The National Dish of India
Sitting alone in my hostel room, it all of a sudden struck me, that if coq au vin is the national dish of France, and probably a pretzel for Germany, pasta/pizza for Italy, sushi for Japan, a Chicken Tikka Masala for the UK, hotdog for the US, then what is India’s national dish? Upon wondering for a while(a whole hour actually), I arrived upon the conclusion that India does not have one national dish. Each state and each region in India is known for its own dishes, which we simply love devouring. Following is an attempt to list down India’s best known dishes(region wise)
NORTH INDIA: Probably the most famous north Indian breakfast is an aloo parantha. It is eaten all over the plains, and even across the himalayan mountains. Having them with curd or pickle(although I have seen people have them with dips and additives like Jam, Sugar, Ketchup and evenMayonnaise!!!) A sufficiently warm stuffed aloo parantha would make any India’s day. Love gorging on them.
PUNJAB: Of the north Indian States, probably Punjab has the most famous dishes to come close to being labelled as the national dish of India. The Punjabi/Jat Dhabas all over the trucker’s paths in most of India have led to this cuisine’s tremendous rise to fame. Aloo Paranthas are typically Punjabi. Dal Makhani and Shahi Paneer are also one of the most widely eaten dish in Northern India. Butter Chicken has been mastered by Punjabi chefs all over the country, despite being a Mughalai-Tandoori addition. Lassi is the classic iconic drink of Punjab, while the chart topper is simply the Makki-di-Roti and Sarson da Saag.
RAJASTHAN: Any returning tourist from Choki Dhani in Jaipur would tell you to try Rajasthani food. You might have heard Aishwarya Rai’s yes women singing songs about Rajasthani food in Jodha Akbar, but many few people have actually sampled food from the desert. Daal Baati (Lentil curry dumplings) is definitely Rajasthan’s most famous gastronomic discovery. But my favourite dish from Rajasthan would be the Moong Dal ka Halwa. Having had it only a few times in my life, the craving quotient for the halwa is quite high. Thank you my dear friend, Sumit Agarwal, for constant dosages of what is going on in the Marwari food world, and how delightfully tasty it is that made me succumb to my taste buds, and finally dive into a Rajasthani thali!
LUCKNOW: I’ll mention three eateries from Lucknow, and then probably start dreaming. Royal Cafe, Tunday Kebabs, Moti Mahal. Royal Cafe is undoubtedly serves the best chat in the country, try their Basket Chat and Pani Puri. Tunday Kebabs are kebab specialists, while the Kulfi from Moti Mahal is from another league of Kulfis. I’d like to credit this wonderful person in my life called Hina Khare, for educating me about food from Lucknow and helping me sample Lucknowi food.
DELHI: Delhi is definitely the Chat or the Street Food capital of India. There are just too many chat vendors out on the streets of Delhi to list down. Each vendor has his own unique taste, and has a list of loyal customers. Also famous is probably the Chuski (Flavoured icicles) that are also available throughout the city. Probably the most famous one is in the South-Ex market. And how can one forget the Paranthe Wali Gali, when one mentions Delhi. Savour the paranthas from there, or the Jalebi, the Lassi, the Faluda from Chandni Chowk. Try flavoured Paans at Connaught Place, or Dimsums (Momos) from a wide variety. Delhi is probably the only place in the country where you get a mixture of not only all Indian tastes but ones from abroad as well. And the five stars have a whole array of cuisines lined up. Delhi is like a mini version of the Indian cuisine, and a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world.
BENGAL: Bengali food is all about the delicate flavours and the famous desserts. The famous shondhesh, or the dark temptations of the Gulab Jamun, or the incarnation of the tooth fairy, the Roshogolla. The other famous items on any Bengali restaurant would be the Macher Jhol, Macher Jhol is Bengali for fish curry or gravy. It is usually eaten with Rice. Bengalis are so fond of rice, that probably they are the only people who order the rice meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken in India and actually liked them!
GUJARAT: Pretty much contrary to Kareena Kapoor’s observations in the movie 3 idiots (that Gujarati food items sounded like enlisted items from an armed country’s nuclear arsenal) they are actually quite sweet in taste. For people living in Delhi, go to the Akshardham mandir to sample some really authentic Gujarati food. Go for the famous items like the Dhokla or the Thepla, perhaps the Malpua, the Fafda, or the Handwoh. Gujarati food, probably alongside Marwari food is a delight for sweet tooths.
SOUTH INDIA: For all you ignorant people from the North, there are other dishes in South India apart from the Masala Dosa. Try reading the menu card the next time that you are at Sagar Ratna before you finally place your customary order of the dosa, you might want to try some of the other dishes as well. Known for their famous chutneys, pickles and spices, South Indian food is quite different from that served in the North. First it is cooked in a different oil. It is also more spicy, and are pretty much rice based.
ANDHRA PRADESH+HYDERABAD: Probably the most spiciest of the lot (Andhrites actually have a spicy powder which is added to food and is fondly called as Gun Powder by the locals), food from the Andra Pradesh is known for its usage of chilly powder and tamarind in bulk proportions. Rava Dosa is a dosa derivative and is a very famous Andhra Pradesh creation. Other famous creations from the state are its own Pancake or Pesarrattu, lemon rice(pulihora), and a whole list of pappus(stew) and fry items. Hyderabadi cuisine, from the capital of the state is the elder cousin of Awadhi(or Lucknowi) food. It is much more spicier than the latter, and is known for its flamboyant garnishings. Dishes famous from Hyderabad include the famous Biryani and the Pulaos(particularly the Zaafrani Pulao). Paaya and Payasam are also quite famous in Hyderabad.
KARNATAKA: Probably it is the only South Indian state which would go easy on your tongue and stomach, as it uses very little chilly powder and loads of jaggery leading to an overall reduction in Spice Quotient from its neighbouring Andhra. This cuisine has been particularly made famous by the chain of Udupi restaurants, with its most well known exponents being the Plain and rava Idli, the Masala Dosa, Sambar, Rasam and the bisi belle bath.
TAMIL NADU: Tamilian food is quite moderate. It is neither too spicy nor too sweet. Tamil food has also been sometimes labelled as a little dry. However its a matter of sampling it, before you fall for it. They have quite an array of pickles, chutneys and dips. Non vegetarian food is mostly restricted to fried fish items, with rice being a common serving for both vegetarian and non vegetarian Food. Idli, Sambar Vadai, Dosai, Pappadam, Uthappam are probably the most famous servings down under.
And with that its a wrap, aptly because of all this saliva that has been generated, because of my taste buds working over time. Alas, I only have the hostel mess as an option right now, but when you got to eat, you really got to eat.