What Indians eat?!

Different states – Different dishes

First of all I’d like to draw your attention that each Indian region has its own particularities of food habits, food preferences and its own set of dishes. Though still there are common features of Indian cuisine. For example, rice which is consumed by absolutely all Indians. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of Indians consider rice the main dish.

I am going to speak about Indian cuisine basing on my first impressions and own experience so I will mostly describe food of Maharashtra (a state of India with the center in Mumbai) and Kerala (a South-Indian state).

All the 5 shelves in a small supermarket are occupied by numerous types and brands of rice – main food for Indians.
Indian flat bread

Indians in different states of the country cook different type of flat bread. Among Indian flat bread types there are the following: dosha, chapathi, papad (or papadam), parotha, etc. Indian flat bread has nothing to do with Russian and European bread or pancakes, it is cooked in a different way and may taste and look absolutely differently.

Usually Indian flat bread is cooked on a pan or tawa (a flat frying pan) while Russian and European bread is baked in an oven.

Ingredients of Indian flat bread
The shelves of a supermarket are piled with different types of peas and flours.

Indian flat bread commonly contains no eggs, no milk, no sour milk (in Russian prostokvasha), no sour cream, no butter milk, and no soda powder. In addition, Indians also don’t add sugar that we usually use in Russian cuisine for non-sweet dishes for a balanced taste.

The main ingredients of Indian flat bread are water, flour (rice, wheat, peas flour etc.), and salt. As I’ve already mentioned eggs are commonly not used for cooking flat bread but my mother-in-law does use eggs sometimes for cooking whole grain wheat dosa. Apart from this Indian parotha may also be cooked with eggs.

Sometimes herbs and spices like coriander, turmeric powder, spinach, cumin seeds (Indian jeera), chili etc. may be added. Then flat bread may turn a dark green color and obtain a specific taste.

Cultural differences
Indian dosa (or dosha) vs Russian pancakes
So, as you can see yourself Indian dosha though cooked on a pan has nothing to do with pancakes or oladyi.

Dosha may be cooked almost like pancakes but does not really contain milk! Indeed, when I offered first time pancakes cooked with milk to my husband he tried and rejected them claiming that they were not tasty. It’s still something that I can hardly assume because for me as a Russian pancakes are delicious and sometimes it may be even served as a dessert.

Indian cuisine vs Russian

According to me dosha is an alternative to bread in western countries but Indians are of another opinion. They consider dosha the main dish and may serve it with a vegetable, coconut or chicken curry.

Rice is considered by Indians the main dish while for me as a Russian it looks like a side dish.

Indians also don’t eat salads like Russians or Europeans do. Indian salads do exist but they are quite restricted by the ingredients and are served in a tiny plate (Russian rozetka) in a small amount as if it was a source.

Indian baked bread

Baked bread widely sold in Indian shops is made of wheat and it leaves much to be desired. Indians do not care much about bread as they used to eat different flat bread. There is white bread which is very often over sweetened and so according to my Russian taste not suitable for accompanying my daily meals as well as not enough tasty for being a dessert!

I do eat this bread because I need it for my sandwiches and for eating Russian soup, and now I even like it though in the beginning when I just moved to Indian I really suffered without good bread.

As for the rye bread, this is a really rare thing there in India because they either don’t grow rye here at all or grow in very small amounts. And me as a Russian I do miss rye bread which is commonly grown in Russia and other European countries.

Indian curry
A typical dinner served on festival days in Mumbai. Rice, 2 types of curry in bowls, fresh cucumbers, some sweets (of round shape ), puffy puri (made of wheat flour and fried in deep oil) and a glass of water.

Contrary to the ideas of many westerners about curry, curry is not whatever cooked with turmeric powder. Sometimes a not familiar with Indian cuisine westerner may even believe that curry is the same as turmeric powder that is a spice of yellow color used for cooking Indian dishes.

So what is really meant by curry? Curry is a dish made of vegetables or meat (usually chicken or mutton). Curry may be also made of eggs which, by the way, are considered non vegetarian food in India. Curry is cooked on a deep or shallow pan with spices and herbs. The ready curry may be compared to a thick soup or stewed vegetables.

Curry will always have some liquid in it, that’s why I compared it with a thick soup. Liquid part of curry is very important as it’s served to soak rice and make it not dry and easier to eat. My husband, for example never eats rice without any curry like Russian people always do. Indians also eat curry with dosha, chapathi and parotha.

I could have continued writing about spices and drinks but it will make the post too long. So in one of my next posts I will surely write about spices and drinks.

To sum it all up

Indian cuisine is entirely different from Russian and western cuisine in general. We prefer different spices and herbs.

We prefer baked bread while Indians – flat fried bread. Russian flat bread contains dairy ingredients and eggs, while Indian flat bread is coked only with water and rarely with eggs.

Russians and Europeans cook a great variety of salads with millions of ingredients and may have a big salad as a complete meal. Indians do not consider salads seriously and use them only as a source or side dish, usually in very small amounts and use very few ingredients.

And finally, rice which is just a garnish for Russians (unless it’s plov), is considered by Indians the main course which is daily consumed by every Indian family. In terms of popularity, importance and the frequency of usage in a cuisine, Indian rice can be compared only to Russian potatoes. If you are interested to know a little more about Russian eating habits and about what I eat in India you are welcome to check out my post about it.

There are many more curious or even strange facts about Indian cuisine. So I’m going to continue the food topic in one of the following posts. If you know anything interesting to say or want to ask a question, please do not hesitate and leave a comment.

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