Food is a big deal in India. Besides flavor, food plays an essential role in Indian society and culture. Dishes, methods of preparation, and seasoning all vary regionally. Due to climatic differences, North Indian food is distinct from South Indian food. Food serves an important purpose in traditional systems of medicine. Furthermore, the social and religious divide between meat eating and vegetarianism is currently a very serious political topic throughout the entire country. I'm still learning about the complexities of Indian cuisine. Half of the time, I don't even know the name of the food I'm eating. But here's what I've tasted and discovered so far!
An important word to learn in India is masala. Whenever I ask people what they're eating, the answer typically involves masala. The word "masala" comes from the Hindi word for "spice," and is simply a term used to describe any dish seasoned with a mix of spices. Masala dishes are typically pretty spicy.
Spice is the foundation of Indian cooking. In South India, pepper, ginger, and turmeric are commonly used in every meal. Additionally, mustard seeds, lentils, fennel seeds, cat's eye, an tamarind seeds are other common ingredients.
Not only do these ingredients add flavor to food, they also have health benefits. Ayurvedic medicine, and other traditional Indian medicine practices, emphasize the use of natural spices and herbs as a method of both alleviating and preventing disease. Ayurvedic medicine, in particular, associates specific therapeutic properties with certain tastes.
astringent: stops bleeding, promotes healing, beneficial for skin
bitter: purifies the blood, detoxifies
pungent: improves metabolism, acts as a diaphoretic
salty: softens, has a laxative effect
sour: relieves thirst, acts as a stimulant
sweet: strengthens the body
When these various tastes are balanced, the individual is healthy. However, Ayurvedic philosophy correlates bodily damage with an excess of any of these six tastes.
astringent: damages the colon
bitter: damages the heart
pungent: damages the lungs
salty: damages the kidneys
sour: damages the liver
sweet: damages the spleen and pancreas
Chutney is a type of pickled sauce. Chutney comes in a vast variety of flavors. Coconut, mint, cilantro, tomato, tamarind, and eggplant chutney are popular in South India.
Curry is a type of sauce prepared from a combination of herbs and spices. In South India, curries typically include curry leaves.
Sambhar is a lentil-based vegetable soup, often cooked with a tamarind broth.
Dosa is a crepe-like dish popular in South India. Dosas are made from fermented batter, which is mainly comprised of rice flour. Dosas can be served plain or filled with various stuffings such as potatoes or onions. Dosas are generally served with some type of chutney and/or sambhar.
Momos are dumpling-like dishes. They can be baked or fried.
Poori is a type of unleavened fried bread. It's very puffy and filled with air. Poori kind of resembles a sopapilla, except it's not sweet. Poori is typically served with a chutney that you can dip the bread into.
Vada is a donut-shaped breakfast snack. It tastes nothing like a donut, though. I admit, I was very disappointed by this revelation. Vadas are fried Indian fritters made from lentil batter.
Paneer is a type of curd cheese. Many dishes can be served with the addition of paneer, which adds flavor. I am a personal fan of grilled paneer sandwiches.
Jalebi is a popular Indian desert. Jalebi is made by frying maida flour (similar to cake flour) into pretzel shapes. The fried jalebi is then soaked in a sugar syrup.
Samosas are baked or fried dishes that are typically stuffed with potatoes and onions.
Students from all over India and Asia attend school at Christ University. Due to the Chinese influence in Northeastern India, there are a few Chinese-inspired meals served at the campus cafeterias. My personal favorites are the veg fried rice and noodle bowls.
Buttermilk is frequently served in many restaurants in Bangalore. I do not recommend.
Milkshakes are basically cups of flavored milk. I ordered a chocolate milkshake on campus, and I received a cup of chocolate milk.
Jam sandwiches are a thing in India. So are chocolate sandwiches.
Cherry muffins are pretty delicious, and actually taste more like pound cake with cherry filling.
The fruit juices are absolutely incredible. Fresh squeezed orange, lime, pineapple, watermelon, mango, and cane juices are all popular options in Bangalore.
Mini bananas are the most adorable fruits I have ever eaten.
I'm seriously going to miss Indian chai tea and coffee. So good.
Finally, after almost two weeks of Indian food, I broke down and visited a Pizza Hut. I ordered a cheese pizza and a Pepsi. The pizza had a distinct Indian flare, but still ranks as one of my favorite meals in India. The American-ness was amazing. Trying new foods has definitely been a great experience. But I honestly cannot wait to come home and eat a hamburger!