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About Culture and Cuisines of India

India has a rich and multi-layered culture dominated by religious and spiritual ethos. Indian cuisine is known for its large assortment of dishes. The cooking style varies from region to region, all with their own traditional preparation techniques and presentation styles – from the competing flavors of masterfully marinated meats and thalis to the simple splendor of vegetarian curries and deep-sea delights

North India Kashmiri cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years, and strongly represents several influences such as Central Asian, Persia, and the North Indian plains. The most notable ingredient in Kashmir cuisine is mutton (lamb), of which there are over 30 dishes.Wazwan, a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine and a matterof pride in Kashmiri culture and identity, includes dishes that are meat-based (lamb, chicken, fish). Punjabi cuisine, on the other hand, can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. Some favourites include stuffed paranthas and dairy products (especially paneer- Indian cottage cheese), Mah Di Dal (lentil) and Sasron Da Saag (mustard leaves). Tandoori food is a Punjabi speciality. Uttar Pradesh has also been greatly influenced by Mughal (Mughlai cuisine) cooking techniques which is very popular worldwide.

In North-east of India rice is the staple food. Rice served with Tengamach (sour fish) and Khar( alkaline) is a popular item on the menu. Boiled rice cakes wrapped in leaves is a favourite snack as is thukpa, a noodle soup. Popular dishes are jadoh, kikpu, tung-toh, and pickled bamboo shoots. Mizoram’s cuisine is a blend of Chinese and north Indian cuisines. Another common dish is Sawchair made of rice cooked with pork or chicken.

Central India cuisine varies from region to region, with the north and west of the state being mainly based around wheat and meat, and the wetter south and east being dominated by rice and fish. Central India Cities Gwalior and Indore abound in milk and milk-based preparations. Bhopal is known for meat and fish dishes such as rogan josh, korma, keema, biryani pilaf and kababs such as shami and seekh. A popular dish is the bafla (wheat cakes) dunked in rich ghee which are eaten with daal (a pungent lentil broth). Another popular dish in the Malwa region is poha (flattened rice), served mostly for breakfast.

In West India Seafood, coconut milk, rice and paste are main ingredients of Goan delicacies and use of Kokum is a distinct feature. Goan cuisine is mostly seafood based and incorporates several Portuguese influences. Coastal Maharashtra, loosely called the Konkan, boasts of its own Konkani cuisine, while the interior – the Vidarbha area -- has its own distinctive cuisine known as the Varadi cuisine. Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian and dhokla is indisputably the most popular snack.

East India has an emphasis on fish and lentils served with rice as a staple diet, Bengali cuisine is known for its subtle flavours, its confectionaries and desserts, and use of panchphoran (or five spices - fenugreek, Nigella seed, cumin seed, radhuni and fennel seed in equal parts). Dairy products, such as yoghurt, buttermilk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), and lassi, are consumed in Bihar throughout the year. The traditionalpoha (flattened rice) with yoghurt and sugar is popular. Bihar is famous for Sattuparanthas, which are paranthas stuffed with fried chickpea flour, Chokha(spicy mashed potatoes).

In South India food from Andhra Pradesh is known for its heavy use of spices and chillies. Telugu cuisine has evolved separately from Hyderabadi cuisine, the most famous of which is theHyderabadi biryani, a mixture of rice, yoghurt, onions, meat and spices. In Karnataka, Masala Dosa, Rave Idli, and Maddur Vade are popular whiletheCoorg district is famous for spicy pork curries and coastal Karnataka has seafood specialities. Kerala cuisine has a multitude of dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. The cuisine of the union territory of Puducherry, a French settlement for centuries, has an innovative French and Indo style. Tamil food is characterised by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, its distinct aroma and flavour achieved by the blending of spices.

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