Indian Cuisine: It’s History and Evolution

In the 5000 years of Indian history, India has welcomed many settlers from around the world. Indian cuisine has evolved into different forms due to its homogeneous nature. India’s food has been divided according to different religions and regions. Different areas and regions in India have their own cooking recipes, spices and ingredients. With a population of over one billion, the food in India is as diverse as its people.

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Indian cooking has been mostly influenced by Hindu and Muslim style of cooking. Each of the settlers who migrated to India have given their own culinary methods to India. In India, two cultures of cooking are practised i.e. Hindu for vegetarian food and Muslim for cooking of meats. Mughlai food, Kormas(curry), nargis kaftas(meatballs), rogan josh and biryani are some of the favourite dishes that are prepared in a clay over tandoor. If we talk about South India, the cuisine is mostly prepared with rice and a thin soup called Rasam is added to it. Most South Indian recipes have coconut as their main ingredient. Some favourite Hindu dishes of South India include Idli(steamed rice cakes), Dosa(rice pancakes) and fermented rice.

The Indian cooking is largely influenced by Persians, Portuguese and Britishers. For example, the Britishers brought tea/chai into India. Most Indians love Chai.

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Indian cooking has four main regional styles i.e. East, West, North and South. North India was largely influenced by Moghuls. They ruled India for about three centuries and then were replaced by Britishers in 1800s. The Mughals gave us Saffron and rich gravies prepared from cream and pureed nuts. The Naan, which is a tandoori dish is not of the Indian origin. It came from Afghanistan where it is a staple food. Although, most of the people think that Naan is an Indian dish.

The South Indian food is totally opposite to that of North India. Their unique rice crepes and steamed rice cakes are a favourite among South Indians. Rice can be had in any meal and lunch usually has three dishes which can be served with rice.

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Hindus are divided into two categories i.e. meat eating and non-meat eating. In the West, states like Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra have their unique food. In Gujarat, most of the population consists of Parsis, Hindu, Muslims and Jains. Each of them have their own style of cooking. The Parsis have very rich non-vegetarian diet that contains seafood and chicken while Jains are vegetarian. Most people in Gujarat are vegetarians and it’s vegetarian food is very famous.

The sea-food of Mumbai, Maharashtra is very famous. Most of the hotels and restaurants in coastal areas of Maharashtra serve seafood with a little of red chillies and coconut. Eastern states like, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand are very different from each other. Bengali cuisine is very delicate and contains fish and rice as its staple food. The Bengali cuisine is famous for a variety of dishes including mixed veg and milk based sweets.

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Orissa is famous for its squash blossoms which are dipped in paste prepared with rice, deep fried/turned to patties. Some other prominent foods of Orissa include seafood and fish. Bihar and Jharkhand are known for beans and vegetables. But they have Western influence with chicken, beef, goat and pork in their diet.

The Indian cuisine is largely influenced by Indian history. Each historical region have its own unique dishes with many ingredients. But there is a common thing about every region: a fondness for spicy snacks and sweet desserts. Besides being influenced by history, Indian cuisine is also influenced by religion, culture and traditions of India.

There is no other country which offers such a wide variety of exotic dishes with such a large variety of tastes for taste-buds.