“Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore!”

No matter where you are in the world, the intoxicating flavors of India will be sure to find you, because undoubtedly, Indian food is the most intriguing and exotic cuisine on the planet.   Not only is it pulsating with tongue-tingling originality, but the many consumers of this magnificent cuisine don’t have to be Indian natives to enjoy it!

Indian Cuisine is divided into Northern and Southern.  Northern Indian is typically the most popular worldwide, influenced by Muslim cuisine with its roots originating in the Middle East.  Dishes have a high meat content and goat is a common ingredient, as the Cow is their sacred animal.  Well known are their Biryanis (rices), Tandooris (food cooked in traditional clay ovens called tandoors) and their incomparable and flavorful koftas (meatballs), which have many flavor profiles.  Since Korma means “to braise”, meats and vegetables are simmered slowly in creamy sauces that include yogurt or cream, hence the prevalent Lamb Korma, present in most Indian restaurant menus.  Food vagaries in the North are richer in “spices” and flavorings (the inimitable Garam Masala originates here) and dishes are significantly tamer than the fierce curries hailing from the South.

Southern Indian cuisine is mostly vegetarian and their foods are heavy infused with chilis, with most dishes cooked in ghee (clarified butter) rather than oil.  Chili, ginger, shallots, chili, garlic, chili and coconut (did I mention chili?) are paramount in Southern Indian cuisine. Unmistakable flavors such as tamarind, curry leaves, cinnamon and coconut cream permeate the underlaying current in their sauces, which by now you have deduced are famous for their high octane chili content.   Lovers with a penchant for extremely spicy fare, will plant their affections in firmly footed ground with the many Vindaloos renditions.

Indian Basmati rice is grown on the Himalayan foothills and it accompanies every dish, as well as Naan, (a soft, fluffy bread baked in tandoors).  Chapatis, flat tortilla-like breads and crispy poppadums made from split pea flour, are also ever popular all over the Indian continent.  Two tremendously common Southern dishes are their dahl – a porridege-like blend of legumes, mostly lentils (or split peas – green or orange) and Sambar, (lentils and veggies), a diurnal dish served in most every household.  Masala Doses (which are one of my favorites) are rice pancakes filled with a spicy stuffing of cooked potatoes and peas.

Whatever Indian subcontinent serves as your choice for selecting Indian fare, maybe even a blend of the two, once you have sampled the unmistakable symphony of flavorings and scents, they will forever linger on your palate and you will crave them again and again.


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