March 7, 2017

Traditional Indian Food – What the World Needs To Know

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Butter chicken, bhuna, madras is just the tiniest speck in the vast and varied world of Indian cuisine. Jump on the wagon and discover the adventurous and amazing world of traditional Indian cuisine. 

The representation of Indian cuisine in the world I believe is fairly marginalised.

What we see on the menu is not the true representation of the Indian culture and traditional food.

But to be fair to the restaurants owners it is impossible to capture the length and breath of the sub continent in  few pages of a menu card !

So varied and vast is the expanse of traditional Indian food custom.

How Is India Classified By Food And Cooking Technique

Traditional Indian food is Influenced by regional, religious and agricultural traditions.

However, interestingly when it comes to food tastes even Indians divide the subcontinent in two regions namely the Northern flavours and the Southern flavours.

It is primarily the dishes from Northern and Southern  India that have gained popularity outside India.

The early immigrants to leave the country and settle abroad are the pioneers of bringing Indian flavours to the world map!

But there is far more to Indian cuisine than just the two divides.

There are 29 states and 22 official languages spoken in India. Each state and the regions within those states, has its own traditional food, usage of spices, ingredients and cooking styles.

This post explains some of the preferred Indian cooking methods where the technique differs from than other cuisines.

So one can truly say that traditional Indian Food is a world in itself!!

Most Used Ingredients In Traditional Indian Food

When it comes to Indian cuisine, the one thing that signifies Indian food is spices !!

Yes, spices are at the heart of Indian cooking, something you will find in every household regardless of the socio-economic background.

However its a little known fact that the use of spices was actually introduced into the Indian subcontinent by the Persian, Greek , Roman and Arab traders.

Not all Indian regions use the same spices though.  The use of a type of spice varies from region to region. More about the flavours and ingredients is discussed below.

There are however some essential Indian spices which are a must have in any kitchen.

This list of Indian spices will show the primary spices used in Indian cooking and their flavour profile.

Apart from spices, the use of whole grains such as wheat flour, rice and pulses is also very common.

Over the years the use of spices and food habits has taken a regional distinction which is what makes Indian cuisine so varied and mystical.

Different Regional Flavours Of India

Lets dive straight into what I mean by the flavourful melange of Indian food!

Following the Indian map which figuratively speaking looks like a person with a hand stretched out.

I will take you to a short culinary journey through India starting from the Northern tip to the Southern region.

Image source unknown from Internet

So here is a traditional Indian food list for you to tick off from your culinary bucket list.

Kashmiri Food

Kashmiri_cuisine_waazwan image

Kashmiri food is highly influenced from the Persian, Middle Eastern cooking style. The dishes tends to be mild and the cooking method involves marination as a must especially for non veg dishes.

A traditional Kashmiri food is known as ‘wazwan’ – which is an assortment of different dishes served on a plate.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

The gravies are flavored with spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, saffron.

Kashmiri Mirch (Chili) known for its fiery red colour but mild heat, imparts the vibrant red colour to most Indian dishes.

There is also an extensive use of yogurt,cream and dry fruits.

5 Must Try Kashmiri Food

  • Kashmiri Rogan Josh (click for recipe),
  • Yakhni Puloa (aromatic steamed rice) ,
  • Dum olav ( spicy whole potatoes),
  • Goshtaba ( minced meat cooked in yoghurt cravy)
  • Khatte Baigan ( spicy zingy aubergine curry)

Punjabi Food


Its the Punjabi cuisine which has to be given credit to bring Indian food to the world!

It is here that the Tandoori style of cooking originated from.

Known for its rich, buttery and spicy food, its a taste which symbolises Indian food all over.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

The use of spices is very liberal and varied although home cooked food is quite different to the restaurant style.

Cumin, coriander, dried methi leaves or fenugreek leaves and black pepper are some of the most popular spices used in food.

Being one of the countries major crop harvesting regions, rice and wheat is used extensively.

Traditionally, ghee, butter, paneer (Indian cottage cheese), yoghurt and kidney beans are used to cook various Punjabi dishes.

5 Must Try Punjabi Food

  • Butter chicken ( marinated chicken in creamy tomato sauce)
  • Tandoori Chicken ( roasted marinated spicy chicken )
  • Sarso ka Saag (spicy mustard leaves dish)
  • Rajma ( red kidney beans curry)
  • Chole Bhature ( deep fried Indian bread with spicy chickpeas)

Rajasthani Food


Primarily a dessert area, Rajasthani cuisine is influenced by shortage of water and lack of fresh produce. Mostly vegetarian but Rajasthani meat dishes are known for its fiery spicy flavours.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

The staple food are corn, lentils ,gram flour, buttermilk, and yogurt.  Mostly cooked in ghee with lots of chilies makes Rajasthani cuisine rich and spicy hot.

Other than chillies the use of cumin seeds, caraway seeds and asafoetida is also popular due to their good cooling and digestive properties.

5 Must Try Rajasthani Food

  • Daal Baati Churma ( baked multigrain dumplings with spicy lentils soup)
  • Gatte ki sabzi ( gramflour balls in spicy buttermilk gravy)
  • Ker Sangari ( sauteed wild berry with beans )
  • Laal Maas ( red meat in a chilli based gravy)
  • Rajasthani Kadhi (spiced yogurt based gravy )

Gujrati Food

Gujrati food

Gujrat lies in the Western part of India where food is primarily vegetarian.

The food is usually simple with the use of minimal spices.

One distinctive feature of Gujrati cuisine is the range of long lasting heavy snack type dishes like khakara, Bhakri, Thepla along with an array of fresh dishes which is made.

Many Gujrati dishes beautifully balance salty,sweet,spicy and hot flavours all together in one dish.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

Whole spices like cumin seeds, asafoetida,mustard seeds and sesame seeds are extensively used in the dishes.

Since the climate is mostly dry, the use of tomatoes, lemon and yoghurt is used to keep the body hydrated.

Dishes made with gramflour and lentils is predominant to Gujrati cuisine.

5 Must Try Gujrati Food

  • Dal dhokli (whole meal flt bread dipped in pigeon pea curry )
  • Dhokla (steamed savoury gramflour cake)
  • Thepla ( gramflour and fenugreek leaves falt bread)
  • Khichdi (fragnant rice with lentils, peas and spices)
  • Undhiyu ( Aubergine and potatoes curry)

Maharashtrian Food

Mahatashtrian thali

Laying in the south western tip of India, Maharashtra where the famous Bollywood hails from is blessed with natures bounties.

The cuisine too is well balanced with vegetarian, non vegetarian and seafood dishes.

Goanese food which has been influenced by the Portuguese forms a part of the Maharashtrian cuisine.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

Fresh vegetables and fruits are used in abundance along with whole grains such as rice, wheat, millet and lentils.

The gravies range from middle to spicy hot and there is a significant use of coconut, cashew and peanuts.

Spices and herbs include mustard seeds, curry leaves, coriander leaves, chillies, kokum and cumin seeds.

5 Must Try Mahatashtrian /Goanese Food

  • Pav Bhaaji ( bun with spicy mixed vegetable gravy)
  • Puran Poli ( jaggery filled wholemeal/gramflour bread)
  • Sabudana khichdi (spicy stir fried tapioca with peanuts)
  • Missal Pav ( tangy spicy hot lentil curry with bun)
  • Xacuti (Spicy non veg coconut based curry)

Lucknowi or Awadhi Food

Luckowi cuisine

One of the most ancient and traditional cuisines of Central India influenced by the Mughal empire.

The dishes have royalty to it.

Although rich most dishes are delicately and mildy flavoured.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

Cooked in ‘Dum’ style that is covered and very slowly stewed for long period with a handful of  aromatic whole spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, makes the dishes delectable.

Know for its kebabs,kormas and biriyanis its a very sophisticated and flavourful cuisine.

5 Must Try Lucknowi or Awadhi  Food  

  • Galouti kebab ( melt in the mouth minced aromatic meat kebabs)
  • Murg Shahi Korma ( chicken in mildly spiced cashew based gravy)
  • Awadhi Biriyani – (Aromatic spiced rice cooked with meat)
  • Kakori kebabs ( rolled out minced meat kebabs)
  • Nargisi kofta (hard boiled eggs wrapped with mince meat and dipped in spicy tomato based gravy)

Bengali Food

Must try bengali food

Bengali cuisine is known for its sweets and fish dishes.

Unlike the thali style of serving food, Bengali food is served course wise in a specific format.

They offer an array of seafood and fresh water fish dishes more than any other Indian region region.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

The use of spices are kept to minimum while ginger,mustard paste, mustard oil, fresh green chilies, poppy seeds and a special blend of 5 whole spices called ‘Panch poron’ is predominant in most dishes.

Adding sugar to savoury dishes to balance the salt and spicy flavours is also unique to its food culture.

Fish, small legumes such as yellow and red lentils  and fresh vegetables is used in plenty for cooking Bengali food.

5 Must Try Bengali Food  

  • Shukto (assorted bitter and sweet vegetables in milk based gravy)
  • Malai Kari ( prawns cooked in mildy spiced coconut gravy)
  • Machher Jhaal (fish teaks in mustard sauce)
  • Kosha Mangsho ( stir fried mutton with spices)
  • Mochar Ghonto (spiced banana flower with grated coconut and potatoes)

North Eastern Food

Food from North Eastern India

One of the most naturally gifted region of India, however the least talked about known as ‘The land of the Seven Sisters’ comprising of 7 North Eastern states.

Food is simple and for the most part non-vegetarian. Their close proximity to China and Burma have played their part in influencing the cuisine and so the taste is unlike regular Indian dishes.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

Mostly bland, bamboo shoots, fish, rice and pork forms their staple diet.

They choose to flavour their food with fermented soya, dried fish

Some regions however use fiery hot red chilies called ‘Naga chilies’ world’s hottest chili.

5 Must Try Northeast Indian Food  

  • Pehak (Soyabean based spicy chutney)
  • Hinkejvu ( assorted  local vegetables dish)
  • Fish in Bamboo
  • Galho ( rice, vegetables and meat soup)
  • Jadoh ( red rice cooked with pork)

South Indian Food

South Indian food

Its the southern part of India which has been exporting spices to the world for centuries.

The cuisine is extensive and divided by many states. It includes 5 states varying in their food cultures.

Southern Indian food has a repertoire of a unique flavour and freshness different to other Indian states.

It is perhaps the hottest cuisine in India, as the use of chillies is pretty liberal.

The dishes range from mildy spiced to very spicy depending on the cultural influence.

Most Used Spices  and Ingredients

Meals in Southern India is primarily based around rice.

The use of coconut, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, lentils and curry leaves binds the all the different Southern states into one.

Food is mainly healthy and light .

5 Must Try South Indian Food  

  • Dosa ( rice and lentils pancakes)
  • Rasam (spicy lentils and tomato soup)
  • Vada and sambhar (deep fried lentils donut with spicy lentil and veg gravy)
  • Idli ( steamed rice and lentils cake)
  • Chicken 65 ( stir fried spicy chicken)

As you can see there is more to Indian food than Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala.

A phrase that encapsulates Indian cuisine is that is it a complex melange of flavours and ingredients which intrigues and excites the tastes buds.

Its a a culinary world like no other with the many variety. What you are offered is perhaps the ‘Top 10 ‘ version of the Indian culinary tour!

The real journey into traditional Indian food  is expansive and never ending !!

traditional Indian food list

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