The food of India reflects the great variety of indian life. What people eat depends on the crops raised in the area, the ethnic and religious traditions and their lifestyles. These variations create a fascinating and unique easy indian recipes.
Snacks are popular in India. Hungry moviegoers may munch on samosas, fried stuffed pastries (a favorite movie theater concession) as they watch a recent release from India's billion-dollar movie industry.
On crowded city streets, vendors peddle a selection of tasty on-the-go food. They sell kheema, seasoned meat, as well as salty, crunchy mixtures of nuts and pulses. They make these treats on site with portable cookware and fresh ingredients from roadside markets. Vendors also offer glasses of brightly colored sharbats, sweet drinks made with sugar and flavorings such as mint and sandalwood.
Indians drink many kinds of beverages. In southern India, coffee is the preferred beverage, and many households grind coffee beans fresh every day. Tea is grown in northern India, where it is often served with cinnamon and cloves. Many indian dishes can burn the tongue, so indians often respond with salty, creamy beverages such as cold buttermilk or a yogurt drink called lassi.
Among indians who choose to eat meat, religious affiliation often dictates which animals they may consume. Muslims are forbidden by their religion to eat any pork or pork products, but they are allowed to have beef and other kinds of meat. Lamb kebabs and yogurt chicken reveal a muslim influence at the indian table.
Hindus, in contrast, never eat beef because the cow is considered a sacred animal in the hindu faith. Spicy fried fish is typical traditional cuisine among meat-eating hindus. Frequently, the meat prepared in indian homes consists of a few small pieces stewed in thick sauces much like those common in vegetarian curry dishes. Many devout hindus eat no meat at all and are strict vegetarians, avoiding even seafood and eggs.
Generally, people in India eat far less meat than do other people around the world. The emphasis on meatless dining has led to a unique cuisine of vegetarian delights. Indian vegetarian recipes are known to surprise and satisfy even those unaccustomed to meatless meals.
Working with a few key ingredients, indian cooks have created amazingly varied and flavorful dishes from simple staples. One of the most important staples of the indian diet is dal, the hindi word for "pulses", those versatile beans, lentils, and peas.
Many indian dals are not available in the United States, but the ones used in these recipes can be obtained at supermarkets, indian or middle eastern markets, cooperative groceries, or health food stores. Most indians have some kind of dal at almost every meal. As a protein source, eaten with a starchy food like bread or rice and a milk product like yogurt, dal is a key part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Indian cuisine seeks a satisfying balance of tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and three types of bitter). This goal comes from Ayurveda, a 5,000 year-old science that focuses on food and natural remedies as tools to achieve a long and healthy life. According to ayurvedic belief, eating layered and balanced flavors encourages proper digestion and the release of positive, nurturing energy from the foods we eat.
Accompaniments like raita, chutney, bread, and rice are crucial to achieving this coveted balance, so they are a prominent part of every indian meal. Raita is a cool, crunchy topping of yogurt mixed with vegetables or fruit. Indian cooks usually make their own yogurt out of water buffalo milk. Chutneys are sweet, sour, mild or fiery delicacies served with every indian meal to contrast with the main dish. Bread and balls of rice are practical accompaniments that diners use to scoop up the juicy sauces, as well as to neutralize some of the sharper flavors.
Most indian families do not eat desserts on a regular basis. On holidays and other special occasions, however, treats flow from the kitchen. Common dessert ingredients include milk, sugar, cardamom, and nuts. Holiday food is almost always vegetarian. That way no one is excluded from the feast as families and friends gather together to partake in good company and good food.
The following recipes introduce the typical fare of particular holidays and festivals. Many of the dishes reappear at several special occasions throughout the year. You don't have to wait for a festival to enjoy these goodies. To imitate an indian celebration, whip up a dish or two, look your best, and invite friends and family to join you.