Indian Cuisine: Food in India is an institution in itself. There are many countries where food is an important part of life, but allow me to express why it is so in India.
Through history, India has had a multitude of Rajas and Maharajas governing independent states within India, together with a equal multitude of rulers in different parts and different times, all of which has resulted in a huge social divide between rich and poor. India has also been an important trading nation with traders coming to India from Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. The conquering and trading nations brought their own cuisine, and then added to this zest was the size of the country with different weather and climatic patterns which resulted in a huge variety of foods cooked in the most exotic fashion. The rich could eat what they wanted and the poor needed employment and thus cooking became a profession where the richest would vie with the others to get the best chefs. Because of relatively low cost of labour, preparation times for food became inconsequential. Rewarding creative chefs further extended the cuisine, and indeed, a chef is called a “Maharaj” in parts of India as an appreciation of his significance to the king himself.
India is the size of Europe, with preparations and recipes from all over the country. As it would be futile to seek “European food” when we go to a restaurant, it is equally droll to an Indian when others seek “Indian food”. One easily divides food preparations from the different states, as a daal cooked in one area is quite different in taste and texture to the same daal, with essentially the same ingredients, to that prepared in another state. Another misconception is that “Indian” food is “standardized” and thus limited to tandoorie chicken and naan (an import from the Middle East), and that Indian food is very (spicy) hot with a lot of chilies. Indian food is spicy as in flavourful, but not necessarily chili hot.
Have a look at this video, bit long (30 minutes) but better watch it with a full tummy!
An amusing but thought provoking snapshot of different preparations shows the vastness of palette of food from India. I urge you to try non-familiar preparations as you visit different parts of India.