for this dish to be authentic, the butter and the cream need to be added. Some recipes and restaurants don’t include these essential ingredients.
  • Almond Malai Kulfi: this creamy dessert is from the North of India. Necessary ingredients include condensed milk, cream, milk, almonds, pistachios and a touch of saffron. This dessert is fattening and full of dairy, sorry lactose intolerant readers!

In order to know if you are cooking traditional Northern Indian cuisine, it is recommended to follow recipes from reputable sites and read blogs from natives of that area.

Traditional Meals from the East of India

yummy sweets Sweet, creamy and spongy, a rasgulla is a favourite treat for those living in the East of India. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Eastern India consists of the states and territories of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Natives of this area typically speak Bengali but other official languages such as Hindi, Odia and Urdu are also spoken.

With a total population of over 227 million, East India is an important cultural and economic area. Home to Cherrapunji, the city with the most rainfall in the world, it is an ideal climate to grow rice. Therefore, since there is such an abundance of rice it is a staple ingredient in dishes around Eastern India.

Green vegetables, fruits, mustard seeds, coconut, yoghurt and chillies are all common ingredients used in traditional Eastern Indian dishes. 

The cities and towns located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal implement a lot of fish into their diets. Also, no other region in India can rival Eastern India’s love for sweets. The wide range of sweets and desserts is enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth!

Here are some of the most authentic recipes from Eastern India:

  • Jhaal-Muri: typical in West Bengal and the city of Kolkata, these puffed rice snacks are typical street food. Jhaal means spices and muri means puffed rice. This simple snack is tossed with potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes. A special mix of spices, tamarind pulp and mustard oil make this delicious snack memorable when visiting Kolkata. Add a little lemon juice on top in order to please your taste buds even more.
  • Sandesh: known as being Bengalis most beloved sweet. According to them, no meal is complete without Sandesh Mishti at the end. These little cookies can be made in under 20 minutes with simple ingredients such as paneer, milk powder, powdered sugar, cardamom powder, almonds and pistachios.
  • Rasgulla: one of West Bengal’s most famous desserts that is beloved by all. Made with paneer (India’s cottage cheese), cardamom powder, saffron strands and sugar this simple but delightful dessert can be made in under 40 minutes. The texture is soft and spongy and it is typically served and prepared at festivals in Eastern India.

The three aforementioned recipes are simple, sweet and 100% authentic of Eastern India. Cooking typical Indian food has never been this accessible and easy!

Traditional Food from the South of India

yummy Indian food Dosas are from the south of India but served in restaurants all over the country. Delicious with a simple chutney. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Southern India consists of eight states and territories that occupy a total area of 19% of India’s geographic territory. The region known as the South of India is surrounded by water everywhere, the Indian Ocean in the South, the Bay of Bengal in the East and the Arabian Sea in West.

Due to this fact, a lot of typical dishes in this region contain fish and seafood. The weather is humid and a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and rice are grown in this area. Chettinadu is infamous for being India’s most fiery cuisine and the dishes are mostly vegetarian.

In the South of India, no meal is complete without rice, idlis (small steam cakes made from rice batter) and dal. 

Here are some of the most typical food recipes featured in Southern India:

  • Dosas: crispy pancakes that are typical from the south of India. Not only are they a staple in Southern Indian cooking but can found in most countries across the country. Rice and other specific ingredients such as urad daal (small split beans) and fenugreek seeds are needed to make these crispy pancakes that go well with any meal. Since the recipe can make around 20 dosas, it is best to prepare these for a dinner party or store them for your next Indian meal.
  • Hyderabadi Biryani: aromatic, flavourful and simply divine. This is one of India’s most beloved recipes. It is easier to make than other authentic Southern Indian recipes. Biryani essentially means mixed rice and this dish features ingredients like yoghurt, spices, coriander, mint, saffron, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chillies and onions. This recipe has many complex flavours that make it difficult to forget. The secret is to keep the rice firm and fluffy.
  • Idlis: steamed rice cakes that can be found all over India. Keep in mind that the batter needs to ferment overnight so careful planning is necessary. The rice and urad daal pastes are ground separately and then mixed together to spend the night together fermenting in the fridge. After the fermentation process is finished they are shaped into little balls and steamed for 20 minutes. Enjoy with a homemade chutney!

The spices, flavours and distinct food preparations from different regions, truly make the Indian culinary experience a unique one!

Typical Dishes from Western India

Western India is located on the Arabian Sea and consists of states and territories such as Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Mumbai is the most populous city in this region with over 18.4 million inhabitants.

The western area of India is stricken by a hot and dry climate. Therefore, most vegetables are preserved and eaten as pickles or chutney. Peanuts and coconuts are frequently used in dishes since they are readily available.

Since Hinduism is extremely common in these states, many of the inhabitants are vegetarian. 

The Gujaratis love to indulge in snacks and they are collectively known as Farsan. Goa is this region’s smallest state but far from being the least important in culinary terms. The previous Portuguese influence has left its mark on certain dishes and seafood and fish is commonly used in this area.

Let’s now take a look at Western India’s most typical and iconic dishes:

  • Pork Vindaloo: hot, tangy and complex in flavour. This signature dish is delicious when served on a bed of rice with leafy salad. Before the pork can be cooked it needs to be bathed in vindaloo masala paste for 24 hours. After the marination process is completed, the meat can be cooked with brown or palm sugar, onions, ginger paste, cinnamon and cloves. The cooking process takes around 85 minutes to complete.
  • Laal Maas: from the region of Rajasthan, this lamb curry is fiery in taste and deep in colour. Some of the authentic ingredients include coriander seeds, mustard oil, kachri powder (a dried vegetable that is similar to a cucumber and can be found in Rajasthan), ginger, cardamom and fresh coriander to garnish when finished. Many different steps are required but the final product is worth the effort!
  • Ghevar: a Rajasthani dessert usually made in the month of August for the festival of Raksha. It has a disk shape and is made with flour and then dipped in sugar syrup. Extremely easy to make only taking about an hour from start to finish.

Traditional Indian cooking is complex, flavourful and full of spices. The recipes and dishes we considered today are completely authentic and ridiculously delicious. Try making one of these recipes for your next Indian themed dinner party to truly wow your guests!

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