Archive for January 10th, 2010

While doing the previous post on food, I went on a tangent with a different line of thought.

Being an Army kid, I had the privilege of living in different parts of the country and being introduced to various types of food. Some were attractive, some weren’t. Some were healthy and some were plain invitations to diabetes and blood pressure πŸ˜€

But overall, though the ingredients were more or less the same, the actual dishes were very very different.

This post is regarding that one special ingredient which distinguishes one Indian cuisine from another. We know that there are different cuisines like Punjabi, Keralite, Bengali, etc. So, if a dish was placed in front of you and you were asked to identify which state it comes from, would you be able to do it??

I took this ‘test’ myself many years back. By test, I don’t mean the actual scenario where I’m presented the dish on a platter and asked to identify its origin. I did what was best explained in “Ratatouille” . I felt the food. I closed my eyes and sensed what I was eating. And then tried to identify the predominant spice/condiment that lent it its special flavour. I got quite good at it and could immediately identify some of the most famous cuisines πŸ™‚

Its a pity that in today’s rushed atmosphere, I don’t get the chance to feel the food anymore 😦 . With the minding of kids and homely responsibilities, I have to wrap up dinner time as soon as possible. Alas!!

Anyhow, I came up with a list of some items which distinguish the cuisine of a state from another.

Feel free to add to this list.

Rajasthan – > Ghee

Pure Ghee

Gujrat -> Sugar


Maharashtra – > Peanuts


Karnataka -> Beetroot

Beet Root

Kerala -> Coconut


Tamil NaduΒ  -> Curry leaves

Curry Leaves

Andhra Pradesh -> Tamarind


West Bengal -> Mustard


Punjab -> Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Jammu & Kashmir -> Kashmiri Mirch

Kashmiri Mirch

There may be other distinctive ingredients, but I’ve found that the ones I have listed , help classify the cuisines broadly. For example, most Maharashtrian dishes would have at least a smattering of ground peanuts in them. Salads included. In Tamil Nadu, from vegetables and currys to egg and non-veg items, curry leaves are a must!! In Kerala, I doubt there exists any dish which does not have coconut in it πŸ˜€ . And I don’t know any other place in India where beetroot is consumed in the proportions that are done in Karnataka.

Could anyone cover the rest of the states for me?? The ones I have listed are the places I have visited often. I’m not privy to the secrets of the palate of the remaining states.

And yeah, if there are any other ingredients which distinguish the cuisines of the states listed above, do let me know.

It’ll help add to the knowledge base of this foodie (thats me πŸ˜€ )!!

Before I end this post, let me tell you that there exists one secret ingredient which actually gives any dish that particular punch. Its called LOVE.Β  So the next time you stand their cooking, just add a little bit of love….and hear the praises coming your way πŸ™‚

Happy cooking, people.


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My office (not the client side where I work currently) used to have this amazing lunch item made from karela (bitter gourd). It was finely sliced karela fried with loads of onion and roasted peanuts. The only flavoring added was a dash of salt and chilly powder. To say it was yummy, was an understatement. Considering that generally karela is the most avoided vegetable, it was a testimony to the cook’s skill that people used to pile his fried karela on their plates. It was the most sought-after item on the lunch menu!!

Anyhow, I tried my hand at the recipe today. It wasn’t as tasty and attractive as the one available in office, but suffice to say, it was edible. The BF, as usual, gave it a wide margin. BIL and GMIL liked it πŸ™‚

Well, the reason for this post is not to plug my culinary skills with the bitter veg. But while making it, I realized how wonderfully, this vegetable has turned the tide with me. There was a time when I couldn’t tolerate the thought of putting a morsel of it in my mouth. Those were the days when the Pater used to sit at the head of the dining table , taking note of which child tried to be generous with his veggies with his neighbor. His stern eyes were enough to make us gobble the thing down, without even bothering to chew. Aapa had a knack of simply swallowing it whole with a glass of water. We hated it that much!!!

Over the years, gradually, but surely, we learned to accept it. It helped that Mom tried many different recipes and kept it new and fresh every time. Surprisingly, ALL my siblings LOVE this vegetable now.

One such time, when I was in B’lore, Mom had sent me and bro to buy vegetables. One of the items listed there was karela. Now, we had eaten the veggie many times, but I didn’t recollect any instance of me personally buying any of it (subconsciously, we were still vary of it, I guess πŸ˜€ ). Mom’s parting words were ,”Khushrang karele lana” , or something to that effect. Roughly translated, it means, “Get happy coloured bitter gourds”.

“Happy??”, mused the Bro, “Mom bhi na….!!”
“Happy…!!”, exclaimed moi,”Karela???? HAHA!!! What a joke!!”

Anyhow, we sped off to the veg-bazaar to hunt for Happy-coloured Karelas. Going through various stalls, we came across karelas that looked like these :-

Bitter Gourd. Does it look happy??

Did it look happy to you? What was a happy-coloured karela supposed to look like anyway??

We saw the same in various sizes, varying from dark green to grey-green in colour. But they did not invoke the ‘happy’ sentiment in us. Unanimously, bro and I rejected those karelas outright!!

We weren’t satisfied. Something told us that this is not what Mom meant. We kept on hunting and had practically rejected every stall selling the veg. When we were almost ready to give up and take the karelas home, we came across these :-

The Happy Karela

Voila!! the Khushrang karelas indeed πŸ™‚

Its not just the light effect. The happy karelas are indeed a vivid shade of green. The green of fresh leaves and moss. It almost looks too pretty to be eaten.

We happily packed our parcel and headed home. Mom was right after all. There do exist happy-coloured veggies πŸ˜€

And it tastes bitter too (HA! I cracked a pun !!).

So the next time you plan on buying karela, buy the ones which are fresh green in colour. Don’t buy the ones which are dark and dull. And in case you want the recipe for the fried karela, you may mail me. What the hell?? I KNOW you wont, so don’t bother. I’ll take the secret recipe to my grave πŸ˜€ .

I guess you think I’ve lost my marbles, dedicating an entire post to karelas, of all things!!

Sigh, good things come in bitter packages my friend! You won’t find me complaining of diabetes in my old age πŸ˜€

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