What should foreigners know about Indian cuisine

What Should Foreigners Know About Indian Cuisine?

Crossing the oceans and mountains, Indian food has found its way into the hearts and homes of the people. From the moment it was savoured, humanity was smitten by the creamy butter chicken and the billowy charred naan. 

But, what most of the world knows is just the tip of the iceberg of the great Indian cuisine. The diverse region boasts an unending list of unique dishes with secrets of six delightful tastes that it might take years for you to explore. 

So, why wait? Travel with us for a culinary voyage and view Indian cuisine from a new lens. 

The Rich Regional Variations 

India showcases the utmost beauty of the landscape with every step. From green lush forests, dry golden deserts, and serene backwaters to majestic mountains crowned with snow, the gorgeous scenes would awaken the wanderlust in you. 

Much like them, the tastes of India evolve, with each region presenting delicious dishes echoing the local flavours and traditions. 

Made with a touch of love, you can taste the genuine warmth and innocent joy that Indians pour into their food. That, right there, is the heart of Indian food.

  • North Indian Cuisine 

North Indian cuisine uses the tandoor ovens that infuse the smoky depth to meats and breads. Ah, Tandoori Chicken, Fish Tikka, Seekh Kebab make your mouth water, literally! The classic comfort food of Gosht Rogan Josh is what culinary dreams are made of. 

Naan, the chewy flatbread, needs no introduction as it is a favourite among many Indians and foreigners alike. It comes in a different assortment of toppings as garlic, butter and cheese. 

The North Indian gems light up the promise of the diary traditions to be reflected in all the dishes. They are bathed in creamy gravies to add richness and oomph. Palak Paneer and Chicken Tikka Masala are irresistible creations. 

  • Southern Indian Cuisine

South Indian cuisine is a fiesta of rice, lentils and coconut. Most of the dishes basically revolve around rice. 

A refreshing change from the heartier dishes of the north, meals here are often fermented or steamed. Idly, Puttu, Dosa, Appam give you that perfect light and satisfying eating experience.

Steaming bowls of sambar, a soothing lentil and vegetable stew, can warm your heart. Coast to coast, each zone of South India proudly uses its signature ingredients and techniques to extend the countless versions of Sambar like Udupi Sambar, Arachivitta Sambar. 

Sizzling with spices and oils, the tender fish provides you with a sea of taste. You simply cannot miss Meen Polichadhu, Kannur Meen Moilee and Gramathu Meen Kozhambu. 

The rustic Kozhi Chettinad, flavourful Hyderabadi Gosht Dum Biryani, spicy Royyala Vepudu are the other tasty non-vegetarian options from down south to capture your heart. 

  • Western Indian Cuisine 

Steeped in tradition, Western Indian cuisine displays the versatility of dried lentils and legume dishes. 

There is something delicious for everyone here! If you are a vegetarian or enjoy meat-based dishes, you will find a fantastic range of options, all with varying spice levels to suit your taste buds.

The fiery Goan Vindaloo, yummy Methi Ka Thepla, Dhokla are some of the delectable delicacies of the western food empire. The iconic street snacks of Vada Pav, Bhel Puri, Pav Paji give you the most unforgettable flavourful journey. 

  • Eastern Indian Cuisine 

Freshwater fish, mustard oil, poppy seeds and chillies join together to bring the incredible flavours of Eastern Indian cuisine. For a welcome escape from the heat, the dishes brim with cool and calming yoghurt. 

The cooking art forms of steaming, smoking and stir-frying are visible here. Savour the delicate flavours of Machher Jhol, the staple fish curry of West Bengal, relish the bold notes of Pakku mutton curry and delight in the simple pleasures of Litti Chokha balls. 

When it comes to East Indian sweets, Roshogolla, Ras Malai, Kheer host the most heavenly party for your taste buds. 

The Spice Theory 

The magic of spices is what makes Indian food a celebration. Spices are just as important as the ingredients themselves. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without them, Indian cuisine would lose its soul. 

Spices are so much more than a flavour dust, they are the ones that bring life to the whole dish. And, these spices hold wonderful medicinal properties too. 

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, while fennel seeds aid digestion. For centuries, Indian cuisine has used spices to promote overall well-being.

The charming spice box, Anjarai Petti, is a beloved resident of Tamil kitchens incorporating flavours that heal your heart and body. The essential spice mix from Eastern India, Panch Phoran, features white cumin seeds, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and fenugreek seeds. 

The elegance of the spice lies in the nuance of using them. A pinch of this, a sprinkle of that can transform your simple dish into a scrumptious meal. 

The Spicy O’ Metre

Indian food has a reputation for being mouth-scorchingly spicy. While it is true that some dishes pack a punch, there is a whole spectrum of spicy levels, from mild to wild, to please every palate. 

For the foodies out there with a little hint of heat tolerance, let us show you the ideal starting point. 

Dishes like Dal Makani, Malai Kofta, Butter Chicken, Uthappam, and Khichdi are comforting, and flavourful and do not make you feel the burn. They are also perfect for the gentle introduction of vibrant flavours of Indian cuisine to your taste buds. 

And, if you are up for a good spice challenge, the delicacies of Laal Maas, Rista and Andhra Chilli Chicken are here to make you drool, leaving you with a smile and a happy tear or two. 

Oh, many restaurants allow you to adjust your spice preferences, so you don’t have to skip these mouthwatering foods. Even at home, chillies are usually added towards the end, allowing you to control the intensity. So, get to rejoice in all the amazing flavours these dishes have to offer.

Six Distinct Flavour Profiles

Heat is merely a component of the rich fabric of Indian cuisine. Every dish is a masterpiece crafted with a beautiful balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy and astringent notes. 

These six flavours are not individual strands to be experienced in isolation but intertwined threads, each playing a role throughout the dish. Sweetness tempers heat, sourness cuts through richness and bitterness adds complexity.

They are layered in the foods to keep your palate engaged and encounter fireworks of tastes, as you savour them. But, depending on the region, the balance may shift a bit. 

Feast For The Senses 

The intoxicating aroma of Indian meals filling the room is an invitation that leaves your stomach rumbling in anticipation. Even the simplest dish hits and tempts you visually in golden yellow, earthy red and emerald greens. 

We have long established the taste aspects of Indian cuisine. But, trust us, we could sing praises about the extraordinary flavours all day long. 

The sounds of happy chatter and bursts of laughter bubbling around a shared meal convert a warm meal into cherished moments. Ah, Indian foods are truly a feast for your senses! 

The Allure Of Desserts 

Beyond the familiar contentment of gulab jamun and ladoo lies a universe of delectable Indian desserts for you to discover. Oh, your sweet tooth has only seen the drop of an ocean. 

Indian desserts are often made with milk, clarified butter, nuts, spices and sometimes even seasonal fruits. The flavours are complex and interesting. There are playful mixes of textures ranging from pillowy softness to fried crispness to try. 

Sparkling at every gathering and festival, these treats bring families and friends together to create soulful memories. 

No matter what you choose for your main course, be sure to leave room for these tasty Indian desserts of Gajar Ka Halwa, Kaju Katli, Kulfi, Soan Papdi and Payasam. A sweet ending to the Indian culinary adventure indeed!

Well, Indian cuisine is more than just the food itself. It is the warmth of a hand refilling your plate, a silent gesture of care and love. It is the remainder of the vast flavourful diversity that each nation brings, yet to be savoured and appreciated. 

So, come hungry, come curious and prepare to be delighted by the luscious dishes. And, if you happen to be in Amsterdam, stop by The Madras Diaries for authentic Indian food and witness the magic yourself!