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Around India in 27 plates
The best way to understand a culture is to taste it! And if you want to understand Indian culture, do it through your stomach! India is a paradise for food lovers with a zillion options to suit every palette. It’s a mind-boggling array of goodies, but we’ve picked some signature mouth-watering dishes from different states. Pick any state and the food will have you planning a trip to that state in no time! Read on:
The common joke is that if an enterprising Gujarati had 10 minutes of free time, he would set up a food stall! It’s true – Gujaratis love their food – and indeed the state is a foodie’s paradise. Try the khandvi, a perfectly rolled, bite-sized breakfast snack, made with besan and buttermilk and tempered with a seasoning of mustard and green chillies. Delicate, and light on the stomach, pair it with your evening chai for a light treat.
So you thought vada pao is the quintessential Marathi dish? The thalipeeth will make you think again! Kind of a pancake made with mixed flour called bhajani – it has the nutritious goodness of various grains and pulses. Usually served with mango pickle and tempered dahi.
3. Uttar Pradesh
The melt-in-your-mouth kakori kabab was created in the dastarkhwan of Nawab Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi of Kakori (a hamlet near Lucknow), to please his British guests. And since then, the succulent kabab, made from the finest leg of mutton, mixed with khoya and seasoned with white pepper is a favourite of foodies.
A colourful land with colourful people and colourful food. Try some laal maas – literally red meat. Rajasthanis are known to eat a lot of spices, as tomatoes and other vegetables are not native to the desert state. This lamb dish is made with a LOT of red chilies, some spices and some more red chilies. A fiery dish this one, will set your taste buds on fire!
Square pieces of chocolate fudge covered with dainty little white balls of sugar. This is a decadent treat from the hills of Uttarakhand, especially the hill town of Almora. The bal mithai has made its way into Kumaoni stories and will find a place in your heart as well!
6. Jammu & Kashmir
If ever a cup of tea could give you peace of mind or some solace, it is going to be with a cup of Kashmiri kahwa. It has the goodness of green tea, saffron, cinnamon and cardamom and is topped with slivers of almonds. Kashmiris love to have this with a piece of lightly sweetened sheermal bread, but it’s great to have it as it is.
Traditionally made as an offering to Lord Jagannatha, this is a very popular cheese cake from Odisha, and literally means burnt (home-made) cheese. It’s flavoured with cardamom and some dry fruits. Best had with a cup of tea.
8. West Bengal
Bengalis wait for the rainy season to get their fill of ilish (hilsa), cooked in mustard sauce, and enjoyed with steamed rice. Fish lovers will really look forward to this.
A traditional sour fish curry, this is one of Assam’s signature dishes. The key ingredient in a tenga is the use of a souring agent which lends the dish a tart tangy taste. It’s also one of chef Gordon Ramsey’s favourite fish dishes, try it out!
10 & 11. Bihar & Jharkhand
This one comes with its own Facebook page! A staple in Bihari households, it consists of balls made of sattu (powdered gram), filled with ghee and traditionally baked in a cow-dung fire. Accompaniments include mashed potatoes, baingan bharta and some more ghee!
Why have we clubbed the states? Because litti chokha is a staple in both the states. Simple!
A classic Goan dessert, any celebration is incomplete with this layered sweet – whether it is a birthday, wedding, homecoming or farewell. Made with eggs, coconut, and custard flavoured with nutmeg, the layers would put any Masterchef to shame.
13. Himachal Pradesh
Pahari food is usually uncomplicated and has generous dollops of ghee. A popular dish, channa madra is native to the Chamba region. Made with rajma or kidney beans, it is cooked on low heat with ghee and yoghurt and a special spice mix consisting of about 20 spices!
Bajra aloo roti
Haryana is also called the ‘land of rotis’, and they have so many variations of this flatbread. Made with millet flour, kneaded with boiled potatoes, some masalas and rolled out into flavourful rotis. Usually had with lots of ghee and buttermilk. Perhaps the source of strength behind those tough Haryanvi lads!
15. Tamil Nadu
Served on a banana leaf, this meal fit for a king, is a traditional Tamil meal. It includes several courses with rice and different gravies or kuzhambus, and finished with payasam (kheer). Besides the usual sambhar, rasam and vada, also expect spicy chettinad chicken, layered paranthas and coconut mithai. Sit down for this one.
A common dish in every Manipuri home, singju is a salad with local green vegetables, black sesame, chillies and often topped with a fermented fish called Ngari.
A favourite of Mangaloreans, it is a dry chicken dish made with special masala of several different spices and roasted grated coconut. Tastes great with a neer dosa or steamed rice. This is one recipe worth stealing!
This noodle soup is a one-pot nourishing dish designed to beat the cold climes of this North-Eastern state. Usually consists of chicken broth, tempered with garlic, green chillies and spring onions. Different veggies, meat and noodles make it very filling. One bowl will keep you going for a long time!
17. Andhra Pradesh + Telangana
Said to one of the main dishes served in the Nizam’s royal courts, this dish has baby eggplants cooked in a gravy of coconut, caramelised onions, tamarind and peanuts. Poppy and sesame seeds are added generously. The final baghar or tadka is of a mix of cumin, mustard, methi and kalaunji (nigella seeds). Actress Dia Mirza swears by this Hyderabadi staple, and it’s very easy to see why!
18. Arunachal Pradesh
Beer lovers, did you know that this small state brews its own rice beer, made from fermented rice or millet? It’s light and considered to be very nourishing. Up for a swig?
Chhattisgarh is also known as the rice bowl of India, and staple diet has lots of rice (obviously!) One of them is dehrori, delicious festive dessert, usually prepared on Diwali. It’s a simple sweet dish made with rice flour, jaggery and curd.
Malayalis are known to love their seafood and mutton, but no sadya or feast is complete without avial – a simple dish with lots of veggies, seasoned with cocunut oil and curry leaves. Some people add raw mango or tamarind pulp for that extra zing. It’s also been said that Bhima from the Mahabharata cooked the first avial for his brothers! You’ve gotta try it once!
The wettest place on earth also has a sweet tooth. Also known as a sweet bread in Meghalaya, Pukhlein is made of jaggery, rice, and is deep fried in oil. Bite into the deep-fried, jaggery coated goodness and you will be in foodie paradise!
22. Madhya Pradesh
Bhutte ki kees
A speciality from Indore, this dish is traditionally made by grating corn off the cob, then roasting in ghee and spices. It has the consistency of halwa and is usually had for breakfast. Dig in!
This flavourful ethnic Mizo delicacy is a stew prepared by boiling meat and rice together. The meat is pork, lamb or chicken. This awesome incorporation of rice and meat to form a sort of khichdi is simply delicious.
Pork with bamboo shoots
Folks from this land love their pork, and if you get a chance to visit this state, don’t miss out on the chance to feast on a pork curry. Fermented bamboo shoot and soya beans are also added to the gravy. The smell of bamboo shoots is a bit overwhelming but the taste is mind-blowing!
This is definitely one of the most unique dishes that hail from India. Made with sticky rice, Awan Bangwi is made only in Tripura. It is made by mixing rice, cashews sauteed in ghee, raisins, put in cones made of banana leaves and steamed. Very light but extremely gratifying. Definitely something worth trying!
Makki-roti & sarson saag
The hearty Punjabis always have a robust meal and come winters, expect them to indulge in a calorie rich extremely gratifying meal. The dish is made from sarson or mustard leaves to which smaller quantities of paalak (spinach) and bathua (wild spinach) are added. The flavour comes from the tadka, which is an art itself and has to be good. It is spooned with pieces of corn bread, smothered in white butter and accompanied with jaggery. Follow this with a long nap! Ah, bliss!!
Ok, so Delhi is a UT etc etc, but since this writer is based out of Delhi, I couldn’t resist talking about Delhi food as well. A melting pot with people from different states, Delhi has a multi-cultural food palette, with influences from all over the country. For an authentic Dilli food experience, we walked into the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk to bring you a vegetarian favourite – bedmi aloo. The bedmi (that is the poori) is made of wheat flour and stuffed with urad lentils & spices and is served with spicy aloo subzi. It’s a favourite with the Marwari community of Old Delhi and it will be worth your time to plan a trip to sample this delicacy. Take our word for it!
With the Republic Day weekend coming up, why don’t you plan a trip that revolves only around food? Check these deals to get you started.
If you have a favourite dish and it’s missing from this list, do drop in a comment and we’ll add it!