This week we explore the food of India. Indian food is known for its great use of different herbs and spices. Through Indian food, we are able to see the interaction and blending of different cultures throughout hundreds of centuries. For example, when the British and the Portuguese started trade with India, it further influenced Indian cuisine. Culture and religion also happen to affect the traditional Indian cuisine and diets. The two dominant religions of India are Hinduism and Islam. In the religion of Hinduism, the consumption of beef is a taboo because it is regarded as a source of food and a symbol of life. In the religion of Islam, eating pork is prohibited because the animal is seen as impure. Since there is such a great amount of Muslims and Hindus living in India, the Indian cuisine tends to lack the presence of pork and beef. Indian cuisine also greatly depends on the region. For example, if you travel to North India, South India, West India, or East India, you’ll be able to see how some dishes vary from region to region. It all depends on the climate, local occupations, and soil type of the region.
In the region of North India, you can find dishes such as murgh makhani (butter chicken), chole bhature, and biryani. Murgh makhani is a dish that consists of chicken marinated with spices and cream. It is served with a buttery curry. Chole bhature is a duo of fried bread and spicy chickpeas. Often times, it is seen served with chutney, pickled carrots, and onions. The popular dish of biryani includes seasoned rice, meat, veggies, and sometimes fish. In South India, you may see dishes such as sambar, bisi bele bath, kozhukkatta, and once again, biryani.Sambar is a stew with a base made from tamarind. Added in the stew are vegetables such as potatoes, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, and eggplants. Bisi bele bath is lentil rice with added spices and vegetables. Kozhukkatta is a dish of coconut dumplings typically eaten for breakfast and served alongside herbal teas. In West India you can find dishes such as pav bhaji, dum aloo, and kombdi vade. Pav bhaji is a vegetable curry that is served with soft rolls of bread. Dum aloo is a dish of fried potatoes served with gravy and vegetables. Kombdi vade is a dish with chicken curry served with fried dumplings made of rice flour. Lastly, in East India, you may find dishes like pakhala, litti, or machher jhol. Pakhala is cooked rice fermented in water. It can be seen served with fried onions and cucumbers. Litti is a dish of roasted dough balls mixed with different herbs. Machher jhol is a fishy stew served alongside rice. Included are potatoes to make the stew thicker and tomatoes to give it a red color. Although the food is important, the way you eat and the manners you show at the dinner table are just as important.
In India, most of the foods are eaten with your hands instead of with utensils, unless the food is like a fluid. However, whether or not you use utensils or not, you are not to use your left hand to pick up food. You should always wash your hands before and after each meal. Since eating with hands is a norm, having long fingernails is seen as unhygienic. Often times, as an honored guest, you are expected to make a toast at the end of the meal. You shouldn’t start eating until the oldest man has been seated and has started his meal. It’s also expected of you to share food with anyone who wants it and is rude if your host does not offer you more food during the meal. Overall, food is a respected part of Indian culture and you are expected to finish what you are given.