Regional Indian cuisine: My Insights
My Culinary Journey to Regional India: Food spicy and subtle, varied and Exciting

As a Chef and a great lover for food in its all aspects, food becomes my raison de etre to enjoy, research , learn, unlearn, create and relish.

 It’s been, since a shade over last twenty five years, leaving by first few years of my initial learning of culinary conversions, it was my dream to research and discover regional cuisines of India and compare, with thoughts to attenuate but also to have an in depth self knowledge. I started it, had many pauses and slowly collated this information on 39 regional Indian cuisines and some more where the voyage is incomplete.

I was very eager to know and understand the authentic tastes and culinary styles of our gastronomical inheritance with this huge geographical mass. Here the recipes replace a few ingredients, with similar strokes of known styles, indigenous societies, cultures, family traditions and the geographical representation and its changed culinary faces.

It is not just one typical trend or style or spice or ingredients or cooking vessel or the heat which makes a broader pattern to be called Indian food, I feel it is very diverse and that’s what creates a holistic ecstasy on an inspiration towards different food finding methods, with different eating styles and different serving styles with different accompaniments and an overall allure to dazzle the senses. As I coupled self to this study, it started transmitting not just Indian gastronomy but also history, geography, cultures & its stories.

I was enthused and delighted with bonhomie and the eagerness ... I connected as they transmitted....I felt a part of the bigger family. There was recognition of coexistence... Of Indians as Indians... The anticipation of a fine product on the anvil... I believed in their beliefs... culinary concepts...And they truly believed that I turned with urge to no forge.  Learned with them authenticity in true sense... Continue to do so... And beside we want chest to expand... Heads to reach higher with confidence… as a passionate Chef.

This all started from home and neighborhood families, friends, colleague chefs and so on. I started this unfinished voyage to Great Indian Gastronomy. I went to peoples house kitchens, commercial kitchens, Dhabas, , spoke to people in the community , learned the recipes and recreated most. I wanted to box this in a book, and reached out Sanjay Ramachandran who is the best in food photography to capture this into a photo representation, and he supported me with full energy and picturistique forms. Alas! The book could never be finished; nevertheless, I start this blog to represent the same.

 

We live in a country where almost every 20 km away, you can see different cultural mores.  In those varied societal and cultural practices, are eating habits that are inseparable parts of the regions.  I feel one could almost map the geographic and cultural diversity through these cuisines – dishes that are spicy and bland, as much as spongy or crispy.

In India food from area to area, has strong influences by faith, religion and tradition as it is by geographical Landmarks. Early days, the Mughals invaded India and brought with them their Central Asian Muslim cuisine, meat based cuisine; their influence was more in North India which still can see its signature as some of the best meat gastronomy. Broadly south where Mogul sway was trivial, the cooking is mainly vegetarian, and the coastal India where Christian, Zoroaster, Jewish and Muslim influence has pre-dominated.

As a regional specific agricultural and climatic connect, India’s regional cooking is also influenced by the staple food of the area, wheat grows in North so, the food is with it, and the sauces are thicker than in the South India where rice is the staple diet.  This is because we eat with our hands, and with the help of a chapatti, Rotis, whole-wheat breads, it is easier to pick up dry food.  The more liquid curries are better eaten with rice, which is extra permeable.  Climate, too, plays its part and the South, with its humid, grows an abundance of vegetables that make the vegetarian cuisine varied and exciting.

 

 

I discovered, the local cheese Kaladi in Kashmir with the Haaq and Hand pounded Rishta and Goshtaba to Peera Rajjmah Chawal and Rich Dogra food in Jammu. I moved to various Parts in Himachal to learn Madra and Sidu in Himachal, Punjab with its authentic Saag and Cholley to Princely inheritance and Delhis street food to its multifold gastronomical culture. Whilst I discovered these great cuisines, I also experienced a Great pride taken by the women in making pickles and preserves at home.  Spices are ground and mixed in accordance with old family recipe, giant mortars, throwing the heavy pestle with skill and ease, making passers-by sneeze as the finely powdered spices fly in the air Wheat for Rotis ground into flour in a chakki, Butter churned from rich, creamy, buffalo milk, while ghee, clarified butter, the most and preferred cooking medium, is invariably made in the home.

 I learned the strict vegetarian aspect of Rajasthan to the Shikaar and its royal kitchens preparation which allured the Mighty Rajas and chivalrous Raanis of Rajasthan. I discovered the Bohra style meat cooking like the Dabba Pattice in Gujarat to the regional impacts of Dhokla, Pahphada and Oondhiya of this sweet and sour cuisine. It continued further to various Maratha Land with five indigenous cuisines, of Mumbai Thalipeeth, Kolhapur Amrkhand, The fisherman’s or Kolis  trishaya masala , Parsi, Salli Boti and mesmerizing  Sindhi Alu Tuk and Kokis.

I continued this and loved the subtle and gripping run to my new found love. The fables of Awadh with its Rich royal gluttons and the story of invent of DUM on an accident, while the meat qorma and Rice were mixed together and piled on over to give to the Qarigars constructing a tomb, and the ittars and fragrances: though part of the same but a different culinary rhythm, as the story goes for The Rampur Ghraana creating mouth melting meat for a toothless Nawab and the Qaliya and the Zaiqa. The Quixotic  Rohelkahand and the rustic Bundelkhand with charcoal delicacies, with Bhopali meat preparations.I loved recreating Satwik vegetarian food with Mathura style aloo poori .The Gharwal and Kumaoun with mountain style preparations with a varied achars and chutneys

I stayed in east and discovered half a dozen cuisine representations in Bengal from original Bengali Shukto and Paanch Phoran to East Bengali style Papada and Murshidabad meat Mangsho, The Thakurs and Farmers cooking, The Tangra Chinese, The Anglo Indian masala sprinkled French style sauces, and Darjeeling Nepali food 

I travelled to Bihar and saw the undiscovered trio of cuisines making a mark from Bhojpuri, to Budhist influences and the Muslim meats. The Sattu, various styles of Chokhas and Littis with Tillkut. Further Down to Orissa with Rohu Chhinchina and chena poda are still very young on my palate. Asaam was wonderful, some strokes from Bengal but on a deep dive it is very different cuilinarily , Kher with Luchi and Assami fish curry and many such were a gastronomical delight

I travelled to Gangtok in Sikkim and loved the monasteries and the food influenced from it , the Gundruk and Sinki, Thuppa,.I moved to Nagaland and also deeper north eastern India, and loved the simplicity in the food with barely fried or sautéed but great food with bamboo shoot and the fiery Bhoot jalokhia chilles.

I loved Bangalore and belong to here, so I was very keen to know about Karnatakas Culinary heritage. I questioned friends, I got an answer that the cuisine of Karnataka is Mysore Masala Dosa and Raagi Muddai/ Soppu Saaru…That was not correct. I travelled and researched whilst my twelve years here and found six indigenous cuisines, very rich and different from each other: The Royal Mysore Cuisine or the South Kanada Cuisine, The Tipus Muslim influence in this cuisine, Coorgi cuisne , Coondapore- Mangalore, Udupi, North Karnataka, and recently I travelled to Hubli to enjoy the Meaty Sauji food.

Goa and the Konkan Coast was a true seafood ecstasy with both Poutugese influences and the Saraswat Goans. Pomfret fish curry, Sorpotel, Balchao, vinegars and sausages get my palate wet with gastric juices desiring “an encore” all the times.

Kerala was one exotic trail , I discovered some fantastic Culinary styles and different mixes of spices with every region or style, I started from Maupila style in Kasargod and Kochi with some fantastic Biryanis and Seafood. The Syrian Christian Meen Moilee and Appams were divine...Meen Poricharattu  was Lip smacking  and lastly the vegetarian food at Pallakaad  with a rare cooking of veggies, coconut  and  just the perfection….One could have not asked for better food..Ah!!!

I travelled to the land of red hot chilles and Peanut paste curries in Guntur and Vijaywada in Andhra enjoying the royallu munaga kaaya kura, Chappa Pulusu , Kori Kuda..sweted from the forehead to the center head but loved it and wanted to repeat.

I Lived in Chennai and wanted to explore the Tamil Nadu. Here the cuisine is a pride in households and the way it is portray it , it becomes a very exotic definition.The Cuisine of Temples to the Royal Chettiar kings or pure veggie Iyengars is really exotic ,and I find that they are very closely connected to it. The Gastronomic journey starts from Breakfast and races till the dinner. The Chettinadu Spce mix with just one whiff… takes you there.

Taking the journey little further from here just to current India and rewinding times to Undivided India then, I also did some research and findings on the Lahori Siyalkoti Cuisne which I heard from my Grandmothers Naani and Daadi who hailed from there and also some senior members of my family who hailed from Multan whilst they moved from there then to current India.

My last assignment made me do an in depth study on Baluchistan with some lovely kebabs and rich curries.

I also lived in Kathmandu for a little more than two years and loved and learned the two different culinary flights of Newari and Nepali food with Bhutte ko Maasu and Golbhede ko Achaar, Thalthali and so on. I have represented this along with India as my Journey

 

These are just my indigenous absorptions and impressions which I learned and try to represent.

 

 I have detailed thoughts on each one and will continue to write, I promise to share my insights and experiences in the next coming all these Regional Indian Cusines.