India is a country that boasts of unity in diversity and the story with its cuisine is somewhat similar. The term ‘Indian cuisine’ is a great misnomer because Indian food cuisine is not just one type of cuisine. The much talked about ‘Indian cuisine’ is rather the identification of the various cuisines inherent to the states, regions, cultures, climatic conditions and to some extent the religions that make it up.
It is interesting to know that Indian food cuisine can be divided in terms of the state or region it comes from, e.g. Maharashtrian cuisine, Gujrati cuisine, Odiya cuisine, Rajasthani cuisine, Andhra Pradesh cuisine, Bengali cuisine, etc. It can also be segregated as North Indian, North East Indian and South Indian cuisine. North Indian cuisine takes into account Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and West-Central & Eastern Uttar Pradesh cuisine. It also includes Bhojpuri and Mughlai cuisine. While North East Indian is the collective term used for Assamese, Arunachali, Tripuri, Manipuri, Meghalayan, Naga, Mizoram and Sikkimese cuisine. Tribal cuisines like that of Garo, Khasi and Bodo, are part of this. South Indian cuisine on the other hand comprises Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu cuisine.
Things like vegetarianism, non vegetarianism, eating beef (the meat of a cow is considered a taboo by the Hindus; it is deemed holy and worshipped by them) and having pork (this is no less a taboo for the Muslims as it is ‘haram’ or forbidden in Islam) have a role to play, too.
The common binding factor is perhaps the spicy character of most of the subcontinent’s cuisines. Indians love to eat and most people here like their food with a generous dose of masalas and some ‘tikhapan’- food that’s hot and spicy.
Another thing that is almost synonymous with Indian food cuisine is ‘curry powder’ which again is a misnomer to a lot of extent. All Indian ‘curry’ dishes (the word owes its origin to the Tamil word ‘kari’ meaning sauce) do not contain curry leaves and coconut milk- two key ingredients of South Indian cuisine, or for that matter ‘curry powder’ which is a mixture of different spices and in varying proportions. The spices used in the mixture vary from place to place and might be used alone or along with another set of spices. What’s more, often a variety of cooking methods are embraced to bring about the desired taste, texture, aroma and appearance.
Therefore, Indian cuisine is an umbrella term and should be used with a lot of thought and care.