Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cuisines of North India

From Rajasthan to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, the cuisines of North India changes several times and takes so many avatars. Perhaps no any other region of the country challenges to the culinary challenges to culinary chronicler as North India. Here I am providing a fleeting glimpse of the variety of scrumptious cuisines that you cane savour in North India.

Cuisines of Delhi : Delhi offers food for all seasons,like a bottle of chilled ‘bantewala soda’ poured into Nimbu-Pudien ka Paani for summer. During summers you can also enjoy kulfi falooda – the rock solid kulfi hidden beneath a delicious mix of falooda, nuts and syrup. In winters, usually breakfast comprises of lachhedar parantha with butter or the ‘Sarson da saag and makki di roti’ made. Visit the Paranthewali Gali where you can savour paranthas with some chilled thandai. Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk is famous for chaats and chhole bhature. The famous Karim restaurant offer delicious Biryani, chickens and muttons. For Rasagulla and other Bengali sweets visit the Bengali market.

Punjab – Haryana – Chandigarh : All these places are famous for the creamy lassi savoured on hot summer days. Summers and winters remain extreme here, but round the year you will find roadside carts carrying clay tandoors (sanjha choola). You can take kneaded dough and ghee from your home and get fresh tandoori rotis made. During winter people eat sweet cooked rice, garjrela, sarson da saag and makki di roti. Also savour peethiwali puri, aloo chhole, gur ka halwa, snacks of mathri with amm ka achaar (mango pickle), paneer pakoras and toshe.

Himachal Pradesh : Himachal Pradesh is the land of fruits such as plums, plump peaches, litchis, figs, apricots, pears, apples and pomegranates. Jams and chutneys of the Himachal region are also famous. Green Apple chutney of Himachal is unique to this region and liked by visitors. Himachali food is a delicious melange of influences from Punjab and its neighbouring Tibet. Some of the specialties of Himachal include Sepu wadi (urad dal wadis), rajma madra, chaas mutton, til chutney and boondi kadhi or bedana. Locals drink namkeen chai (salted tea), tea leaves are boiled for a long time with butter, almonds and salt, then strained and served piping hot. Some other favourites are dhoti maa and meethe chawal. Everyday meal is the usual rice, vegetables, bread and dal. During festive occasions special dishes are cooked. People living in mountainous areas love chicken and mutton spiced with generous doses of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and red chillies and prefer dum or tandoor modes of cooking.

Uttar Pradesh : Uttar Pradesh is known for a variety of cuisine. You can savour the vegetarian saatvik food of Varanasi to the legendary non-vegetarian dishes from Awadhi royal gharanas to Lucknow’s tender kababs, fragrant biryanis and thick fvalourful meat preparations. Lucknow is world famous for its dum cooking – a technique integral to India’s culinary legacy. Some delectable tastes of this region are the tunde ke kababs of Lucknow, chaats of Meerut Cantonment and Kanpur’s makhhan. Nargisi kofta is another specialty of Awadhi cooks. Breakfast generally means nihari with naan.

Jammu and Kashmir : Three different styles of cooking prevail in the state. Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits and Rajputs each follow their own eating traditions. Rice forms the staple food of Kashmir, another characteristic of Kashmiri cuisine is the liberal dose of saffron or kesar. The medium of cooking is chiefly mustard oil. Kasmir valley is famous for its kahwa tea, which is not only flavoured with cardamom and saffron but also with almonds. Nun chai or green tea is another specialty of Kashmir, which is boiled for a long time and drunk with salt instead of sugar. Tradition of Wazawan is a special feature of Kashmir. A delectable 36-course ceremonial banquet, Wazawan is essentially meat based, prepared by skilled wazas (cooks) under the supervision of the Vasta Waza or the master chef.

Rajasthan : Best known Rajasthani food is the combination of dal, baati and choorma. However, for food lovers, there is plenty more to choose from. In fact, in Rajasthan each region is distinguished by its popular sweet – ladoos from Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, Ghevar from Jaipur, Mawa from Alwar and malpuas from Pushkar. Rajasthan is also the home of the tangy appetiser jaljeera and myriad chutney made from turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic. Rajasthani cooking is greatly influenced by the harsh climate and non-availability of several ingredients. Bajra and corn are used all over the state for khichdi and thick bhakris. The cuisine of the Marwari Jains is prepared without onions and garlic. Some of the famous non-vegetarian dishes are safed maas, laal maas and mass ki kadhi.

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