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Please educate me regarding Indian cuisine

Hi all,
I was raised by parents who dry a roast out in my honor when I come home. My husband was raised by very traditional Chinese parents. We are both now free wheeling foodies, but somehow our education has never included Indian cuisine. We will be in London in a couple of weeks and figure it is a good city for that education. We have copied your recs for Indian restaurants. However, we know that if a non-food-educated person goes into Chinese restaurant, he/she wouldn't know what the yummy food is. In fact, the first proper question, wouldn't even be asked - what type of Chinese cuisine are we talking about? We assume that an Indian restaurant would be similar. So, can you please educate us so that we can educate our palates? What are the different types of Indian cuisine and what are the yummy insider dishes for each area? We can do spicy (really).
Thanks,
Shannon

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  1. those are all good questions.

    the word 'indian' cuisine is as much an anomaly as 'european' cuisine.

    let me know what restaurants are on your list and i'll tell you what to look for.

    1. I've found that reading good "indian" cookbooks has been helpful in explaining some aspects of the cuisine and has taught me how to order in restaurants. The cuisine is too vast for simple explanation here. But, particularly helpful is gaining an understanding of the regions---north vs south, the many different states (and even new countries) that are in the region and there are religious influences as well (great flavorful vegetarian dishes are an example). Also I took a cooking class and that was helpful in that the south indian teacher answered every question that our group had on the subject. The one thing that I have learned is that we don't get much variety here in the US--mainly northern is offered in restaurants, although this limitation is just now starting to change.

      I can't wait to be in London to get my fill of this cuisine. I especially want to try some Southern Indian restaurants. Howler--any in South Ken area?

      1. but lets try and get across the sheer diversity anyway.

        europe (ex russia) is 3.5 milliom square km. india is 3.2 million square km. india has 28 states, each one of which is like a seperate country with its own language/dialect, cuisine etc.

        and just as provencal cooking is very distinct from alsatian, it is entirely possible for a given state to possess myriad seperate styles.

        indian cuisine lives in peoples homes, not in restaurants. the recipes are passed on from mother to daughter-in-law over generations. indians go out to eat mainly as a break from routine, which is why the restaurants have nothing to do with regular food - they are meant to be something completely different. for better or worse, the restaurants that succeeded were those with pretensions to 'royal cuisine': the courts of delhi or hyderabad or lucknow. the upshot is the north indian restaurant we all know with all the rich, creamy stuff in it. NOTHING to do with how indians actually eat.

        indians are mainly vegetarians; even meat eaters will eat meat thrice a week at most. and vegetables are tough to cook - meat is easy. thats a tip for you: to see how good a cook is, see how he handles his vegetables. even the most stereo typical north indian restaurant should have alu gobi, dal, mutter paneer and roti on the menu. THATS the tough stuff, not the rogan josh.

        finally, sorry no tamilian/keralan restaurants in south ken. but quilon in buckingham gate is competent keralan.

        1 Reply
        1. re: howler

          I disagree with "even meat eaters will eat meat thrice a week at most". India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world and most Muslim frinds I have grew up eating meat everyday. And it isnt just a Muslim thing....Bengalis, people along the south west coast of India (like Mangalore)eat meat and fish everyday of the week. Infact for most Mangaloreans, beakfast is often some kind of fish curry with appams, idlis or sannas. East Indians (the original catholic inhabitants of Bombay)have meat everyday - whether its pork, beef, chicken, etc.

        2. Do you already live in England? If you are from the US, it is worth noting that the Indian in the UK is very different than the Indian in the US. They have been tailored to the local tastes and raw materials, and have different qualities. If you find a fave dish in London, it may be very different when you get back to the states.

          Enjoy!

          1. It's as complicated as Chinese food, yes. Here's Wikipedia's summary outline of Indian and Pakistani regional cuisines:

            North India

            Punjabi – Mughlai – Rajasthani –
            Kashmiri – Bhojpuri – Benarasi – Bihari

            South India

            Kerala – Tamil – Andhra –
            Karnataka

            East India

            Bengali – Assamese – Oriya –
            North Eastern

            West India

            Goa – Gujarati – Maharashtrian –
            Malvani – Parsi

            Other

            Overseas – Historical – Jain (Satvika) –
            Anglo-Indian – Chettinad – Fast food