Monday, February 15, 2010

The Art of Indian Cooking – Unity in Diversity

There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves. This is a typical Indian womens thinking .

Cooking is both art and science. As a science, the kitchen becomes a laboratory, the setting for discoveries that work so well they become classics, or fail so abysmally that they are lessons in what to not do. As science, food becomes cuisine. Painters learn to add a small amount of gray to a bright green apple to emphasize the shadowed areas. Cooks learn to add a 'pinch' of a favorite spice to enhance flavor. Scientists maintain the rigor of exactitude. Cooks weigh and measure to produce a finished result that is consistent.

The Art of Indian Cooking – Unity in Diversity

Climatic Diversity
The Indian Sub-Continent has practically all the climatic zones of the world, and the natural ingredients vary accordingly. People learn to eat what is naturally available and what makes sense for the climatic belt, thus we start seeing trends like, people in coastal India cook with a lot of fish, people in the dessert regions eat more grains and drier foods and people in snow areas prefer more fruits and nuts.

Religious and Ethnic Diversity
India is home to most of the major religions of the world, this adds a major dimensions to the cooking, such as muslims do not eat pork, Hindus are either vegetarian or do not eat beef or pork,and there are people who wont use onion and garlic .In fact, most people would say people in India are diverse in every possible aspect, religion, language, to ethnicity.

External Influences
There have been foreign colonial influences in parts of India that have impacted certain regions, the Moghul or Persian influences on north Indian cooking, Portuguese influences on West Indian cooking in Goa, and French influences on South Indian cooking in Pondichery .

Regions of Indian Cooking

I. The Himalayan Valley: ( Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh):
This area is rich in fruits, vegetables and grains. The regional cuisine has two major influences the Hindu cuisine and the Muslim Cuisine noted for its elaborate emphasis on hospitality and a true Muslim banquet (Wazwan) which consists of a 36-course meal. The food is rich with nuts
, rice, dried fruits with both vegetable and meat widely used.

II. North India: This consists of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana Punjab and Madhya Pradesh (the heartland of India). This is a huge amount of diversity in the cuisine of this region. The cuisine of Punjab and Haryana is rich in dairy products, grain and most notably is the home of the tandoori (India clay oven) style of cooking. Favorites such as tandooris, naan are all from this style of cooking.
Uttar Pradesh has its own indigenous cuisine and has large pockets of vegetarian Jain style cuisine, but also is famous for the Moghlai (moghul style of cooking) found predominantly in Lucknow . There is also a Dum-Pukth method of cooking in this region where the food is cooked in sealed clay-pots on very low heat, so all the natural flavors are preserved and the food is meltingly tender. We have several varieties of kebabs and birayanis.

III. The Gangetic Plains: Also can be considered eastern India, this lush fertile wet area with an abundance of rice, palm trees and wonderful fresh-water fish consists of the states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Orrisa. The Bengali cuisine is rich in fish and seafood and delicately sweetened with coconut and flavored with mustard oil. This was also the home of the British Raj and consists of a significant and unique Anglo-India Cuisine with classic dishes like the mulligatawny soup and also popularized the sweet mango chutney as a staple being served with Indian food. The other influenced cuisines of this region are the Indo-Chinese cuisine and the cooking of the Baghdadi Jewish Community. The cuisine in Bihar and Orissa have certain similarities in the use of the 5-spice seasoning, use of fish and coconut more in Orrisa than Bihar.

IV. The Northeast of India: These comprise of the states east of West Bengal and include Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. There is widespread use of dried fish and seafood to enrich the dishes, use of items like chives to season lentil dishes and there is also extensive use of fermented grains. An interesting feature of the cuisine of this area is the use of asafetida with onions, since in most other regions this is used alternately.

V. The Konkan Coast: We have another belt that outlines the parts of the southern coastline and consists of parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. There are some similarities between the Goan cuisine and the Konkani Maharashtran especially in the use of coconuts and seafood and fish and generous use of spices. The Goan cuisine however has a more distinct Portuguese influence, and uses a lot of vinegar (instead of lime or yogurt) and toddy( palm liquor to season the food. Karnataka has two styles of cooking, the Brahmin cuisine that is strictly vegetarian, the cuisine of Coorg which among other things is noted for their Pork dishes and the

VI. The Thar Desert, consists of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Delhi: As may be expected the food in this region is fairly dry simple and grain based. There is extensive use of various flours such as the chick-pea flour, finger millet flour in the preparation of food that travels well. This is an extremely colorful part of the country. Gujarati food is traditionally vegetarian and slightly sweet and consists of interesting steamed bread dishes and is generally very healthy. Delhi is noted for its chats which are these sweet, spicy and tangy salads with vegetables and crispy crackers. Rajasthan has more elaborate food since it has several Rajput royal families associated with its cuisine and consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines.

V. The Deccan Plateau: This consists of the Dravidian belt Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerela . Andhra Pradesh has the Hindu vegetarian cuisine and the Muslim cuisine of Hyderabad, this state is noted for its extremely spicy cuisine. Pondicherry was a French colony and the food displays the French influence, Tamil Nadu has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and also a specialty Chettinad cuisine which is both vegetarian and non-vegetarian., Kerala is largely non-vegetarian with an extensive use of fish, seafood and meat. In fact, the cuisine here is relatively sparse in the use of vegetables.

1 comment:

Suresh S R said...

good initiation. keep it