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A Guide to Indian Food Culture

Calling Indian food Indian food may not be quite right. In India, there are many different food cultures with a great difference in both taste and ingredients.

On the following pages, we will explain the different ingredients and offer several tasty recipes. Read more about India’s food culture below or click into our recipe collection and descriptions of herbs and spices:

Indian food culture

Different religions and cultures have dominated different Indian territories and left different dishes and customs. Roughly, the country can be divided into two gastronomic parts, north and south, although North Indian food is also served to some extent south and vice versa.

It is very easy to find vegetarian food throughout the country, usually much easier than food with meat. However, it can be more difficult with pure vegan food since much of the food is cooked in ghee, a kind of butter oil. In larger cities, it may not be a major problem to get the restaurant to exclude this, but in smaller towns, it can be difficult to get a proper understanding of the staff.

Food culture in north India

In the northern part of the country, Islam has long dominated and it has of course been reflected in the food. Chicken and goat are two important ingredients in many dishes but vegetarian dishes are also easy to get hold of. Together with the food, you eat bread that is pulled into pieces with your right hand and which acts a bit like a spoon or pinch.

The food is usually strong and as an accessory is often served a cooling and flavored yogurt or curd as it is called in India. Often this yogurt has various vegetables, fruits, or spices added and is then called raita.

If you eat chicken, chicken tikka, or tandoori chicken, both cooked in a special clay oven (Tandori oven), is very tasty and especially if enjoyed on a small street serving during the evening stroll. Tandoori is the name of an oven and not a seasoning that many believe.

In addition to the grilled food, which is usually eaten a bit like an appetizer, it is normal to eat lentil stew (Dal) made on yellow (Dal fry) or black (Dal Makhani) lentils along with their vegetable batter. However, as mentioned earlier, the biggest feature of North Indian food is that it is usually eaten with bread instead of rice which is common in the south.

South Indian food

If the North Indian food can be described as strong then the use of the spices there is something that is laughed at in the south. In South India, the fire extinguisher needs to be brought out for the inexperienced.

The food is often served on palm leaves or on a plate tray with compartments for a variety of vegetarian stirrers and for this, rice is served. The dish that usually goes by the name thali (thalis with vegetables other than in the south is also served in the north) is eaten, like all other food here also with the right hand. To make it easier, you usually mix your curry with the rice until it gets an edible consistency. Messy but good.

If you want to eat some firmer food then dosa is something good that is recommended. A box is a thin rice pancake that is often filled with a spicy content.

In southern India, rice is often eaten for its food and the pots often contain coconut milk or grated coconut. Sometimes you can jokingly hear the South Indians call the North Indians for Chapatis (thin bread) while in the North, they call the South Indians chawals, ie rice eaters.

Indian cuisine variations

In Goa and to some extent also in places in Kerala in south-east India, exceptions are sometimes made to the rule of not eating beef. Kerala Beef and some Goanese dishes include beef.

In the state of Gujarat it is common for the food to be a little sweet which may feel strange at first until you get used to it, but of course there are also variations in Gujarat and this page can only take up a few different features.

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