All my life, I have loved Indian Cuisine. The mouth-burning spices, the aromatic ingredients, and the complexity of flavors are what Indian food is known for and I grew up surrounded by all these amazing delicacies, savoring a different dish in every single day of my life.
Growing up, this was the normal food; food that I ate regularly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No other cuisines were introduced to me, I didn’t discover any new tastes. I grew up believing that everyone around the world had the same curry, rice, and roti and that it had always been this way, never different. It wasn’t until later that I realized that food, like technology and medicine, has been developing since the ancient times too.
In the olden days, cooking with cereals and pulses was one of the first cooking methods introduced. As time passed on, the Indian civilization strived towards advancement. This was during the Vedic period, where cooking was innovative and all about experimenting with new recipes. Food in ancient India faced many massive changes as the rule of empires changed. During these times meat was strictly forbidden due to sacred beliefs, therefore vegetarian meals were encouraged. It was believed that a vegetarian diet contributed to the enlightenment of the body, mind, and spirit.
In the Medieval period, the cuisine underwent changes brought by the Mughal Cuisine from Central Asia. Various kinds of fruits, flatbreads were introduced and scrumptious dishes were prepared during the rule of Shah Jahan and Jahangir. This was followed by the Chinese and Portuguese developing their own style of cooking with widely popular dishes such as Vindaloo and Manchuria. This still continues today.
Religion has also played a big role in the development of Indian Cuisine. While the Hindus regularly practiced vegetarian meals, the Muslims ate more meat giving a wider variety of dishes to present in the menu. Other religions such as Sikhism and Christianity also developed some of the classic recipes to match their tastes and influenced the cuisine to consist of a more diverse platter.
My personal diet has always included much curry and rice, which may seem boring but has always been an adventure for me. My mother cooks a different curry each day using a variety of vegetables in different ways, such as frying the veggies dry or adding gravy to give it a thick soupy texture.
Similarly, the climate varies across the whole country, which makes the food habits of certain regions distinct to others. Wheat dominates the diet of North Indians, along with roasted dishes, particularly of meat. Flatbreads are another popular choice up in the North where the cool yet dry climate is great for cattle, hence the excessive use of dairy adding the creamy and soft texture to the curries.
On the other hand, rice is preferred down the South, along with tangy and spicy flavored dishes. The curries are attributed with coconut oil, or coconut milk rather than dairy products and a mixture of ground masala is added for extra aroma.
Each region has a food special for the people living there and introduces any foreigners to the culture of their land. The specialty of all these dishes is that they communicate with everyone; they express the creator’s affection through their flavors.
Today, in modern India, Hindu vegetarian food, Mughal savories, foreign delicacies and especially sweets are a major attraction not just during festivals but also in everyday life. Family recipes have been carried down the generations with hope to live on forever and the diversity in food also highlights unity in-between different states and cultures.
In my mother's village, there is a tradition of making mango pickle every summer. The amount of spice it contains is breath-taking yet I enjoy it wholeheartedly. What stands out about this dish is that it can last for years and tastes great with anything!
I would like to conclude, by saying that India has a very diverse cuisine, with many different cultures and flavors that are a part of it. The recipes have undergone many changes since the last 5000 years and reached what they are today. Some are new flavors, some are old classics, some are sweet and sugary, and some are spicy and tangy. Either way, the Indian Cuisine is one of the most colorful and flavorsome cuisines that exist, and with such great history and complexity perhaps it could be the best?