Indian Food Facts: 10 Spicy Morsels of Knowledge

indian food factsIf you haven’t yet gotten around to trying Indian food, stop what you’re doing and go try some right now – we’ll wait. For those lucky people that have tried this delectable foreign cuisine, you know just how delightful this food can be. India has been known for its spices for thousands of years, with these exotic food enhancers being the backbone of trading routes throughout history. For all of its culinary depth and history, don’t expect to find any beef at your local Indian restaurant, because not only are cows viewed as sacred in Indian culture, over 80% of the population are Hindu, who traditionally practice vegetarianism.

Even though the Indian people eschew beef, as well as some other types of meat, many of the foods you may eat at an Indian restaurant are still very rich and creamy, so be sure not to go overboard, which can be difficult. Today, we will be offering up a hot, steaming plate of Indian food…facts, that is… that you may not have known – garlic naan will cost extra. If you’re a fan of Indian food, and think you’d like to try making it sometime, this article on learning to cook, and this course on vegetarian Indian cooking will both ease you into learning how to cook for yourself.

Fast Facts About Indian Food

Now on to the main course – these morsels of Indian food knowledge will not only introduce newbies to this exotic cuisine, but also just might surprise those people out there who thought they had a good understanding of it. Either way, hopefully we can simply teach you something new, and in the process, convert a skeptic or two.

  1. Most Americans are used to the less spicy cuisine of north India, in which red and green chilies, saffron, yoghurt, and ghee, or clarified butter, are used, but there are 28 states in India, each with its own culinary style and history. In the south, black pepper, tamarind, and coconut are widely used, and in the east, mustard and fish are popular, with the cosmopolitan west enjoying a combination of all the others.
  2. Curry is synonymous with Indian food, but moss people don’t even know what curry is. It’s a blend of spices that the Indians refer to as garam masala, and it will typically contain tamarind, cinnamon, black and white pepper, cloves, cumin, and cardamom. Many westerners think it permeates every Indian dish, but it’s only added to some dishes, along with other spices, and the proportions differ, making each dish unique.
  3. Modern Indian food can trace its roots back to the Harappan civilization, dating back to 3000 BC, and vegetables have always been an integral part of this food, including potatoes, okra, spinach, cauliflower, green bean, tomatoes, and green peas. If you’d like to incorporate more veggies into your diet, this course on vegetarian done right will help you start eating healthier.
  4. Like in the United States, breakfast, or nashta, is important to Indians. In the north, it may consist of a type of bread, either roti or paratha, vegetables, pickles, and curd. In the south, chutney and a crepe-like food called dosa are popular. In all cases, either coffee or tea will accompany the meal. Chances are, you’re a coffee fan, and this coffee crash course will tell you everything you need to know about this sweet, caffeinated nectar.
  5. Not only are there tons of different ingredients that Indians use in their food, there are many different ways to prepare them. They might roast, steam, grill, or boil the ingredients, and not only are they used for their flavors, but many things are added to the food for medicinal purposes.
  6. Indians like the sweet stuff, too. Halwa fudge, which contains carrots, and pudding are enjoyed on a daily basis, as are gulab jamun, a dessert of fried milk balls and syrup, kulfis, which is frozen sweetened milk or cream that’s been flavored, and sandesh, which is cheese kneaded with sugar or molasses.
  7. According to Indian food theory, there are six different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent. A proper Indian meal attempts to balance each of these flavors, with one or two of them standing out, but no one dish containing all six.
  8. Junk food in India is only slightly healthier than here in the U.S., with the junk food of choice for Indians being gobi-Manchuri, or “Manchurian cauliflower”. It consists of cauliflower, onions, garlic, and spices, combined together and fried in a batter that’s colored orange. Other popular junk food includes omelets, veggie fried rice or noodles, and cup-noodle.
  9. No discussion of Indian food would be complete without mentioning rice. It is a staple of the entire country, and is eaten every day. Some popular types of Indian rice include Basmati, which has over a dozen variants, Ponni, used in Indian breakfast food idli, and Patna, a long grain rice similar to Basmati.
  10. Indian food is popular the world over, and has even influenced its neighbors’ cuisine in Thailand, China, and Pakistan. Indian restaurants started popping up in the U.S. in the 1960s, and today there are about 8,000 Indian restaurants in the country, with California and New York containing the lion’s share of those.

Hopefully these facts about Indian food either shined a bit more light on the food you already love, or made this potentially intimidating cuisine a bit less scary – and even if it didn’t, then that leaves more for us Indian food lovers. As you can imagine, we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to this rich, delicious, and sometimes healthy food. The best way to learn more about Indian food isn’t to point and click, but to get out to your town’s local Indian restaurant, and take a culinary tour across this huge and ancient country. To learn more about the country, this course on the history of India covers 5,000 years of history in 90 minutes.