Food, especially in India has a history of 5000 years attached to it and over the centuries it has slowly evolved so much that we have to look for lost recipes now which are a few hundred years old. Due to the diverse culture of India we don’t have one cuisine in the country. At the same time the Indian cuisine as a whole provides lots of spice to spice lovers, salt to salt lovers and sweetness to the ones with a sweet tooth. Indian restaurants have spread rapidly all over the world and almost all parts of the world have tasted Indian cuisines, and proudly so.
We can broadly categorize Indian food into the following broad categories:
- North Indian Cuisine (Rajasthani, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Muglai and Benarasi)
- East Indian Cuisine (Assamese and Bengali)
- South Indian Cuisine (Kerala, Tamil, Andhra and Kannad)
- Western Cuisine (Gujarat, Maharashtrian and Malwani)
Predominantly Indian cuisines are more popular on the world map as North Indian and South Indian food. Based on the climate and natural vegetation, wheat is consumed in the North Indian food and rice is consumed in the South Indian food. North Indians use more of onion and coriander while South Indians use more of coconut for achieving their preferred taste in their main and side dishes.
Let us start with snacks. North Indian food has more variety of snacks and starters than South Indian Food. Starting with the Aloo Tikkis, to Chaats of various types, Samosa, Mathari, Onion Sev, Pakora of various types, Karela Rings, Kebabs of various types, Bhels of various types, Dahi Bhalla etc. South Indian snacks and starters are restricted to Idli, Dosa, Uthappam, Appam etc., though now many sub types have been invented under these main categories.
Let’s come now to the main course. Again spices (most of them are grown in South India) are used to the optimum in the North with various combinations primarily because North was regularly invaded by outsiders and they brought with them their cuisine and spices; which India embraced with an open heart. Hence there is such a great variety of taste, flavor and colors. Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Bihari, Rajasthani, Kashmiri, Kumauni, Uttar Pradeshi and Punjabi cuisines achieved greater heights because of these continuous changes and evolution of food. On the other hand, the Telegu, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil, Udupi, Manglorean, Saraswat and Hyderabad didn’t change much. The Hyderabadi cuisine evolved as a separate entity in itself purely during the Nizam rule which made it a lot more flavored.
Potato which is the main ingredient in almost all dishes be it South or North India was actually introduced by the Portugese in India who also got breadfruit and chilies. All the invaders had great culinary taste and loved lavish meal treats for their family and court members. They also popularized the use of meat and fish. Since the North grew wheat in abundance compared to rice, we see many types of breads in North India, while in the South since rice farming has been more popular, the preference there is rice oriented dishes. Also, most of the coastal areas have coconut trees, hence the usage of coconut and coconut oil in food is in abundance. Eventually, due to Mughal invasion and rule, fish and meat consumption increased in India and both the North and South Indians started consuming what is popularly termed as Non-Vegetarian food.
In the North Indian cuisines, we again have many famous regional dishes like
- LittiChokha, Meat Saalan, Dalpuri, Malpua, Balushahi from Bihar
- Kabaabs, Kachauri, Paratha, Sarson da saag, Tandoori dishes from Punjab and Delhi
- Kadhi, Pakora, Besan Masala Roti, Bajra Aloo Roti, Churma, Kheer, Bathua raita, Singri ki sabzi, Methi Gajar and Tamatar chutney from Haryana
- Vegetable Handva, Rogan Josh from Himachal and Jammu Kashmir
- Daal bafla, Korma, Qeema, Biryani, Pilaf and kabaabs from the Madhya Pradesh
- Daal baati, tarfini, Ghevar, Bail-gatte, laapsi, Chaavdi, panchkoota from Rajasthan
- The lavish Avadhi and Moghlai cuisine of the Uttar Pradesh.
Comparatively the South primarily has the Hyderabadi and the Chettinad cuisines as the main popular ones, though they have other various dishes.
- Mysore cuisine, North Karnataka cuisine, Udipi cuisine, Coorg cuisine, Karavali cuisine and the famous Bisi Bile bhaath from Karnataka
- Coconut curry, soya dosa, tandoori potato, curried vegetables, stuffed cabbages and baked beans from Poducherry
- Tirunelveli, Madurai, Paramakudi, karaikudi and chettinad are the main spicy cuisines of Tamil Nadu apart from the world famous Sambhar which was made by King Shahuji when in Thanjavur he substituted Tamarind with Kokum and Pigeon peas replaced Mung beans as he did not find them there while making the Maharashtrian Amti. The new dish was named Sambhaji after the Maratha Prince Sambhaji who was the royal guest of the day in Tanjavur in Tamilnadu.
- Rice, Spicy Fish and vegetables from Kerela
The most popular Hyderabadi Cuisine which is slow cooking has its influence form the Awadhi style of cooking and gave us the famous Hyderbadi Biryani, Kachche gosht ki Biryani, Kheeme ki khichadi, Mirchi ka saalan, Dahi Chutney, Murghi ka Khorma, Haleem, Baghara Baingan, Dalcha, Dopiaza, Palak ka Gosht, Hydrabadi Nihari to name a few.
So the South Indian cuisine has its own flavor and mix which primarily rests on rice, sambhar, coconut, tamarind and spices while the North uses wheat, gravy using plenty of onion, garlic, ginger, spices and more lime.
When one talks about dessert, the South Indian cuisine definitely beats the North Indian one as it has a wider array of desserts compared to the North India.
As a Food Blogger and an ardent foodie, I love all cuisines. But since we have to rate and weigh the Cuisines, I would say that in snacks and the main course, the North Indian food definitely has more variety than the Southern Indian one; but in the desserts section the South Indian food has gotten more varied than the North Indian sweets. To sum it up, I feel North Indian food is better as the major components of a meal which are snacks and the main course give more variations and choices.
What do you prefer?