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Cuisine of India: A Culinary Journey Through Regions and Flavours

  • 22 Feb 2024

Indian food represents a multifaceted fabric woven over five millennia of cross-cultural interaction and culinary development. This complex history is a reflection of the blending of various people and cultures, which has produced a wide range of tastes and local specialities. It would be thus right to state that what we refer to today as “Indian Cuisine” is a blend of various culinary traditions. Each region of India: North or South, East or West, has its variations, with distinctive ingredients, ways of cooking, and cultural practices that are local and unique to each place.

History & Cultural Significance

Indian food has a fascinating history that is intricately woven into the country's cultural fabric. Its beginnings can be traced back to ancient times when extravagant feasts and culinary traditions were described in revered texts that included the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Indian food has changed dramatically over time, signifying the trade routes that linked the subcontinent with far-off places. The culinary styles of the Mughals, British, and Portuguese, as well as the early colonists who brought aromatic spices, have all had an impact on Indian cuisine. The influence of Indian food, similarly, goes much beyond its boundaries, influencing trade and global interactions. One cannot forget to mention the historic spice trade between India & Europe which was a major factor in driving “Europe’s Age of Discovery”. Much beyond it, the interchange of culinary art has had an impact on Southeast Asia, the British Isles and the Caribbean.

Due to vast variations in local culture, geography, seasons and availability of ingredients, Indian cuisine varies from region to region. Although it's not entirely fair to compress the regions into four headings, owing to the large number of cuisines and the most suitable way to dissect them, the division can be done under four headings- North, South, East, West.

North India

The world-famous North Indian cuisine consists of tandoor-cooked meats and vegetables that are enhanced with yoghurt and cream. Grains such as naan and chapatis, which are perfect side dishes, are produced from the region's abundant wheat. Born in the Mughal Empire's imperial kitchens, Mughlai cuisine delivers delicious non-vegetarian treats enhanced with saffron, yoghurt, and fried onions.

With flavours influenced by Central Asia, Kashmiri cuisine offers more than thirty different types of mutton dishes that are prepared in a special way called Wazwan, which involves boiling spices to give them a particular aroma. When one talks about North Indian food, Punjab dominates my imagination. It is home to famous delicacies like Sarson Da Saag, Mah ki Dal, and Chole Bhature. The idea of Dhabas is well-known to every traveller on most highways.

Much Similar to Persian, Kashmiri, and Punjabi cuisine, Awadhi food is renowned for its dum cooking method, which involves slow simmering food in a sealed pot while presenting flavorful ingredients like mutton and paneer as well as fragrant spices like saffron and cardamom.

South India

Food in South India is centred around griddle-cooked dosas, spicy sambar, and numerous seafood, with flavours of tamarind, coconut, and 'kari' leaves. Famous Hyderabadi meals like biryani and chicken korma, which are influenced by Mughlai flavours, are served throughout Andhra Pradesh.

Karnataka's diverse cuisine exhibits a diverse spectrum of food. It includes Brahmin pure vegetarian foods on one hand and non-vegetarian food on the other like the renowned pork specialties of Coorg, which is influenced by the nearby states of Maharashtra and Goa.

Globally popular Chettinad cuisine hailing from Tamil Nadu is renowned for its fiery flavours and aristocratic background. Muslim Moplah cuisine, with Arab- inspired dishes like Alisa, is found along the Malabar coast, while Kerala's diverse ethnic blend produces delicious foods like appam and stew, ulli theeyal, and famous banana chips.

East India

Bengali food is renowned for its use of mustard oil and chilli peppers, and it has strong flavours and a wide variety of spices. The food has a delicate but unique flavour profile, centred mostly on fish, veggies, lentils, and grains. A signature dish is fresh sweet water fish, which can be made in a variety of ways, including steaming, braising, or stewing it with sauces made with mustard or coconut milk.

Oriya food is known for its subtle flavours and love of seafood, particularly prawns and crab. It also incorporates delicate spices. As a result of their distinct environment and cultural legacies, the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, and Nagaland have varied culinary traditions that are inspired by Tibetan, Chinese, and Western cuisines.

West India

Rajasthani food is a broad range that includes the lavish meat-based foods that the royals enjoyed as well as the equally elaborate vegetarian diet of Marwar and Jodhpur, which includes famous dishes like Dal baati and choorma laddoo. Gujarati food, which is primarily vegetarian, has a range of delicacies with a hint of sweetness, such as oondhia, patra, khaandavi, and thhepla.

Dhansakh, a trademark dish of Parsi cuisine, which is a representation of the Zoroastrian culture in India, combines caramelised onions and brown rice with a mixture of dals, vegetables, and meat. It is typically consumed on Sundays and other festive occasions.

Portuguese colonisation also left its mark on Goan cuisine, which includes spicy gravies and spices ground with coconut and vinegar, such as in dishes like Vindaloos, Xacuti, and Balchão.

The food of the Konkan region, known as Malvani/Konkani cuisine, is a fusion of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. Malvani dishes are known for their spicy coconut flavour, whilst Konkanastha Brahmin cuisine tends to be milder and vegetarian in nature.


Much like everything else, the Cuisines of India are unique to every region, with special ingredients and unique cooking methods. Exploring Indian food is similar to a journey with no destination, yet full of uniqueness, history and local customs. One must accept its enormous variety, a wide range of preparation methods and regional quirks.

I must say, while researching for this blog, I learnt so much about Indian cuisines myself and understood one thing clearly, that is to know Indian food without appreciating its diverse flavours is impossible. So take a bite of every unique dish next time you visit a new state in India!


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