We shall discuss about the popular flavours or cuisines of different regions of India.
Starting with the northwestern region, we find that the food culture has been influenced by the invaders or immigrants since long past. The Afghani dishes such as naan, kebab, etc. are popular. The Mughal rulers brought in the Turkish and Persian influence with certain refinement. In today’s Delhi and Punjab, the favourite foods include tandoori chicken, keema (minced meat), choole-bhature, paneer, raita etc. The people prefer bread/chapati/roti made of wheat of maize flour more than the rice.
In the extreme north, Kashmiris use ingradients such as saffron, mushrooms, lotus roots, etc. for cooking. They prepare tea with carrdamom, almonds, and sweeten it with a little sugar, which is called kahva. A samovar, a heated urn for making tea, is fired up throughout the day to keep the tea warm.
In the west, Rajasthani food consists of millet, dairy products, and lentils. The commonly used ingredients are onion, red chilli, garlic, etc. The Rajputs prefer meat. Daal-baati is a popular item in Rajasthan. Gujrati dishes are generally cooked without onion and garlic due to a strong Jain influence. The food items are sweetened with different agents. Other dishes include kadhi, spiced noodles, papad, pakoras, etc. The Maharashtra region was located away from the Mughal control. So, there was not much impact of Moghul flavours. The people prefer spiced vegetables of various types, though the fish is common in the coastal belt. In Goa, the food habit is very much influenced by the European habits, especially that of the Portuguese. This is because it was a colony of the Portuguese. The commonly used items include coconut milk, tamarind, garlic, chilies, cinnamon, curry leaves, peanut, cashew nut, etc. Goanese are fond of meat.
In south, the food of Kerala is different from other southern states, though with a few common dishes. Coconut oil is a very common ingredient for cooking dishes. The flavours vary from sweet banana and coconut to sour lime, fresh green mango and yoghurt. The food is spicy with curry leaves. Rice is the common diet and seafood including fish features in many dishes. Rice products like idali, dosa, etc. with spicy sambhar are prepared in every home. Nevertheless, payasam is the sweet dish and rasam serves as a soup. The influence of the food habits of Syrian Christians is very much seen in Kerala. Of the meat of various animals, beef and lamb stew is much preferred.
The cuisine of Tamilnadu in the far south on the east coast include idli, dosa, vada, sambhar, appam, iddiappam, uttapam, rasam etc. A dosa is crisp pancake made from fermented rice and dal (pulse). It is often stuffed with potato or onion filling and is called masala dosa. Idli is steamed rice cake. Uttapam vaguely resembles a pizza. Sea fish is available in plenty in coastal areas.
Andhra Pradesh has spicy and sour dishes. The sour taste comes from the use of tamarind, lemon and unriped mangoes. This sour flavour has been probably inherited from pre- Mughal Persians, Turkish and Arab traders who were fond of vinegar and pomegranates.
In Orissa, rice is the staple diet. Special preparation of rice after its fermentation is very much liked. Different varieties of fish in coastal areas are other important part of the diet.
West Bengal and other northeastern regions prefer rice, fish, prawns, milk-based sweets, etc. The people generally use mustard oil or paste for cooking. The Bengalis are known for their sweet tooth. Bengali sweets are famous, the rosgullahs being the most common. The sweets are made of milk, sugar, almond cream, etc. In the extreme northeastern states, the tribal culture has a great influence on the eating habits. They prefer non-vegetarian diet.
The areas covered by the fertile Gangetic valley including the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar produce many varieties of fruits and vegetables. The cultivation of the rabi and kharif crops on large scale significantly adds both wheat and rice to the menu. Many kinds of lentils are also included in the daily food. Besides the mango of many varieties being the favourite fruit, this region produces many species of fruit. Many forms of products such as sattu (roasted gram and barley flour), chiwda (rice flakes or flattened rice), mudhi (puffed rice), etc. are consumed as snacks. Litti with chokha or mutton is very popular in Bihar. Litti is the flour-cake stuffed with sattu, and the chokha is a spicy preparation of fried brinjal, peas, etc. The people are also fond of many sweets and dishes prepared using milk, butter, dry fruits, etc.