On The Forked Road: A Journey Through Various Indian Cuisines

Posted on August 6, 2012 in Culture-Vulture

By R Anupam Pillai:

Foodie! Yes it’s the most appropriate adjective for every Indian to be proud about. Whether it’s a crispy dosas of the South served with hot sambar and coconut chutney, or crunchy bhaturas served with saucy chana masala in the North; steaming hot momos of the East or spicy farsaan of the West, India has always etched its name on the map of world cuisine for its variety.

This article is about me, how I had been a part of this travel for the most sumptuous and tempting meal across the country. Since, childhood I have loved to travel and try out cuisine of different places. I was born in Kerala, God’s Own Country, but then, had spent my childhood and most of my time in the Heart of the Nation, Madhya Pradesh. I was always fascinated to see different people of different ethnicity and culture, and most importantly, their food, and hence, this made me to look out for what influences their cuisines.

So, gradually I used to try out different cuisines whether its Goan fish curry or Bengali aloo bhaja and lucchi. My mother cooks extremely well, whether it’s a North Indian or a South Indian dish; she tries to make it picture perfect. And, at times even though she may miss out in replicating the same but even then it turns out to be something new and different.

On the other hand my father tries his culinary skills whenever he feels the need to have a gala time. We all help him out in cooking the food and the moment when we all sit together to have it, there would be critiquing on the same, but I still have it till the very last bite. Those were the moments I started to think about food- it is not that we eat to live but it’s that we live to eat. I am not sure about this notion anywhere else in the world but in India it’s true indeed.

In summer vacations, I used to go to either Kerala or Nagpur but wherever I used to go, the only thing that I pondered about was – food, food, and only food! I still remember those days when I used to go with my cousin and uncle to have some evening snacks at some good eating joints in the Orange city, Nagpur. Whether its Gujrati dabeli or Maharashtrian ragda patis and pav bhajji, Nagpur is the perfect place that caters to everyone’s need. Moreover Dinshaw’s ice cream and Haldiram’s snacks are famous all over the world for its unique taste and blend of perfect Indian flavor.

In monsoon, Kerala is the best destination for not only those who love to travel but also those who want to try the Malayali cuisine at its best. Whether its palappam with chicken stew or Malabari porotta, people love to have scores of it at once. From delicious fish curry to spicy chicken curry, Kerala serves it all. And in the festive season of Onam, there’s a big list of delicacies prepared for the same. Moreover, banana chips and Karachi halwa is an all-time favourite snack of people all over the country.

Recently, my father got transferred to Kashmir. I was much more excited about indulging in the Kashmiri cuisine than about its scenic beauty of lush green fields and snow-topped mountains. Kashmiri Wazwaan is the true representation of princely food culture and tradition of Kashmir. Mostly, this cuisine is known for the dishes made with rich spices and meat, whether it’s crispy kababs or spicy mutton roganjosh; but the vegetarians won’t be disappointed as they can try out Paneer and other veggies. On the other hand, there cannot be a better end to the lavish food unless you have Phirni, as a sweet dish, because in India we believe to have sweet dish after a meal, ‘Khaane ke baad kuch mitha ho jaye?’

It’s been a year or so, when I came down here to the silver city, Cuttack in Odisha for my higher education. Being in a college we learn how to manage expenses and spend worthwhile on your weekends. Apparently Cuttack is a place which seems to be a bit more affordable and it always caters to the need of people of every class, whether its rich or poor, odiya or non-odiya, food is the bridge that connects the people together out here. While walking through the serene and beautiful lanes of Cuttack, there’s nothing as exhilarating and pleasing as having a cup of tea with steaming vadas. People out here live, love and crave for food. Whether it’s savouring dahi bada or tangy mutton curry served with a plate-full of piping hot rice and a dash of green chilly and chopped onions. Some of the restaurants such as Barabati hotel, Royal hotel and Triple C are mostly packed during peak hours, and also some of the coffee shops like one near Barabati stadium, “Cafe Corner”, is one of the most popular places among teenagers. So, my craving for food still goes on and hopefully I look forward to get to try every possible food culture in India. People don’t just eat food but live for it, as a means to stay connected with their rich tradition and culture. It happens only in India!