One of the largest countries in the world, India has a diverse and ancient history. Due to its long history, there have been many foreign and religious influences on its people and food. India is well-known for its use of spices which include cloves, saffron, coriander and ginger.
Food and History
Two main religions have greatly influenced Indian cooking and habits are Hindu and Muslim. Vegetarianism is a common practice for many Buddhist and Hindu followers. This has led to the people consuming lentils and beans as opposed to meat and fish for their daily source of protein.
Hindus considered cow as sacred and the milk and milk product such as cheese, curd and sweets were regarded as auspicious and became part of their cooking as well.In contrast, Muslim influences greatly popularised meat dishes such as chicken and beef. The Muslim conquest introduced fares such as apricots, melons and nuts and creamy gravies.
Lavish dinners, gourmet feasts and meal rituals that are now a part of Indian’s rich heritage were introduced by the Muslim rulers. The British also introduced tea or chai to India, and it has become a favourite drink of Indians to date. As a consequence of the many cultural influences throughout India, different areas of the country have their own style of cooking and their own signature dishes.
Famous Indian Fares
1. Tandoori Chicken
This North Indian dish is composed of roasted chicken cooked with yoghurt and spices. The chicken is cooked in a cylindrical clay oven, tandoor which is how the dish got its name. Yoghurt is used to marinade the chicken and is seasoned with tandoori masala spice mixture. The chicken has red appearance because of the cayenne pepper or Kashmiri red chilli powder. This dish is commonly served with rice and a side of naan.
2. Chicken Tikka Masala
Another chicken dish, the grilled chicken is served with creamy gravy. The sauce has a tomato and yoghurt base and is seasoned with chilli, garlic, ginger and garam masala (Indian spice blend). The chicken is usually marinated overnight, grilled and then slow-cooked in the smoky sauce.
This is a soft candy from the Northern region of India. This candy is made from ash gourd. Petha’s recipe is said to have been invented during the construction of the Taj Mahal which makes it as old as the beautiful mausoleum.
4. Butter Chicken
The key to a great butter chicken is the gravy. The gravy is made by cooking fresh tomatoes, garlic and cardamom into a vibrant, red pulp. After it has cooled, the mixture is then pureed. Butter, Khoa and spices are added to it afterwards. The chicken is usually cooked in a tandoor though it may be grilled, roasted or pan-fried if you don’t have a tandoor.
This is a dish of aromatic rice cooked with spices such as saffron and marinated meat. Chicken or beef goes well with the fragrant, yellow rice.
Samosas are triangular fried or baked pastries that contain fillings such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas and even ground beef or chicken. There are also vegetarian versions of this dish. They are often served with mint sauce or chutney. The savoury pastry is also popular street food and is eaten as mid-day snacks by both the locals and tourists.
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