India is known as country that assaults the senses - in a good way! The smells, colours, sounds and energy of India’s cities never fails to captivate a visitor. And neither does Indian cuisine. I remember the first meal I ever had in India. My partner and I wandered a market in Kolkata, starving. We spotted men eating naan and some sort of bean, off a banana leaf. We like to do as the locals do, and so we approached, and were ushered into a small room where we were seated and handed our own banana leaves. The meal was simple: naan and dal. We used our hands to scoop up the dal with the naan. When we were finished, we drank chai out of a small clay cup, as is custom in Kolkata. It was one of the best meals of my life.
India’s food is as diverse as India itself. Cooking style varies from region to region, but of course there are staples: rice, wheat and curries. And no matter where you are in India: chai tea.
(above) Yellow Lentil Dahl
Origin’s Road to Rainbows trip explores the north, which is the perfect region to delve into Indian cuisine.
Here you will find lots of dairy! Paneer, a delicious Indian mild cheese, and ghee (clarified butter) are often added to dishes. Korma is a staple dish, a creamy curry made of coconut milk, cumin, coriander and nuts. It is often served with chicken or lamb, or paneer for vegetarians. Clay ovens, known as tandoors, are popular in the North for cooking chicken and naan bread.
The cuisine of western India is shaped by its geographic location and history. Like most of India, rice is the staple, but unlike in the North there is an abundance of sea food. In Goa specifically, the prawns and fish will blow your mind. For vegetarians, sabzi (cooked, spiced vegetables), dal and rotis will keep your taste buds satisfied.
The influence of Buddhism is felt in Eastern India in their celebration of vegetarian dishes. Popular ingredients include mustard seeds and “paanch phoran” which is a mix of five spices. Here you will find momos - steamed meat or veggie filled wontons as well as many dairy dishes. Make sure to try lassi (yogurt with fruit)! But Eastern India’s claim to fame is their sweets. The region is famous for its sandesh (paneer and sugar), rasgolla (dumplings in syrup) and rice pudding (kheer).
(above) Creamy Lassi with fruit in a clay pot
South Indian food is distinct, known for its use of seeds, spices, tomatoes, tamarind and plantain. Dosa is south India’s staple: the dish includes a large crepe-like pancake made from fermented batter. Traditional dosas are called “Masala Dosa” and they are filled with a mix of potato, onion, and spices. Expect all dosas to be slightly different, and do as the locals do, eat them with your hands!
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