A Guide to Indian Food by Region

Most of us have grown up experiencing Indian food as part of our weekly diet; and I think we can all agree that Indian food is delicious! Although we experience an abundance of Indian restaurants in the major cities of the world most of these restaurants are serving a generic type of Indian food. Unfortunately, the restaurants adapt to the flavour of their Indian food to match better with local tastes while not serving authentic traditional food.

Traditionally Indian food is not the same as you travel across India, in some locations you will find Indian dishes have subtle variations. Some are more tomato based with spices and other can be packed with chilies that give a mouth numbing experience.

If you have tried many different regional curries in your lifetime you will understand that there is a common thread connecting Indian cuisine across the nation.

The prolific use of a diverse range of spices that give Indian cuisine it’s unique and immediately identifiable flavour connect all Indian dishes. The use of cardamon, fenugreek, cloves, and other spices are the DNA of Indian cuisine. You will find regions of India where the food is eaten with bread and other regions are more dependent on rice.

This article will provide the reader with a guide to Indian cuisine by region. But, first, let’s find out about some of the influences of Indian cuisine.

Colonial Influences

India has been colonised throughout its history and one particular point in history stands out. India has always been recognized as a great trading nation and Indian spices were prized by many cultures such as the Arabs and Persians and the Portuguese. These mariners introduced their own influence on Indian cuisine, the Portuguese introduced new world items like tomato and chili. All the traders exchanging different food groups influenced Indian food as we know it today.

When the British colonized India there was little to no influence on the Indian cuisine apart from making it more British! Some Indian foods found in British Indian restaurants stray far from authentic Indian recipes. Although certain Indian chicken dishes now are recorded as England’s favourite food.

Northern Indian Cuisine

When venturing out for a curry with our friends and family the most likely regional dish we will come across is from North India. Northern Indian cuisine utilises the clay oven known as the tandoor. Tandoor cooked meats are delicious and can be found in every Indian restaurant in most cities in the world. The meats are marinated in spices and yogurts before cooking. The result is a spectacular Indian dish. The tandoor is also used to cook the ubiquitous naan bread.

Northern Indian cuisine uses creams, cheese and clarified butter in there cooking process. Handy snacks such as samosas are also a creation of the Northern Indian cuisine.

In general Northern cooking uses a lot of cream in the dishes which produce dishes such as the Korma.

Western Indian Cuisine

Western Indian cuisine is influenced by its proximity to the ocean, and the prevalence of traders visiting the area. The Western dishes are heavily influenced by coconut milk. You will find coconut milk in most Western Indian cuisine.

Indian food from the Goa region is recognized for its spicy heavy chili influence from the Portuguese. Fish also presents a major part of the Goa inspired dishes. A staple of any Indian restaurant is the Vindaloo; Vindaloo originates from Goa and was almost certainly created from Portuguese influences. Vindaloo derives its name from the marinade used in the preparation of the dish. The marinade consists of Wine, garlic, vinegar, and chili.

The Sweetness of Eastern Indian Cuisine

The east of India is synonymous with its delicately made sweet dishes that are served across India. Semolina and cheese curds are made into balls and then cooked gently in flavoured syrups making the perfect ending to any Indian meal.

Eastern curries use a lot of fish being located close to the ocean, You will find a reliance on mustard seeds, mustard oil and poppy seed to give a subtle delicate flavour to the food.

South Indian Cuisine

Southern cuisine is not normally found in popular Indian restaurants, for some reason the different consistencies of the gravies are not something we have become used to in the Western cities. Southern cuisine can be soup like gravy with meat or more traditional a drier paste-like sauce which is normally eaten with vegetables.

One food we will all recognize that originates from the south of India is the poppadum’s; the light crispy friend poppadum is served almost with every Indian meal.