Types of Indian Food for a newbie [moved from Ontario board]
I can't believe I waited so long to try Indian Food! Now, I can't get enough of it.
I've only had it twice so far (Chauhan's and Little India) for lunch - absolutely loved Little India. I also bought some veggie samosas at Embassy/Samosa King (did not like them), and other than making a quick Indian dish at home, using President's Choice sauces, I'd like to know more about the different regions?
I've been reading about Indian, Sri-Lankan, Pakistani food/restaurants here. Please explain the differences? I can google it, but I would prefer the feedback from my fellow chowhounders!!
The easiest way to differentiate
Dishes are thick in texture, but light on the palate in the north. As you travel south (Sri Lanka), dishes become extremely rustic, rich in spices (super hot), and very thin in texture.
To elaborate;I’ve eaten in all the major cities of India/Pakistan/sri lanka, and there is a noticeable difference in the cuisine, even in today’s world of culturemeshing.
North Indian cuisine is defined by extensive use of clay ovens (Tandoori breads and meats), yoghurt, clarified butter, and farmer cheese (paneer). There are herbs and spices being used, but very lightly, and this is evident in the noticeable lack of heat. The sauces are creamier, the meats are delicately tender, etc. Typical dishes would include anything with the word paneer (cheese), butter chicken, tandoori chicken, and some kinds of roti. It’s fattening, easy to eat because it’s the least intimidating of the bunch. This is north Indian food and the most popular accompaniment to any dish is some type of oven bread (Naans)
Places like Tabla, Amaya, Babur, Trimurti, Chakra , The Host, are good examples of north Indian cuisine.
Pakistani cuisine somewhat resembles this food, but they focus on drier plates….more naan, less curries but more curried and dry meats.
When you travel south, different elements from surrounding regions are added to the cuisine. There is more emphasis on rice, with hundreds of variations on rice. There is mo emphasis on the curry itself, sweets from eastern India (rasmalai, yoghurt sweets, kheeri), fish dishes, and even Portuguese influenced beef and pork dishes (even though beef is a no no, it is still served in Goan influenced parts of southern and western India).
So the dishes tend to be spicier, the sauces are thin, and they’re used for dipping and mixing with rice. The dishes are very aromatic and more 3dimensional in taste.
Dishes like, Sambar, Biryani, Crab burry, Parathas, Dosas, Pooris, Idlis, are examples of south Indian cuisine. It’s more rustic.
Little Indian has a few joints that serve south Indian cuisine. Then there’s also South India Dosa Mahal,
Come to Sri Lanka, and the heat levels reach epic proportions. The curries and sauces are almost water thin. Dosa is very popular, rice is a must, there are chopped noodles known as String hoppers. Lots of mutton, beef. Many of my non Indian friends say that Sri Lankan food is an acquired taste.
Places like Luxmy, Babu are excellent representations of Sri Lankan food.
Keep in mind that most restaurants in Toronto, don’t stick to one region….so it’s a bit difficult to pin point.
I would suggest that if you are new to Indian food, start with north Indian dishes, they are easy on the palate. Then work your way down and try the more rustic dishes, the ones that people say are not as “attractive”.
I would suggest going to Amaya Bread Bar on Yonge for a very soft crash course. Most dishes are authentic and only stray slightly off to appeal to cosmo palates.
Next go to King Palace where they do infuse some of the south rustic qualities into the dishes. There’s plenty to choose there, try the kebabs, the biryani rice with some chick pea curry, the chicken tikka, and so on.
PS. Don’t forget the Indian desserts.