Flavors In Indian Cooking

Discover the unique flavors of Indian cuisine with this in-depth look at the spices and ingredients used in popular dishes from across the country.

India offers a myriad collection of flavors to the world. The flavors are different in every aspect – food being the foremost.

India is a country of diversity. Be it people, languages, customs, traditions, clothes, appearance and last but not the least foods and flavors, it changes as one travels across the length and breadth of this densely populated country.

Contrary to popular belief, Indian food and cooking is not restricted to tandoori chicken and dosas. These two items are what has been made popular by Indian immigrants in the western world. Though every state in India has its own unique flavors and methods of cooking, Indian flavors can broadly be divided into the geographical regions – north, south, east and west.

North India

The states in the northern part of the country like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh by and large are known for their slightly rich and spicy flavors. Commonly used spices are coriander, cumin, red chili powder, fenugreek, garam masala and almost everything has a hint of onion, ginger, garlic and tomato.

South India

The southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have flavors that are very different from their northern counterparts. By and large, the food in these states is very spicy and there is abundant use of coconut, tamarind and curry leaves in most of their cooking. The coconut could be used in the form of dried or fresh coconut as well as coconut milk.

East India

The country’s eastern states are West Bengal, Orissa, Sikkim and the north-eastern states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam etc. West Bengal is probably the most dominant state in terms of flavors of food. Staple food is rice and fish and spices used are varied. Mustard – both whole as well as ground is used in a lot of Bengali food preparations as is the oil of mustard, which is very sharp and pungent to taste. The north-eastern states have a lot of meats and broths, mainly to keep away the cold in the mountains.

West India

India’s western states are mainly Gujarat and Maharashtra. The food in both these states is quite different from each other. While people from Gujarat are almost always pure vegetarian and the use of onion and garlic is also prohibited in their cooking, Maharashtrians (like the rest of India) are both and non-vegetarians, depending on their caste and religion. Gujarati food uses plenty of green chilies, ginger and molasses in its preparation. Maharasthrian cooking uses coconut, curry leaves and whole mustard seeds very often.

Common Flavors and Spices in Indian Cooking

All across India, some of the commonly used spices are cumin (jeera), coriander (dhania), garam masala (a powdered mixture of comprising of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, whole peppers, nutmeg and mace), bay leaves (tej patta), mustard seeds and green chilies. Each of these spices have an unique flavor of its own and cannot be replaced with other spices.