The unforgettable aroma of India is not just the heavy scent of jasmine and roses in the warm air.
It is also the fragrance of spices so important to Indian cooking - especially to preparing curry.
The world "curry" is an English derivative of "kari", meaning sauce, but curry
does not, in India, come as a powder. It is the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom,
ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed. Like an artist's palette of oil paints, the Indian cook has some
twenty-five spices (freshly ground as required) with which to mix the recognized
combinations or "masalas". Many of these spices are also noted for their
medicinal properties. They, like the basic ingredient, vary from region to region.
Broadly speaking, meat dishes (such as those served at Roti) are more common in the north, notably
Rogan Josh (curried lamb), and the delicious Biriyani (chicken or lamb in orange
flavoured rice, sprinkled with sugar and rose water).
Mughlai cuisine is rich, creamy, deliciously spiced and liberally sprinkled with nuts and
saffron. The ever popular Tandoori cooking (chicken, meat or fish marinated in herbs and baked
in a clay oven) and kebabs are also northern cuisine. In the south, curries are mainly vegetable
and inclined to be more hot. Specialities to look out for are Bhujia (vegetable curry), Dosa,
Idli and Sambar (rice pancakes, dumplings with pickles and vegetable and lentil curry). Coconut
is a major ingredient of South Indian cooking. On the West coast, there is a wide choice of fish and shellfish;
Bombay Fish (curried or fried bomnloe fish) and pomfret (Indian salmon) are just two. Another
specialty is the Parsi Dhan Sak (lamb or chicken cooked with curried lentils) and
Vindaloo vinegar marinade. Fish is also a feature of Bengali cooking (Bengal is a state in the
Eastern side of India) as in Dahi Maach (curried fish in yoghurt flavored with turmeric and
ginger) and Malai (curried prawn with coconut).
One regional distinction is that whereas in the south, rice is the staple food, in the north this is
supplemented and sometimes substituted by a wide range of flat breads, such as Pooris, Chappatis and
Naans. Common throughout India is Daal (crushed lentil soup with various additional
vegetables), and Dahi, the curd or yoghurt which accompanies the curry. Besides being tasty, it is a good "cooler";
more effective than liquids when things get too hot. Sweets are principally milk based puddings, pastries and
pancakes. Available throughout India is Kulfi, the Indian ice cream, Rasgullas (cream cheese
balls flavored with rose water), Gulab Jamuns (flour, cheese and ground almonds), and Jalebi
(pancakes in syrup). Besides a splendid choice of desserts, there is an abundance of fruit, both tropical mangoes,
pomegranates and melons and temperate apricots, apples and strawberries. It is common to finish the meal by
chewing Pan as a digestive. Pan is betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed
Another custom is to eat with your fingers but remember only of the right hand ... naturally.
The variety of Indian cooking is immense, it is colorful and aromatic, and it can be fiery. No wonder, then
that it is now the third most popular cuisine in the world nor will it be any more surprising when it becomes the