What’s your experience with Indian – or on a broader scale – South Asian food? Are you in love with it? Do you feel heartburn after a hearty meal of spicy lentils? If your experience is not good, chances are that you made a bad choice. South Asian food is as diverse as the languages spoken in the region. Knowledge of different types of food will help you in better enjoying the delicacies.
What is Indian Food?
Let’s define the Indian food first. The expansion and growing popularity of the fare has led to a sweeping generalization. Now many Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants in Europe and North America use the word “Indian” to attract customers. It is a good marketing ploy as the word has become synonymous with South Asian food, whether it is from Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.
South Asian food can be classified into five main categories. You have a choice of Pakistani, North Indian, Bangladeshi, Central Indian and South Indian foods.
You will find Pakistani cuisine to be more focused on non-vegetarian diet. Barbecued foods rule the roost with Tikka, Chapli Kababs, Kofta, Karahi Gosht and dozens of other mouthwatering delicacies. These are coupled with a huge variety of breads, called Naan in local language. You will find relatively less spices in the barbecued foods whereas it is possible that the gravy set your tongue on fire.
North Indian Cuisine
The non-vegetarian cuisine of North India is almost similar to its Pakistani counterparts though gravy and pilaf variants, especially Biryani, are more popular. The exquisite Mughlai cuisine originated from North India. There is an equally hearty variety of vegetarian foods. Palak Paneer, or spinach with cheese, is a staple food.
There are many varieties of Daal, or lentils, cooked with generous amounts of butter and spices. Vegetable curry is another popular fare with restaurateurs using secret recipes to create unique tastes. Like its Pakistani cousin, North Indian food is mostly accompanied by bread.
Rice is the staple food in Bengal. Fish is another popular food and Bengalis are known for their spicy fish curry. The level of spiciness is lower than its North Indian counterpart and most expats will easily digest it. Bangladeshi food also makes use of meat. Some say the popular Chicken Tikka Masala was invented by chefs from Bangladesh.
Central Indian Cuisine
Mumbai is the hub of Central Indian food. Connoisseurs swear by the piquancy of Mumbai food. The tangy vegetable curries, mouth watering Bhelpuri and spicy Pav Bhaji are worth paying a visit to a restaurant specializing in such foods. You may feel some heartburn afterwards though.
South Indian Cuisine
South India is home to many exotic spices such as clove, cardamom and turmeric. The richness is reflected in its cuisine. Rice and Coconut are two staple items of local cuisine. The food mostly caters to vegetarian tastes except for fish, which is a popular item. If you are fan of seafood, try prawns gravy or fried fish. Vegetarians can have a field day with South Indian food with everything from Dosa, pancakes made from rice flour, to Rasam or spicy lentil soup.
The level of spiciness is much lower than its North Indian brother. An interesting fact about the food is that it is often served on plantain leaves.
Next time you plan on having a taste of India, better make up your mind about the type. This will save you from spending time and money on food that does not augur well with your taste buds.