Culinary Adventures of India
India’s culinary landscape can be summarized into three words: spicy, herb-rich and vegetarian. Most foreigners will find these less appetizing compared to their usual fare, but choosing to miss out on them when traveling to India would be your loss.
Trying out the unique local flavor is part of the exciting adventure that makes up India, and one challenge that every self-declared independent traveler should take! Unearthing Asia takes a look at the various local delicacies that one would encounter here, and gives you a slight outlook on what to expect from each of them.
Rice and Bread
Rice and bread is very popular in India, and are daily served as a main entree to be paired up with the various dishes, such as curry or thali. In the Northern part of India, bread is the more popular choice while in the South rice gets the nod. The rice used in India is long and grainy, and are usually spiced up with saffron, giving it a unique yellow coloring, refreshing aroma and slightly bitter flavor. A popular dish is called the briyani, which is this yellow rice cooked with ghee and served with your choice of vegetables and or meat.
Similarly, the bread is also served usually with curry to be used as either a dip or fillings. The bread is flat and round, and looks more like your usual Subway wrap instead of the bread we’re accustomed to. Bread cooked with tandoor is called Naan, while those deep-fried is called puri.
This very Indian dish is usually served on a large banana leaf, tho nowadays a lot of restaurants substitutes a large platter for it. It’s basically a mix of various choice dishes in small portions, served all at once together for your enjoyment. A perfect way to taste the unique intricacies of Indian’s cuisine, thali usually consists of rice, bread, dhal, spicy vegetables, and curry. Thali are usually vegetarian, but if you try it in a non-vegetarian restaurant you can simply order additional dishes as much as you need.
Thali is best eaten slowly, for you to savor the unique taste each differing pairings bring. A common mistake is to mix the rice with all the dishes, one you must not do! Instead, try eating them in pairs, mixing each dishes with another as you deem fit. Be surprised by the rich, differing flavors each pairings bring.
Worry not, while vegetarian food is a huge part of India’s culinary arsenal there are still various dishes that would please your carnivorous palate. Kebab, various choice cuts of meat and vegetables in a satay stick, is a popular dish, as well as Shami, slices of meat and vegetables wrapped in bread. Cow is considered holy in India, so lamb is the meat of choice. Another popular meat dish is the chicken tandoori, which pairs very well with both rice and bread. Be careful however, as some tandoori can be quite hot! Less adventurous eaters would be well advised to ask for a mild, less-spicy version of this dish.