Cuisine – Himachal Pradesh

The Indian cuisine is as diverse as its culture, its racial structure, its geography and its climate. The essence of good Indian cooking revolves around the appropriate use of mixed Aromatic Spices. Base ingredients of such mixed spices are elements such as Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Red Pepper, Nutmeg, Mustard, Saffron, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Ginger Powder, Paprika, Mace, Cardamom, Cloves, Black Pepper etc. The skill lies in the subtle blending of these spices to enhance rather than overwhelm the basic flavour of a particular dish. These spices are also used as appetizers and digestives.

Besides spices, the other main ingredients of Indian cooking and Indian meals are milk products like Ghee (clarified butter) and Dahi (curd). Lentils or Dals are also common across the country and regional preferences and availability determine the actual use in a particular area. Vegetables naturally differ across regions and with seasons. The style of cooking vegetables is dependent upon the main dish or cereal with which they are served. Whereas the Sarson-ka-Saag (made with mustard leaves) is a perfect complement for the Makke-ki-Roti (maize bread) eaten in Punjab, the Sambhar (a mixture of lentil and vegetables) and Rice of Tamil Nadu taste best eaten with deep-fried vegetables.

Although a number of religions exist in India, the two cultures that have influenced Indian cooking and food habits are the Hindu and Muslim traditions. Each new wave of settlers brought with them their own culinary practices. However, over time they adopted a lot of specialties and cooking methods from the Indian cuisine and blended the two to perfection. The Portuguese, the Persians and the British made important contributions to the Indian culinary scene. It was the British who started the commercial cultivation of tea in India.

The Hindu vegetarian tradition is widespread in India. The Muslim tradition is most evident in the cooking of meats. Mughlai Food – Kababs, rich Kormas (curries) and Nargisi Koftas (meat-balls), the Biryani (a layered rice and meat preparation), Rogan Josh, and preparations from the clay oven or Tandoor like Tandoori Rotis and Tandoori Murg (Chicken) are all important contributions made by the Muslim settlers in India.

A typical North-Indian Meal would consist of Chapatis or Rotis (unleavened bread baked on a griddle) or Parathas (unleavened bread fried on a griddle), Cice and an assortment of accessories like Dals, Fried Vegetables, Curries, Curd, Chutney and Pickles. For dessert one could choose from the wide array of sweetmeats from Bengal like Rasagulla, Sandesh, Rasamalai and Gulab-Jamuns. North Indian desserts are very similar in taste as they are derived from a milk pudding or rice base and are usually soaked in syrup. Kheer a form of rice pudding, Shahi Tukra or bread pudding and Kulfi, a nutty ice cream are other common northern desserts.

South Indian Food is largely non-greasy, roasted and steamed. Rice is the staple diet and forms the basis of every meal. It is usually served with Sambhar, Rasam (a thin lentil soup), Dry and Curried Vegetables and a curd preparation called Pachadi. Coconut is an important ingredient in all South Indian food. The South Indian Dosa (rice pancakes), Idli (steamed rice cakes) and Vada, which is made of fermented rice and dal, are now popular throughout the country. The popular dishes from Kerala are Appams (a rice pancake) and thick stews. Desserts from the south include the Mysore Pak and the creamy Payasum (south Indian counter part of kheer).

No meal is complete without a Paan (betel leaf). A green leaf is rolled with an assortment of digestive spices like Aniseed, Cloves, Arecanut, and Cardamom. To make it more palatable sometimes it is stuffed with sweetened rose petals locally known as Gulkand. Paan is considered to be an ideal round off for any Indian meal.

Besides the main dishes, there are also countless Irresistible Snacks available on every street corner, such as Samosa, Fritters, Dosa and Vada. For the more conservative visitor, western cooking can always be found. Indeed, the best styles of cooking from throughout the world can be experienced in the major centres in India. Tea is India’s favourite drink, and many of the varieties are famous the world over. It will often come ready brewed with milk and sugar unless black tea is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink), Lassi (iced buttermilk) and Coconut Milk straight from the nut are cool and refreshing. Soft Drinks (usually sweet) and Bottled Water are widely available, as are Western alcoholic drinks. Indian beer and Gin are comparable with the world’s best.

An integral part of Indian cuisine is the way in which it is consumed. Traditional cuisine has certain customs, like sitting on floor or on very low stools, another custom is to eat with your fingers but remember only of the right hand. The variety of Indian cooking is immense, it is colourful and aromatic, it can be fiery or not as desired and it is inexpensive even at the top class hotels. No wonder, then that it is one of the most popular cuisine in the world nor will it be any more surprising when it becomes the first.