Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

About Indian Cuisine

As one of the world's largest countries, India has many distinctive regional cuisines, and the culinary style of each region is strongly influenced by its indigenous vegetation and wildlife. In the Himalayan region to the north, meats and grains are the primary ingredients and are often prepared using oil. Southern Indian cuisine is spicy, and is often steamed and served with rice. Along the coastlines, seafood is abundant, and is therefore a common ingredient in everyday meals. The northern plains regions, including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are known for flatbreads such as roti, parantha, puri, and naan. And provinces such as Kashmir, Mughlai Bengal and Assam, which border continental Asia, are strongly influenced by Chinese and East Asian cuisine.

The jungles of India provide an abundance of tropical fruits such as mangoes, guava, papaya, bananas, and coconuts, which are used to make chutneys to serve as condiments for the main dish. The most common spices used in Indian food are corriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard seed, cardamom, cloves, aniseed, asafoetida, tamarind, chili, ginger, and garlic.

Religion also plays a role in Indian cuisine. While the Muslim diet includes beef and lamb, the Hindu and Buddhist people maintain a strictly vegetarian diet that includes grains and legumes, as well as milk and milk products, such as yogurt, cheese, curds and ghee.

Historically, Indian food has been influenced by traders, invaders and immigrants from all over the world, including the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C., Moghul invaders in the 16th century, Portuguese and Dutch traders, and the British, during the colonial era of the 18th and 19th centuries, all of which left their culinary mark on the cuisine.