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Indian cuisine is world-renowned for its complex combinations of flavors and aromas. The curries, breads and sauces of traditional Indian cooking meld together in unique ways, making an Indian meal a truly immersive experience for food-lovers. Many traditional meals in Indian cuisine are based on ancient physiological beliefs, and are meant to be beneficial to the mind, body and spirit.
The most easily recognizable set of Indian dishes are called curries, and are famous in India and throughout the world. Curries typically combine a base ingredient, such as chicken, lamb, or a vegetable, with a delicately spiced sauce. There are hundreds of curries, using main ingredients as standard as fish or as unusual as watermelon. Different regions throughout India specialize in local spice blends and specific curry mixes, so a curry from a region of South India may be very different than one from another area, even if they have the same basic ingredients.
One delicious curry that has endless variations throughout Indian cuisine is known as chana masala. This dish is focused around chick peas, also known as garbanzo beans, and is particular popular throughout northern India and Pakistan. Typical ingredients included in a chana masala are onion, tomato, garlic, ginger and turmeric. The curry can be spiced up with chili peppers for those who love spicy food, or served relatively bland for the less adventurous. Chana masala is almost always suitable for vegetarians and is a great dish to start with when learning about eating or cooking Indian cuisine.
As most curries and main dishes in Indian cuisine use sauces, bread is an important part of a balanced Indian meal. Naan, a well-known variety of Indian bread similar to pita, is a large flat bread shaped round or to resemble a palm frond. Naan is excellent for scooping up curries and may also be stuffed with various ingredients, such as garlic. Chapati is a crisp, whole-wheat flour cracker-like bread, often puffed up over an open flame before being served.
Indian beverages include tea and beer, but one famous, milkshake-like concoction does wonders on a hot day. Lassi is a simple combination of yogurt whipped with ice water, sugar or salt. Some variations of lassi are blended with fruit such as mangos or bananas. Do not let a trip to an Indian restaurant go by without trying this delicious treat, especially during a hot summer.
Desserts in Indian cuisine are not often found outside of Indian restaurants, but are wonderful in their own rights. Kulfi, an Indian form of ice cream, is a dense combination of condensed milk and heavy cream, flavored with pistachio, rose or saffron. Gulab jamun are thick dumplings served in a sugar-based syrup, often accented with cardamom, honey, or rose water. Although variations exist from region to region, kheer is a rice pudding served all over the Indian subcontinent, and is often credited with being the forerunner to western versions of the dish.
Indian food is a dynamic and inventive cuisine with a history stretching back thousands of years. With its consistent utilization of ingredients native to different regions, it is possible to travel the country ordering the same dish over and over, and never be quite sure of how it will taste. As Indian food becomes more popular in the Western food world, even more variations are added on to traditional dishes, making the cuisine of India a constant revelation and adventure for food lovers all over the globe.