Food from India, that will seduce your senses

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Food and wine trips around the world

Food from India is the most seductive of foods.

Food from India is the exquisite Asian cuisine of the senses.

I love Indian food as well as most of the rest of the great varied Asian cuisine, but Indian cuisine is perhaps the most diverse and extensive in all of Asia because the country is so huge and old and influenced by so many cultures.

The food has a common denominator that you just have to get a grasp of to add another dimension of enjoyment to your life, a deep taste of perfect spices,  a skill developed over so many 100 years. It ties it all together also in the understanding of what is Indian food defined by. It is all about the spice, girls.

A top view of bowls filled with spices at a vendors stall in the largest spice market in Asia, the Khari Baoli section of Old Delhi, India.

Make your own fresh curry in a pan

By the way, I had a house where we housed a super friendly Indian family, and they made curry every morning at 7. The ventilation in the house could have been better, roasted curry on the pan in the morning in Copenhagen was a challenge to wake up to, but are there other ways to make real Indian food? Barely. Be true to traditions, also when it comes to Indian food. And Indian food traditions in all their diversity can go 1000s of years back in time. Yes, some maybe 5,000 years where the Iranian influence rolled in over the country. That is quite inconceivable, but also quite true.

Indian food is not one cuisine, there are 4 regional styles

There is not one kitchen in the vast country. From north to south, the differences are huge. There are at least 1,000 variations.

street hawker preparing and serving spicy chaat in old delhi

It’s all about the spice, girls

It’s all fundamentally about India´s more than 3,000-year-old and refined love of spices. It is not only curry. Curry is of course important, but there are probably at least 30 spices and spice mixes that the Indians love to conjure up. They are Asian masters in producing and mixing spices and not least using them in exquisite recipes.

There are basically 20 to 30 spices used in many dishes – cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger, to name a few – and there are an infinite number of ways to use them.

Contrary to popular belief, not all Indian dishes are curry dishes. But “curry” has become a common denominator for any spice-based meat or vegetable dish with a curry sauce. Curry dishes can be mild, dry, red, green, hot, or really, really hot – it’s entirely up to the chef in question and to you who has to eat it. In fact, basic chicken curry is one of the simplest things to start with when experimenting with Indian cooking. Serve it with a side dish of dal (a stew made from lentils, peas, or beans) and some roti (a tortilla-like wheat bread) that you can get in specialty stores at home or as a take-out at your friendly Indian restaurant.

Indian lamb Rogan Josh

Indian lamb Rogan Josh

Indian cuisine is also perfect  for vegetarians and vegans

Indian food has an added bonus for vegetarians and vegans: for them, it is one of the best cuisines available. Sensible use of spices and sauces breathes new life into rice, potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, peas and eggplant, squash and much more greens. And a meal of solid-but-healthy Palak Paneer (a spinach-and-cheese dish) with a side dish of Naan (a pita-type raised flatbread) will convert even the biggest meat lovers into at least vegetarians for an evening.

Getting started with making Indian food is easy

There are easy ways to start bringing the flavor of India into your kitchen. Try incorporating Indian flavors into dishes you already make, such as fried fish, chicken or steamed vegetables.

Keep it simple, and do not overdo it, but build it up if you like the first few attempts. It’s like chili in thai cuisine with 5 red chilies on the menu next to the dish that few start. Choose something with two or three spices and start with that. Add a little cumin, ginger and chili pepper to the vegetable you like. Remember that your food can only be as good as the ingredients you start with, but you do not need the most expensive ingredients. You can make chicken thighs, and as you know, they are simple and tasty. Just get started, it’s actually pretty easy.

Keep it simple when you start at home. Look for basic potato, okra and meat dishes to help build your repertoire from Indian cuisine.

Cooking the dishes is only part of creating the perfect Indian culinary experience. It is up to each eater to make each bite count. When making your Indian food, you can vary the taste by putting pickles or chutney on the carved chunks.

During the summer 2022, we will add 2o Indian dishes for you to eat out or do at home

Where does Indian cuisine come from?

Throughout history, India has been occupied by other countries and cultures, and each occupation has left its own mark on Indian cuisine, including British cuisine. Some of the prevailing influences have been:

  • Aryan – Old Indian, focused on the mind-enhancing properties of food.
  • Persian and Arabic – which led to the Mughal style of cooking with fatty, thick sauces and the use of dry fruits such as cashews and almonds in the dishes
  • British – which gave India its love of tea and put the European twist in some dishes. The Anglo-Indian cuisine was the delicious result
  • Portuguese – which left its mark on parts of India in the form of dishes such as the world-famous Vindaloo and Xacuti.

The 4 regional cuisines of Indian food

Just like in Chinese cuisine, one can roughly divide Indian cuisine into 4 typical subcategories or regions. In terms of food, India can actually be very roughly divided into four regions. Each region has several states in it and each state its own unique food. Here is a brief look at the kitchens in the North, South. The East and West Indies come a little later. Of course, one must always remember that no such description can completely cover the huge selection of Indian food. The true acquisition of Indian food culture and the skills of making dishes can take years of patient and very enjoyable gastronomic experiments. But a small selection of Indian dishes we can make is probably not that small either.

Food from North India

North Indian curry dishes usually have thicker, moderately spicy, and creamy sauces blah. due to the widespread use of yogurt. The use of dried fruits and nuts is quite common even in everyday food. Dairy products such as milk, cream, cottage cheese, ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt play an important role in the preparation of both salty and sweet dishes. Thanks to such a rich selection of fruits and vegetables available at all times of the year, the region produces a dazzling selection of vegetarian dishes.

Tandoori roti and Naans homeland

Indian bread is preferred over rice if the rich choice is something to go for. This region is home to Tandoori roti and Naans (bread made in a tandoor of clay), stuffed parathas (flagged Indian bread with different kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fillings) and kulchas (bread made from fermented dough). Rice is also popular and made into artful biryanis and pulaos (pilafs).

Food from South India, healthy rice and lentil-based food

South Indian cuisine offers several coconut milk-based flavor profiles, herbs like lemongrass and curry leaves and native fruits. Instead of bread, you will find more rice, lentils and stews – and sauces are generally thinner as a result.
Kerala. Street food in Kerala can include Pazham Pori (banana fritters) and sweet dumplings.

Regional dishes from India, you may well enjoy

North India: Jammu and Kashmir. The cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir, in the northernmost tip of the country, is centered around meat dishes like Rogan Josh, a yogurt-based lamb curry scented with chili.

Gujarat. The state of Gujarat, surrounded by coastline with ample access to seafood, is primarily vegetarian, thanks to the high concentration of Jainism – a religion based on non-violence and asceticism.

Mumbai. Just across the water from Gujarat, Mumbai (India’s largest city, formerly known as Bombay) is famous for its market vendors and the culture around street food. Is Indian food healthy?

The short answer is yes absolutely because so much green is eaten, and the food is relatively low in fat and made from scratch. But more in the near future.

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