yogurt or coconut
milk into which as few as three or as many as 12 condiments
have been added.
of the more celebrated culinary traditions of India
originated in the royal courts of the Mughals, in Oudh
and Hyderabad. Distinguished by a succession of braised
meats, rich sauces and flavorsome rice dishes steamed
with meat, all three cuisines can be sampled at specialty
restaurants as well as at regional food festivals that
deluxe hotels hold periodically.
While mutton, chicken and fish are served throughout
the country, the frequency with which they make
their appearance differs. In Kashmir, mutton is
the chief attraction in the 24 course banquet,
wazwan, each dish being cooked in a different
way from each of the others.
all the coastal states in the country, Goa, Kerala
and Bengal have culinary traditions with a preponderance
of fish, those of Goa and Kerala making profuse
use of coconuts. Go an seafood delights include
crab, lobsters, tiger prawns and shellfish, all
accompanied by rice and washed down with excellent
wine and vermouth of local manufacture. Kerala,
in common with the other southern states, is noted
for its variety of crisp pancakes and steamed
rice cakes made from pounded rice.
and Tamil Nadu have important vegetarian traditions, meat
eaten only by a fraction of the population in these two states.
However, because of the seemingly endless array of imaginatively
cooked vegetables, lentils and the succession of enticing
accompaniments, the cuisine is relished even by confirmed
non-vegetarians. In many parts of the country, thali meals
are the norm. These large platters contain upto a dozen dishes
in individual servings, consisting of meat, chicken, vegetables
-: gravied and dry, pulses and accompaniments.
meals are a sort of crash course in the cuisine of the region,
widely served in Indian restaurants attached to deluxe hotels
as well as at more modest eateries. Some of India's best loved
culinarv traditions are the despair of the weight watcher.
Tandoori cooking is the best known, and loved, exception.
The tan- Above: A rich array of Western deserts offered on
a hotel buffet; Inset: An Indian thali meal must be eaten
leisurely. Opposite page: An example of the 'dum pukht' school
of cooking, a popular favourite. Door is the Indian oven.
a homely clay lined cylinder filled with sizzling coals.
that serve tandoori food often have a glassed-in section where
chefs bake whole marinated chickens, spiced pieces of lamb
and a variety of unleavened wheat breads by the simple expedient
of wielding a metal stick. As the heat of the oven reaches
600°C, cooking time is counted not in hours but in minutes
and seconds! Tandoori meats use no oil. and are normally accompanied
by yogurt dips. making them ideal for the gourmet weight watcher!
of India's best loved dishes are homely favorites: Punjabi
sarson ka saag, mustard greens simmered all night long on
a coal fire, is a seasonal favourite. being available only
for a month or so in winter. Accompanied by thick unleavened
bread made from cornmeal, its full-bodied flavour delights
the peasant and the urban sophisticate alike.
bhaji is a passion in Bombay and Gujarat, where roadside stalls
have a cauldron of simmering vegetables which 57 are served
with a bun. Bhelpuri in Bombay and chaat in Delhi are roadside
snacks of crunchy morsels tempered with piquant seasonings.
It is possible for the tourist to savour these delights in
the confines of an upmarket hotel.
describe Indian sweets as being made of milk, reduced milk
or cottage cheese and sugar syrup is an oversimplification
of a highly specialized branch of cooking. One reflection
of this is that most Indian cookbooks state in no uncertain
terms that Indian confections are best left to professionals!
western tastes, the range of Indian sweets are normally
found too sweet, but it is precisely because of this
quality that they make marvelous digestives after a
heavy Indian meal. Sweet traditions in Bengal, Bikaner
and Delhi are famed throughout the country, but obscure
railway stations all over India are quite likely to
have a delectable specialty well-known only in the neighborhood.
Non alcoholic beverages include the country-wide favourite
in nimbu-pani: a squeeze of sour lime over sugar or
salt served in water or soda. Yogurt and water are vigorously
churned to make buttermilk, a delicious accompaniment
to Indian meals.
unlicensed restaurant is the exception rather than the rule. Few visitors leave Goa without at least sampling
the local drink, feni. An immensely potent brew made either
with cashew or palm, feni provokes varied reactions to its
strong taste. Indian cuisine is very far from being the only
food available in the country.
fizzy drinks include various brands of indigenous lime,
orange and cola. Other fruit based drinks - apple, guava,
mango, tomato - are available in tetrapacks and tins.
Soda and mineral water are widely available.
alcoholic beverages include gin and rum which are comparable
to the finest internationally, as well as whisky. Out of the
numerous brands of wine, good choices are the dry white and
rose ones; sparkling wine is being made in the country available
in limited quantities for the domestic market. India's dozens
of brands of beer encompass very good pilsners and lagers
available in bottles of 650 ml. All major hotels throughout
the country have bars as well as restaurants which serve alcoholic
beverages. Out of the restaurants not attached to hotels,
a few are licensed to serve spirits. Most towns have liquor
shops where popular brands can be bought over the counter.
are no equivalents of pubs in India, the only exception being
in Goa, where the
major hotel offers, at the very least, a choice between Indian,
Continental and Chinese food, and even street side cafes in
small towns offer a sprinkling of popular western fare. Continental
food encompasses classic Italian and French highlights served
in specialty restaurants in the metropolitan cities, to pizzas,
salads and hamburgers available at popular western style snack
cities offer Chinese food, major metropolitan cities offering
a surprising range of dining that includes Polynesian-and
Lebanese fare. In addition, deluxe hotels arrange food festivals
may be regional Indian - to a resident of Delhi, Hyderabad!
food is indeed exotic! -or international: German, Hungarian
or Brazilian. Western style confectionary - choco-ate cakes,
fudge, cookies and marzipan for instance - are available in
pastry shops of major hotels as well as at confectionaries
in all metro cities.
class chocolates are sold at fine stores; and ice creams,
sold in every corner of the country, come in a plethora of
brands. And finally, a word about tea, sold everywhere from
railway stations to deluxe hotels: this is something of a
national beverage except.