Indian cuisine is popular for its flavor and complexities in the culinary world. But can we generalize the regional food of India into one category? The answer is no. As you may know, India is a country with more than 22 spoken languages. Each state has its own culture and traditions, thereby the cuisines are different. These cuisines evolved over the years and were influenced by the history of that region, the trade practices (which would explain the use of several ingredients like vegetables, fruits, spices etc from other countries) and the religious beliefs which are considered very important in the country.
One of the most unique factors in Indian cuisine is the diverse use of spices. All regional cuisines have its own spice mix that gives the food its unique flavor. For instance, garam masala is a mix of ground spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander and nutmeg. This is added in a lot of north Indian curries and gravies. Use of these spices became vital during the trades from other countries in Europe and Arab. In earlier days, goods were exchanged in place of currency. This way, ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, chillies and spices were introduced to India from other countries like Portugal, Spain and Mexico.
The cuisines also developed during the rule of emperors and different dynasties. Many dishes like biryanis, pulaos, kebabs, samosa and jalebi were all introduced by the Mughal emperors and hence have a Persian influence. Hence, cities like Lucknow and Hyderabad have strong influence of Persian food. As Pakistan was a part of India before partition, northern parts of the country has influence from this country. This way, Punjabi food has similar dishes from Pakistan like lassi, Biryani with raita etc. South India has a staple diet of rice as paddy is cultivated widely in this region. Also, as there are many tropical regions in this part of the country, coconut and banana are used diversely in the south Indian cuisine. Food is prepared in coconut oil, served on banana leaf and coconut and raw bananas are used in vegetable and meat preparations.
The cuisine of any place is highly influenced by the type of agriculture (the type of soil, availability of water, climate etc thereby contributed to agriculture). For instance, Rajasthan, the western state of India mostly has deserts and cultivation of crops like rice, wheat and green vegetables are difficult. Hence, the staple there is a grain called ‘Bajra’ which requires less water and more heat. The people in the desert depend on wild berries and plants to prepare food. Similarly, North eastern states are mostly in the mountains and are closer to Tibet, Nepal and Bangladesh. The consumption of meat in this area is more as people require more protein to survive in the mountains. As winters get too harsh in this part of the country, it gets difficult to procure ingredients for cooking. Hence, people are used to preserving meats and other ingredients for months here.
Therefore, it is only fair to mention the regional influence of different preparations from India instead of mentioning all the dishes under one category of Indian cuisine.