South India – Fiery food and vegetarian cuisine
The South Indian cuisine is characterized by a great variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. About 40 percent of the Indians call themselves vegetarians. Mostly they give up meat and fish on religious grounds. One of the vegetarian highlights is bhujia, a vegetarian curry which is located in the Tamil kitchen. Also popular are biryanis. This rice dish originates from Persia and came to India by the Mughal Empire more than 1,000 years ago. Biryani is made out of fried rice which is prepared with up to twenty spices, including saffron, chili and cinnamon. The court is usually served with raw onions and yogurt sauce. In addition to the vegetarian version, there are also chicken, lamb and mutton biryani. Each region has its own biryani recipe – with nuts and raisins or with onions and ginger or hot or mild. Very popular is Hyderabadi biryani which is found in its original cooking only in Andhra Pradesh.
The recipe is explained under: http://www.myspicykitchen.net/2008/07/17/chicken-biryani/
Rice is considered as a staple food of Southern India. As a whole grain or as flour it is part of almost every dish. Even for breakfast, rice flour is used for the preparation of delicious dosas (rice pancakes) and idlis (rice cakes). They are traditionally served with sambar (lentil sauce) and chutney.
Here you can find the recipe for Indian masala dosas: http://www.indianfoodforever.com/snacks/masala-dosa.html
Another feature of the South Indian cuisine is the enormous spiciness of the food which is poorly tolerated by many foreigners. It can lead to stomach problems and tongue numbness. Of course, it is possible to ask for a milder alternative in every restaurant. But who wants to get involved with the culinary experiment India should also try very spicy dishes – insofar your health allows it. Green and red chilies, pepper and ginger from Kerala ensure the spiciness. Other used spices are tamarind and curry leaves.
The cuisine of Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat – Shellfish, dhal and pork
There is no common Western Indian cuisine because the Western states Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat are cultural significantly different from each other. That’s the reason why they developed various eating habits. In Goa, there is an above-average number of Catholics. Eating pork is here – in contrast to the rest of India – possible in many restaurants. A well-known specialty is vindaloo, very spicy, in garlic marinated pork meat.
Original vindaloo is made as follows: http://www.food.com/recipe/chicken-vindaloo-177572
Even lovers of fish and seafood get their money’s worth in West India. A traditional snack in Maharashtra is bombay duck, fried lizard fish which is native to tropical waters, and is cooked freshly caught. If you like it a little fancier, you can visit one of the many seafood restaurants in Goa. There you will find lobster, squid and shark on the menu – due to the Portuguese tradition – usually seasoned with lots of garlic.
As most vegetarian percentage live in Gujarat, the food differ significantly from the other two Western states. Therefore, neither fish nor meat are traditionally eaten. Very common on the menu are lentil dishes, such as dhal, which are seasoned very spicy.
How does the Indian eat?
Despite regional differences, there are some similarities in eating habits. Indians eat normally with their right hand. They don’t us silverware. Flatbreads serve as a kind of spoon; rice is mixed with sauce until it sticks on your fingers. It is frowned upon taking the left hand for eating because it is originally used as a toilet paper replacement. As a foreigner, it isn’t that bad if this mishap happens once. Of course, there is also cutlery in almost every restaurant. You just have to ask for it.
If food is too spicy, a lassi could maybe help. The buttermilk drink can be ordered as a sweet or salty version. Further cooling drinks are coconut milk and nimbu pani, a lime drink. Many Indians like drinking tea after the meal or just in between. Tea, also called chai, is made with milk and sugar, boiled in a huge kettle and stirred again and again.
Food is traditionally served on a thali, a metal tray. All components of the dish are placed on the tray, in metal bowls. After the food, you get a finger bowl, a bowl with warm water and lemon, in which you wash your hand. Similarly, you get pan, a sugar, anise and fennel mixture, that cleans your teeth and freshens the breath.