It is considered all the rage around the world, is Indian Cuisine, with a wide range of signature dishes from around the country. There is so much variety and uniqueness in Indian Cuisine that it is quite hard to believe that all of it comes from one, single country. The sheer size of India has meant that Indian Cuisine from one part of the country barely comes in contact with the cuisine in another - and that has been the main highlight of a country that loves its food!
The thing about Indian Cuisine is that it is everywhere and in most places, you will get the same thing you get in other parts of the country. However, if you are aware of the game of "Chinese Whispers", you will know exactly how, say, south Indian cuisine will make its way to the northern part of the country. As it moves from one village to another, one town to the next, it picks up certain small, seemingly insignificant traits along the way.
In the end, the format of Indian Cuisine that reaches from the south to the north, or from the east to the west, is nothing like what started the journey. North, South, East and West Indian Cuisine have their own identity and in almost all cases, they have absolutely nothing in common with each other, but everything in common with the region and its natural or agricultural supplies.
The Vegetarian Side of Indian Cuisine
Make no mistake, Indian Cuisine has some of the finest range of non-vegetarian food you can find. The sheer range of kebabs and meat dishes, when combined with spices, guarantees thousands of mouth-watering dishes in the non-vegetarian genre. The same thing works for vegetarian food too - the spices are the game-changers.
In most countries, vegetarian food is a side-dish to non-vegetarian stuff. However, in India, a massive chunk of the population is completely vegetarian. The most common thing you can find in most parts of the country, especially in South Indian Cuisine, is vegetarianism. Vegetarian food is a part of every meal, almost as common as eating rice or wheat-flat breads with each dish. You cannot ignore vegetarian food and in some parts of the country, you cannot help but eat it.
That said, the range of spices available in India has ensured that the combination of vegetables and spices creates a myriad range of vegetarian foods that, despite using possible the same vegetables, tastes nothing like anything else out there.
Indian Cuisine is not about Speed
The first thing you need to remember about Indian Cuisine is that it is not about grabbing a quick bite. Almost everything in Indian Cuisine is elaborate enough to warrant a sit-down. Meals are designed to be cooked in large single-containers that can be used to serve as well. The idea has always been to create a single, central vessel to store the dish, while the family gathers around the table for a meal, being served smaller helpings on their plate where a mini-table, with all the dishes and bread or rice, is created.
Indian Cuisine is a lot about the occasion of eating as well as the process of eating - you are no longer eating only to fill your stomach, you are eating to be with your family, talk, spend time with each other and, in the process, eat something delightful to fill the pockets of empty conversation-spaces. Whether you are cooking Butter Chicken or Curry Meen or simply trying your hand at Naga Fish Curry or Kaanda Bhaaji, you will experience an innate nature of Indian Cuisine that slows things down and makes everything a bit more comforting!
Indian Cuisine is not about Variety
It is not uncommon knowledge that West Indian cuisine is widely different from East Indian cuisine. Similarly, South Indian cuisine is nothing like North Indian cuisine. The difference is because of many things including the spices available in those parts of the country as well as the kind of key ingredients found there. For example, fish is a very common commodity found in the eastern part of the country, thanks to the massive river systems and long rainy seasons.
However, North Indian cuisine is reflective of the land-locked nature of this part of the country, with meat mainly comprising of Chicken and Mutton, or Goat meat. Almost every individual who is involved with Indian Cuisine will talk about the spices and the variety, but it is all governed by one thing - family. The desire to sit down and eat as a family controls the meals of the day.
Indian Cuisine is about the occasion and every occasion deserves a special meal. The spices that go into the food, the long and slow process of marinating meat, the multitudes of breads created with a variety of flavours, everything is about creating a bigger occasion with a hearty meal that not only fills the stomachs of those involved, but completes the family-circle with some great food.