Indian cuisine is delectably diverse. Travel in the north to discover rich, spicy thalis. Head south for subtler coconut-based flavors. At the coast you can feast on fresh fish curries. India is a foodie paradise. Let us take you on a journey of our favorite cuisines.
1. Hyderabad: Regal Biryani
Hyderabadi cuisine has been shaped over time by the Mughals, Arabs and Persians. If you want the best biryani, you have to head to its birthplace. Created in the royal courts, its mouthwatering pungent aromas come from slow cooking the meat – often mutton –with rice in delicious spices.
Haleem, the must-have entrée at Islamic weddings, is a unique stew of meat, dal (lentils), ghee (clarified butter) and spices that are garnished with fried onions, fresh lime, cashew nuts and coriander. Literally translated, haleem means “patience”, which is an essential ingredient to the dish that takes eight to twelve hours of slow cooking in a wood-fired cauldron, with constant stirring using long wooden spoons pointed in the direction of Mecca.
Today haleem has prestigious GI (Geographic Indication) status which means that not just any old biryani can pass off under the prestigious “Hyderabadi haleem” tag: it has to meet the right criteria! Hyderabad’s kebabs are another delicious must for meat-loving foodies. Hyderabad can be included in an array of South India trips.
2. Delhi & Mumbai: Chaat Attack!
A trip to Old Delhi is a must for roadside foodies. The chaat (snack) wallahs provide an array of experiences as you taste fresh and hot off-the-griddle food. You can sample the many popular chaats of the city – from pani puri and chana batura to dahi papdi and even sizzling hot jalebis for those with a sweet tooth.
Wear good footwear and come on a three-four hour tour with Enchanting Travels where you can wander through the narrow hidden lanes with an expert who will highlight the authentic street food culture. Each location is clean and hygienic with fresh, fully-cooked food. There are no other tourists around and the stalls are completely local.
Alternatively, Mumbai offers a marvelous array of chaat wallahs, particularly on Chowpatty Beach. You can enjoy the delicious bhel puri (a fresh, juicy take on the famous Bombay Mix), vada pavs and pav bhaji, two chaats that are bun based and allegedly crafted under the influence of the British Raj.
3. Kerala: Ayurvedic Balance
If you are looking for a healthy food affair then look no further than Kerala in South India. With lots of vegetarian options, the food in Kerala tends to be heavily flavored with coconut oil, flakes or small chunks, and is traditionally served on a banana leaf.
Kerala has its own signature style indigenous rice, known as matta rice. High in fibre with a red hue, matta is another Geographical Indication (GI) product.
In Kerala, food is often created based on ayurveda principles as our dietary requirements are unique to us. We can determine what is good for us based on our Tridoshas (bodily constitution). In fact the master healers of Kerala were often also outstanding cooks. Ayurveda maintains that we eat by the season and decides whether the food should be hot or cold (a principle known as Veerya) but also ensures a balanced selection of the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent, so that we obtain Oju (life force) not Ama (disease). Cow’s milk is considered the most nourishing food. With a customized ayurveda trip, you can enjoy these special Ayurveda meals.
Did you know? The most aromatic and spiciest food in India is Chettinad cuisine. This can be found with a stay at Visalam.
4. Coorg: Seasoned Aromas
Aside from the renowned coffee plantations that Coorg, the Scotland of India, supplies to the rest of India and indeed the world, the cuisine has its own special style. With native black peppercorns in abundant supply, you’ll find highly seasoned dishes.
The distinguishing taste also comes from kachampuli, a black vinegar that is extracted from a native wild fruit. Coorgi cuisine has a distinguishing feature: its rotis (unleavened breads) are made from akki (rice). You’ll also discover the delicious curries of the exotic jackfruit, cooked in a savory sauce. Coorgis love their meat and the speciality of the region is the Pandhi curry, a pork curry. Coorg can be included in an array of South India trips.
5. Kolkata: Seed Magic
Before evnturing up to India’s infamous tea plantations in Darjeeling, begin your trip in Kolkata (Calcutta) to devour the tastiest foods cooked with spicy seeds. Bengalis use a mix known as panch phoren (five spices) that includes seeds of jeera (cumin), fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard. Poppy seeds (posto) are made into a paste and often served with aloo (potato) or fish.
With a large coastline, Bengalis love their fish and you’ll find some wonderful macher jhol (fish curries) in Kolkata. Bengali cuisine also has an amazing array of vegetarian dishes, innovated by widows who were traditionally relegated to eat last and forbidden from using meat, onions and several spices.
Aubergine is a favorite vegetable and you can find it in doi begun (aubergine in yoghurt) and begun bhaja (deep-fried, sliced aubergine). The delectable fiery mustard sauce of kasundi is almost a staple flavoring.
Do you know your garam masala from your panch phoron? Discover more about Indian cuisine and master the secrets of Indian cookery on a tailor-made trip with us!