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India's Popular Foods

The distinct aromas of Indian cuisine are like no others. Tantalizing, spicy, and - yes- some are hot!

Interestingly, the foods from Northern India are quite the opposite of those found in the South. The numerous states, regions, and religions of India all factor into the methods, food selection, and flavorings. (scroll down for rest of article)

As a beginning, let's take a look at ingredients in general along with my personal favorite (and easy) tandoori recipe.

Here is a very basic list of terms.

A tandoor is a clay oven, the Indian version of a charcoal grill. Tandoori refers to food cooked in a tandoor, which originated in Northern India, but is now widespread. No tandoori recipe tastes quite as good unless cooked in the tandoor.

Many different types of breads are available in India, including:
-Naan (or nan), which is a flatbread (wheat) eaten with meals. It is cooked in a tandoor. Market versions are good; home recipes are available.
-Roti is a whole wheat bread used in Northern and Central India.
-Chappati is a flatbread made from chappati flour. Also made with whole wheat flour.
-Papadam - crispy and thin cracker; we use them to dip into chutneys and sauces.

Masalas are spice blends. Many Indian cooks will never use powders in their kitchens, insisting that fresh roasted spices are the only course for true Indian flavors. I certainly agree, but rarely have time or the proper ingredients available for scratch recipes.

Madras and Vindaloo. Madras refers to a base sauce with additional hot spices added in. Madras is also a bustling Indian city, export hub, and capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. Vindaloo is even hotter than madras and includes a vinegar base. The term originates in the tiny state of Goa. Historically, foods from this area bear a heavy influence from the Portuguese.

Lentils, peas, beans. Come in a variety of colors and are interchangeable in recipes except for mung beans and black gram beans. Dal soups are delicious - and vegetarian.

Curry is just a name for a broad range of spice blends and flavors. The term curry powder is controversial with purists, but different blends available today are much easier to locate and use than combining a long list of spices and herbs from scratch. Use curries on meat, poultry, fish and vegetables. Add yogurt and/or water to create "wet" curries.

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