Many first-timers to Indian food and cuisine carry age-old thoughts (read myths) about the food of India. In the article below, get to know the facts and background of some myths and some truths about Indian food.
All Indian food is spicy
Though Indian cooking is hot and spicier compared to European or Western cooking, there are many regions in India where the food is bland, even sweet. If you to try something less-hot, go taste some Gujarati dishes.
Gujarati cuisine has a touch of sweetness in almost all of its dishes. Traditional South Indian cooking (except Andhra Pradesh) is generally less-spicier than other regions in India. Kashmiri cuisine also incorporates sweet tasting dishes in its menu. So when someone tells you Indian cooking is spicy, don’t entirely believe them.
Indian food is only vegetarian
This is partly true. Hindus, being the majority community in India, are mostly vegetarian. However there are so many different sub-sects with the Hindu religion, that many of them follow their own food practices.
Contrary to popular belief, many Indians are meat-eaters and cook them well too. Chicken dishes are perhaps the most popular meat in India. Cow is considered a sacred animal and is avoided by Hindus though Muslims and Christians eat beef. Sea food is also popular in coastal regions like Goa, Mangalore, Kerala, West Bengal and others.
There is no variety in Indian cooking
Many, especially foreigners and first time visitors to India, are of the opinion that Indian food doesn’t have so much of choices. Indian cuisine is perhaps the most varied food-culture in the world!
With more than 29 states (counties), each region in India has its own unique style and flavor. Add to this, the many ethnic groups that have their own recipes for generations. While North Indian regions prefer Roti (Indian bread) as their staple dish, South India has rice as a must in the daily menu. Some specialty regional cuisines of India include Udupi cuisine (from Karnataka), North-eastern cuisine, Chettinad cuisine (from Tamil Nadu) and Marwari cuisine, to name a few.
Indian food = Chicken Tikka
This is a popular myth made famous by ethnic Indians in England. Chicken Tikka was originally a Persian dish brought to India by the Mughals. This was later adopted by the people of Punjab (in India and Pakistan). They created their own version of Chicken Tikka and took the recipe with them when many of them migrated and settled in Britain. Though it is highly popular in UK, it is not so much in India where it has to compete with hundreds of other local dishes.
Indian food is all about Curry
Curry is something that was again made popular by British-South Asian ethnic groups. in While Curry abroad may refer to a thick and spicy gravy dish, India takes a different meaning altogether. In South India, Curry may refer to a vegetable side-dish that is often served with rice.
These are generally fried vegetables without the gravy. Curry, in Tamil Nadu, South India actually means meat – either as a gravy or as a fried dish. Origins of British curry come from the Tamil word for Kari. In North India and other popular forms of Indian cooking, the word curry is not as popularly used. Sabji or Masala are common terms for gravy dishes in Indian cuisine.
Indians eat food with their hands
Sometimes shocking to a visitor to India is the practice of eating food with hands. This is true as Indians consider eating with their hands as tastier as well as ritualistic. Also, most Indian dishes are difficult to be eaten with forks and spoons. Many Indians today use their hands as well as forks & spoons.
You will also find that in certain Indian regions, food is served on a banana leaf or an areca nut leaf. These traditions have been passed on to families since many generations and many modern Indian continue to follow then regardless of caste differences.