The Indian cuisine was influenced mainly by foreigners, who occupied India for many years, and brought with them their local ingredients, spices and dishes. Furthermore, trade relations, paths and colonialism also had a great role in Indian cuisine. However, it is in the native Indian cuisine to use various spices, and that is why India was the connection between Europe and eastern spices. For instance, chili, breadfruit and potato were all brought and introduced by the Portuguese.
Indian cuisine has influenced a number of other cuisines in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, Fiji, the Caribbean and the British Islands.
The most common ingredients in the Indian cuisine are:
- pearl millet
- lentils (red lentils or masoor, toor or pigeon peas, mong or mung bean, channa or chickpeas, rajma or kidney beans, urad or black gram and lobiya (peas)
- whole-wheat flour
Indians use vegetable oil across the country, but arachis oil (peanut), is quite popular in western and northern India, coconut oil on the west coast in Kerala and mustard oil in eastern India. The southern part of India mostly uses sesame or gingerly oil and hydrogenated oil ghee (Vanaspati) is an old Ayuvedric medium for cooking. In the matter of meat, Indians use mostly mutton and chicken, whereas cow is not eaten due to religion.
Spices and flavorings used in Indian dishes
- cardamom (elaichi)
- asafoetida (hing)
- turmeric (haldi)
- coriander (dhania)
- cumin (jeera)
- garlic (lasoon)
- black mustard seed (sarso)
- chilli pepper powder or grains (mirch)
- ginger (adrak)
There are many different spice mixes in India, such as Garam masala, which includes at least five dried spices, mostly cardamom, clove and cinnamon (dalchini). Each region makes an unique blend of the Garam masala mix. For instance, a special spice mix in Maharashtra region is called the Goda masala. The most common used leaves are bay or tejpat, mint, fenugreek and coriander leaves. Curry roots and leaves are used in the south and Gujarati. Cakes and sweets are flavored with saffron, cardamom, rose petals and nutmeg.