Spices are the heart and soul of Indian cooking. The spices used in Indian cooking are dried seeds, berries, bark, rhizomes, flowers, leaves, and chilies. These may be dried or fresh, pods or seeds, roasted, ground or put into hot oil to expel their flavors. A combination of spices is called as masala. All Indian food is served with either rice or bread, or a combination of two.
Food is served on a banana leaf or a stainless steel. South Indian early settlers began the use of banana leaves as serving plates. During feasts, only the end section is used with its narrow part facing left.
Indian food has always been eaten with the right hand. In the south all parts of the fingers can be used, like a scoop. In the north this is considered vulgar and only the tips of the fingers are used, with bread used as the scoop. The first mouthfuls of rice are eaten with chutney and spicy additives while the Indian end to a meal is the betel leaf. The leaf is chewed along with a slice of areca nut, a dab of slaked lime and a smear of katha paste. Washing the hands before meals is an important ritual since most Indians use their fingers in eating.
In Kashmir, among the most popular dishes are lamb marinated in yogurt, mutton simmered in milk and scented with nutmeg, and rich meat curries. Kashmiran foods has subtle blend of spices, richness and pungency. Goa, a tiny state on the Arabian Sea is known for their use of vinegar and kokum fruit and love of chilies. Bengali cuisine is the only region in India where food is served in individual courses elaborate and refined. This way of serving food is based on the ancient belief of eating that promotes healthy digestive process.
In Rajasthan, a popular millet porridge called Bhajra Khichadi are often eaten with pure ghee. Raj's food has yielded dishes that pay homage to their ancestors like spiced chutneys and curries. The first Christian is said to have set his foot of Kerala in 52 AD and his converts are known as Syrian Christians. They eat spicy offal, chicken, fish, shellfish, beef and wild boar. Other dishes known to them are Erachi Olathiathu or beef dry-fried with a paste of coconut and spices, Vevichathu Surnai or Keralan soured fish curry.
There is so much gastronomic discovery you will enjoy in your Indian vacation. No other cuisine uses as many spices in so many ways than Indian. For them, it is in the use of spices that they bring out the dormant flavors of a dish. The greatest numbers of spices are used in North India.
Dishes like rogan josh or aromatic meat curry with a creamy gravy with ginger, garlic, onions, red chillies, coriander leaves, saffron, black pepper, asafetida, black cumin seeds, cumin powder, cardamom leaves, cloves, cinnamon sticks, poppy seeds, turmeric powder, chili powder, paprika, nutmeg powder, mace powder, and more.