With Indias vast geographical range and varied natural resources, cooking is highly regional.
In the past, difficult transportation meant that cooks couldnt obtain fresh ingredients from other parts of the country, so local dishes developed, making the most of available produce. The number of religions throughout India also has a strong influence on food and cooking, as each has its own strict dietary code.
The diversity of Indian cuisine is most obvious in the contrast between the rich, meat based dishes served with bread in the northern states of the Punjab, Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, and the spicy hot, pulse based vegetarian cuisine of the south, where rice is the staple accompaniment.
Even today, food from the north reflects the influence of the Muslim Moguls who conquered India in the 16th century. The invaders brought with them a love of good living and rich Persian recipes for fragrant and flavourful rice dishes, such as the fruit and nut Pilaus and the saffron flavoured meat and rice casseroles called Biryanis.
Mogul courts located in the northern cities became the sites of lavish banquets and great feasts; gold and silver platters were piled high with mounds of subtly flavoured and beautifully coloured food, garnished with thin leaves of pounded silver called Vark.
This legacy lives on, in that the food prepared for todays great celebrations, weddings, births and family gatherings will be Mogul style dishes. Other popular dishes that reflect the Mogul influence, both locally and on Indian restaurant menus around the world, include Kormas, braised meat in a creamy sauce, and Koftas, spicy meatballs that are first grilled and then slowly cooked in rich sauces.
Rice is served with every meal in the southern regions of India, and as it doesnt grow there, it has to be transported from the north. Traditionally, all the dishes in an Indian meal are served at once, without any concept of courses; although, Indian restaurants in the west do follow the style of serving different courses. Whether you like to go to a good Indian restaurant or like to try out the many varied dishes at home for yourself, there is no denying Indian cuisine is one of the most flavourful and popular in the world.
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