Fiercely guarded regional customs have contributed to India’s centuries-old culinary heritage. These persuasions live in the overriding components of caste identification, class, family, kinship, tribe affiliation, lineage, religiosity and ethnicity. Food habits across India have traditionally been driven by healthy, nutritious and sustainable choices and have largely depended on locally sourced ingredients. That said, cross-cultural influences, both regional and foreign, have brought their own persuasions to this cornucopia of cuisine in the country.
Go Satvik at Varanasi
If you are looking for a traditional Indian culinary experience, which goes way back in time, Varanasi is the place to be. This holy city, which is totally vegetarian, shows you it can create exciting meals with vegetables–potato, green peas, aubergines, lady's fingers, carrots, and lentils, in the most innovative way. The Brahmins and the Pandit and Jain communities are hardbound in native traditions and their satvik diet (pure vegetarian fare, which is light and healthy and energizes the body and mind) is an excellent exemplar of this.
Kerala for Syrian-Christian Cuisine
So, Kerala is not all about idlis and dosas and appams. An enduring legacy has been left behind by St Thomas when he arrived on these Kerala’s shores in 52 CE. His native followers, known as Syrian Christians, have developed a culinary tradition of their own, which is very popular with both locals and visitors from abroad. Syrian Christian cooking differs from the native Mappilah cooking in method and tradition. Non-vegetarian dishes hold pride of place in Syrian Christian cooking. Popular dishes are Meen Moilee, Duck Curries and Beef Ularthiathu. Also, coconut oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves and coconut milk are used extensively in preparing food. You will enjoy learning to make a few dishes under the guidance of a local hostess.
Robust Punjabi Fare
When visiting the holy city of Amritsar in Punjab, you are going to just love the many culinary delights of this proverbial land of milk and honey. Head for the Golden Temple to sample the delicious, healthy vegetarian food at the Guru ka Langar–the community kitchen. Later hit the streets to quaff creamy lassis, butter- smothered chicken, and sizzling Amritsari fish teamed with tandoori rotis cooked in traditional clay ovens. Street food in Amritsar is inexpensive, but it’s so delicious even the well-heeled in the city arrive in their Mercs to eat at the local eatery, which is famous for its particular speciality.
Dine like Lucknavi Nawab
The Nawabs of Awadhi were fabled for their patronage of the arts, crafts and, of course, cuisine. And every cultural component, to which they directed their attentions, carried the hallmark of their highly refined tastes. The Awadhi Dastarkhwan (table) was an excellent exemplar of these traditions. They amply reflected this in the smorgasbord of delights, such as–kebabs and kormas, biryanis and kaliyas, keema, and paneer, salan and vegetables, exotic breads and pulaos from the royal kitchens.
Your travels around India would be incomplete without enjoying the incredible diversity and celebration of its culinary traditions. So, make it a point to try some local specialties in the places to which you travel.