Samantha Manning, our Tailormade Regional Specialist for Asia, travelled through India and was overwhelmed by the choice of dishes and incredible variety of flavours offered by each region.
Indian food is to die for! And it’s not just curry I’m talking about here. If you like researching and experimenting with new and exciting recipes (I take a pocket notebook to jot them down) India is the place for you.
For delicious fresh fish, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south offer beautifully fragrant and light choices such as meen ularthiyathu (a spicy fish stir-fry), tandoori pomfret (tandoori fish) and my favourite meen pollichathu - a fillet of white fish with wonderfully sweet flesh, lightly fried and topped with vibrant spices such as ginger, coriander and turmeric. To finish off, it’s wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled until perfectly cooked and flaky - a superb little parcel that gets your mouth watering the moment it hits the table.
In the south, dishes will normally be served with rice, but the further north you go the more you’ll notice that the fluffy white rice will be exchanged for bread. Lovers of naan and chapattis will be delighted to find a huge variety of other breads including paratha, roti, parotta and puri; all with their own flavours and made from a variety of flours.
Slow cooking is popular and a North Indian feast consists of a myriad of sumptuous curries and sides with a huge variety of ingredients. Aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower), butter chicken, chana masala (chickpea curry), biriyani and dal makhani (lentils) are just a handful of delicious options.
Many Indians are vegetarian, so there’s a fabulous range of pulses and other meat-free alternatives to try, such as chickpeas, lentils and paneer (an uncultured cheese), all cooked in their specific ways and packed full of flavour. You absolutely can’t go to Rajasthan without trying laal maas, an extremely spicy dish, traditionally made with curd, garlic and mutton which is a real feast for the eyes – its bright red colour comes from the delicious, fresh chillies used to create the sauce.
Predominantly a baker, I adore anything sweet. Whenever I had the opportunity to try an Indian dessert I took it. The choice and flavour variations are endless. Imarti – a deep-fried treat, soaked in sugar syrup is great for those with a major sweet tooth but not for the faint hearted, while laddu and kaju katli are small and perfectly-formed sweets, ideal for special occasions. The most common pudding however, and loved by all, is gulab jamun; made with milk powder and semolina these deliciously sweet, fried dumplings are served warm and offer the perfect finish to an enjoyable and diverse Indian feast.
Enjoy getting stuck in!