Indian Cuisine

India is one of the most vastly populated countries in the world,it has rich and varied cookery traditions, many deeply entangled with spiritual traditions that are thousands of years old. Other culinary styles arrived throughout India 's long history with those who wandered into the land from afar and settled here and there, as well as with those who invaded its regions, overtaking native populations. Still others have been shaped by the natural forces climate and geography. These many culinary styles can be generally divided into four regional cuisines, with North Indian flavours and style standing out distinctly from the rest.

The northern part of India , it is said, is part of India in which the influence of the early light-skinned Aryan invaders can still be seen, in the cuisine, culture, and language.

This is the part of the world in which Sanskrit is thought to have evolved. North Indian cuisine encompasses the culinary traditions of the various northern countries, including Punjabi, Kashmiri, Awadh, Rajasthani, Marwari, Gharwal, and Pahari. Due to climate and growing conditions, wheat plays a stronger role in North Indian cuisine than in other areas of the country. Tandoori cuisine comes from the north.

Spices are an essential element to Indian cuisine, and they use some of the most aromatic and beautiful spices on earth. in the past, however, in addition to serving to add appetizing flavours and striking aromas, the spices were chosen for their food preservation and medicinal properties. While many spices are common throughout most Indian cuisines, the methods and ratios of usage differ in each region, with some spices being much more common in some areas and other flavours being more specific to certain areas. North Indian cooks tend to use their spices in freshly ground powder form.

Chili peppers are common to Indian cuisine, and in the north, the Degchi Mirchi, or Kashmiri chili pepper are especially popular. Ground red chili powder is important North Indian flavor, as is turmeric, cumin, coriander, sweet bay or laurel leaves, black and green cardamom, cassia tree bark, for which cinnamon is often substituted, cloves, nutmeg, saffron, black and yellow mustard seeds, fennel, fenugreek, asafetida, curry leaves, tamarind, and fresh cilantro leaves and mint leaves.

Garam masala is a spice mixture used extensively in North Indian cuisine. This is a blend of spices, which is loosely built upon a set of common spices, but varies widely from region to region, even from family to family. In the north, a basic garam masala would consist of raw cardamom seeds, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. Ghee, or clarified butter, is particularly important to the flavour of northern cuisine.

Flat breads of various types, including roti, puri, chapattis, different types parantha, and tandoori baked breads, such as nan, are a part of most north Indian meals. Showing the religious influence of the Vaishnava Hindus, the northern states, Uttar Pradesh in particular, have created some of the finest vegetarian cuisine in the world, built upon a wide variety of pulses, or legumes and fragrant Basmati rice.

North Indian flavours have become an important part of international cuisine, spreading throughout the world's metropolitan centres and into the food cultures of many countries. Beloved especially for its specialized tandoori dishes and vegetarian creations, North Indian cuisine continues to expand and flourish globally.

East India has a complex history that includes long periods of European colonization, has developed culinary traditions that reflect centuries of tradition and a variety of cultural influences. In addition to the various cultures that have been assimilated into the cuisine of the region, the geography also has influenced the development of the culinary traditions of East India , as has the climate.

Portuguese and Spanish explorers first brought the spices of India to widespread European use in the 15th and 16 th centuries, inspiring European political and economic colonization of the area. The famous British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, both established in the 17 th century, were companies specifically created for the production and sale of a variety of products from the region, including spices. Naturally, as the native populations interacted with the European peoples, including through forced service in their homes, a European influence came to affect local cuisines.

The coastal area ensures that seafood is an important part of the East Indian diet. The wide variety of fish is served in many ways. Naturally, the area is well known for delectable fish curries, but seafood is also served steamed and delicately spiced, fried with spices that serve to enhance rather than to mask flavours, and is used to created snacks and appetizers like pakora, served with chutneys and other dipping sauces. Because of the prominence of seafood in the cuisine, and a climate conducive to the growth of a variety of vegetables and fruits, as well as the culinary influences of past Portuguese and British colonization and the Muslim population, the food of East India tends to be of a lighter sort. Spices are used with a lighter hand, preferred cooking methods are often of the sort that enhance natural flavours and encourage the subtle blending of flavours, such a stir frying, steaming and boiling. A moist, rainy climate allows for the production of rice, which functions as a basic element of most meals.

In addition to savoury fish dishes, East Indian cuisine is known throughout the world for the quality of its sweets, with many of its confections having deep roots in Hindu culture. Many religious ceremonies and celebrations have specific confections associated with them, and include ritual offerings of sweets to gods and to the poor. As with many East Indian dishes, the sweets of this region tend to be less dense, lighter, making them a bit more appealing to westerners than some of the very heavy, ultra-sweet confections of other regions in India . In addition to candies and other similar dessert style sweets, the region is known for its fine cakes, which have a distinctly European influence, as does the preference for tea as a beverage.

East Indian cuisine has a distinct character that sets it apart from the cuisines of other parts of India . With coastal areas that made seafood a staple and a climate that made a variety of fresh foods readily available, came a tendency towards letting the natural, fresh flavours of foods take centre stage in the cuisine. European explorers who were attracted to Eastern shores contributed their own culinary style to the region, as did Muslim settlers, resulting in the amazing combination of cultures that created the unique flavours of East Indian cuisine.

Most people think that Indian food is out if you're on a diet. If you eat Indian food in restaurants its probably true, because many traditional Indian recipes involve either deep frying or the use of ghee. However, if you cook Indian food at home, it can be as healthy as any other diet food. You just need to follow a few simple general rules.

- Avoid Indian recipes which involve deep frying.
- If you need to seal meat before braising it for a curry, use a good non-stick pan and a spray bottle with sunflower or vegetable oil in it. Lightly spray the surface of your pan with oil and that should be enough to prevent the meat from sticking while you brown it.
- If a recipe includes cream or coconut cream, substitute plain yoghurt and another flavouring to replace the coconut.

Tandoori recipes are great as part of a low calorie or low carbohydrate diet. Just marinade some fish or chicken with some low fat plain yogurt, ground turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, crushed garlic, grated root ginger and a little chilli powder for an hour. If you're using cubed meat, thread onto skewers grill or barbeque until done. Serve with mixed salad, if your diet isn't too severe, you can also have a pitta bread, a baked potato or some boiled rice with this.

Curry dishes are fine too, if you use a recipe which has just a spice and water base or a tomato base, it certainly won't do your calorie intake any harm but be sure to keep the oil you use for frying onions, spices or whatever, to an absolute minimum.

For vegetarians or those trying to cut down on meat because of its relatively high calorie content, Indian cooking is ideal. There are so many recipes for vegetables and pulses which are really tasty that you won't even know you're on a diet!