Indian cuisine is as diverse as the composition of its people, its languages and certainly its cultural diversity. If you travel across India on a train, you are likely to come across people speaking at least three different languages over the course of the day. There are more than two dozen languages that are spoken in India, with each state having at least two official languages and different areas of the state having different ambiguities of the same language as much as its own heritage to throw into the mix. India is a cultural and heritage experience that is beyond comparison.
The same thing transcends into the domain of cuisine. Just like there is no such thing as an Indian language (because there is no single language that can be attributed to being spoken all through the length and breadth of the country) there is no such thing as Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine is a mixture of the cooking styles across the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Mizoram and in Andaman and Lakshadweep. This is again, because different states of India have their own cooking styles which has been modified, adapted from other regions and influenced by settling communities who came from other parts of the globe. This unique blend of cuisines is what brings out the best about a truly authentic Indian food experience. It’s diverse, it’s incomparable and it’s mouth-wateringly scrumptious.
Vegetarian Indian Recipes
There is a large vegetarian community in India. States such as Rajasthan, Maharashtra, UP, Uttaranchal are some of the prominent states along with some of the coastal southern states that offer the best of an Indian vegetarian experience. Here are some vegetarian recipes that have been taken from menu cards across the sub-continent.
An original recipe that was born in Kerala, the Avial is equally popular across Tamil Nadu. This is a dish that is made for celebrations and festivities and embodies a bit of what is best about South Indian cuisine.
- About ¼ cup of fresh grated coconut
- About 1 big green chili chopped
- 1/3 teaspoon of cumin seeds. The above three ingredients will be blended into a paste with the help of some water.
- A few drumsticks cut into small 1” pieces
- Beans, about the same quantity as drumsticks and again cut into 1” pieces
- A little bit (about 1/3) of an Eggplant cut into the same size as above
- Carrots and yam also cut similarly and in the same quantity
- Some fresh green peas
Deviating from the ingredients, the real beauty of the dish is in its bright and contrasting colors and this is why the ingredients have to be chosen carefully based on their colors. Choose ingredients which contrast as much as possible in colors.
- Same quantity of pumpkin as carrots or yam, cut into similar size
- 1/3 cup of yoghurt (dry and beaten)
- A small sized raw banana chopped into large pieces
- Some refined oil for the cooking process
- ¼ teaspoon of turmeric
- Some curry leaves (2-3)
- Salt as per taste
The Cooking Process
The cooking process begins by washing the vegetables and chopping them into pieces the way it is needed (I” size on an average). The next process requires that you pour some water in a lidded pot and put the drumsticks into it. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for a few minutes until the drumsticks are medium ready. Pour all the remaining vegetables into the pot. Add some salt to it and finally some water to ensure that it does not get too dry. Cook the whole mixture over a medium heat for about a quarter of an hour.
Open the lid and check how the condition of the vegetables is. If they look like they are semi-done put the paste that was prepared at the start of the cooking process into the equation. Add a bit of water if you feel that the mixture has become really dry and allow it to simmer for another quarter of an hour.
After simmering for about quarter of an hour if the water has dried or is semi-dry (depending on your preference) add the yogurt, cumin seeds, curry leaves and oil and let it cook for a few more minutes. Turn off the fire. Serve hot with a sprinkle of the remaining curry leaves on top.
If you love north Indian vegetarian recipes then the following lip smacking tongue twisting dish is going to bowl you over. This dish, which is a favorite among the Punjabi community in north India, combine a lot of masala and milk products just like any other typical north Indian vegetarian dishes. Paneer is quite heavily used in these cuisines. If you are a fan of the flavors that were brought to North America by the migrated Sikh diaspora during the late eighties and nineties then this is a recipe that you will dig in naturally.
Paneer is an Indian milk curd cheese. It is widely used across India in different recipes. This same item is used in several other dishes also in the Pakistani and Afghanistani cuisines. Paneer is also used across the remaining part of the country in several other typical regional dishes.
- About a medium cup of Paneer.
- Two onions chopped
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- One large green capsicum – chopped
- Some chopped coriander leaves
- About one teaspoon of Fenugreek powder (hand crushed)
- About 2 teaspoon of red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of ginger chopped finely
- About 1-2 green chilies.
- About a pinch of turmeric powder
- About one tablespoon of coriander powder
- About a pinch less of one teaspoon of garam masala
- Salt to taste
The Cooking Process
The process begins by heating a bowl of water to boil. Then put the Paneer cubes in to the hot water and allow it to soak. Put it away to be used later in the cooking process. Heat some oil in a pan. After a minute or two add the coriander seeds. Now add the ginger and let it fry for a while. Cut the green chili from the middle (don’t split into two though) and put them in the pan. Add the onions and stir fry them till they start changing color.
Now is the turn of the tomatoes. Pour them into the pan along with all the masala that were prepared. Add some salt and turmeric. Keep stirring the pan till the point that the tomatoes begin to lose form and the whole mixture start to take a uniform appearance.
At this point you need to pour the capsicum pieces. Stir them but ensure that the bright green capsicum does not get de-colorized and lose its identity. Now the Paneer pieces will go in. soaking them in water makes them tender and scrumptious. Sprinkle the fenugreek powder that you hand crushed earlier. If the mixture is turning too dry for comfort add a little water. You will need this for the remaining time that the pot is going to simmer over fire and until the Paneer has absorbed the masala. Stir it gently so that masala coats the Paneer completely. The final look of the dish will be yellowish-red which should give you the hint that it is ready to serve. One last touch. Sprinkle with fresh chopped coriander leaves before serving.
Kadai Paneer is ideally served with roti or nun as the main course for a scrumptious vegetarian meal. However, it can justify the role of a side-dish with equal élan on a non-veg table as well.
Start with the above recipes and then challenge yourself by cooking up a new vegetarian Indian dish every night.