Indian cuisine is very diverse and is a result of India 's diverse population. Over the centuries, each new wave of settlers brought with them their own culinary practices which, with time, blended into the Indian cuisine as it is known today. Besides settlers from outside, Indian cuisine has been influenced by environmental, social, religious and political factors from within. Most Indian cuisines are related by significant usage of spices, and by the use of a larger variety of vegetables than most other culinary traditions. Within these recognizable similarities, there is an enormous variety of local styles.
Typically, North Indian meals consist of chapatis or rotis and rice as staples, eaten with a wide variety of side dishes like dals, curries, yoghurt, chutney and achars . South Indian dishes are mostly rice-based lentils and curries being important side dishes.
Besides the main dishes, various appetizers are widely popular in Indian cuisine, such as samosa and pakora . Among drinks , tea enjoys heavy popularity, while coffee is mostly popular in South India . Lassi, and coconut milk are also popular, while India also has many indigenous alcoholic beverages like Fenny and Indian beer.
Indian cuisine is a blend of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian elements. Fruit, vegetables, grain, meat, fish and dairy products constituted a normal diet in olden times.Over the centuries Indian cuisine has been highly influenced by the Arab and Chinese traders and conquerors such as the Persians, Mongolians,Turks,the British and Portuguese.
By 3000 B.C. turmeric, cardamom, pepper and mustard were harvested in India . Rice was domesticated in the Ganges delta around the same period. According to Ayurveda, food is either satvic, rajasic or tamasic according to its character and effect upon the body and the mind.
Islamic rule resulted in a blending of the non-vegetarian fare of the Middle East and the rich gravies that were indigenous to India, creating what is known as Mughlai cuisine . India was also introduced to kebabs and pilafs (or pulaos). The Mughals were great patrons of cooking. Lavish dishes were prepared during the reigns of Jahangir (1605-27) and Shah Jahan (1627-58). It was in this period that the Portuguese introduced vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes in India .
The staples of Indian cuisine are rice, atta (a special type of whole wheat flour ), and at least five dozen varieties of pulses, the most important of which are chana ( bengal gram ), toor ( pigeon pea or red gram), urad ( black gram ) and mung (green gram). Chana is used in different forms, may be whole or processed in a mill that removes the skin, and is sometimes mixed with rice and khichri (a food that is excellent for digestion and similar to the chick pea, but smaller and more flavorful). Pulses are used almost exclusively in the form of dal, except chana, which is often cooked whole for breakfast and is processed into flour ( besan ). Most Indian curries are fried in vegetable oil. sunflower oil and oil Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee is also a popular cooking medium.
The most important spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed ( rai ), cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, coriander and asafoetida ( hing ). Another very important spice is garam masala which is usually a powder of five or more dried spices, commonly comprising cardamom, cinnamon and clove . Some leaves are commonly used like bay leaf, coriander leaf and mint leaf. Typically in South Indian cuisine curry leaves are used commonly. In sweet dishes, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron and rose petal essence are used.