The food of Jammu and Kashmir differs from region to region. The Hindu Dogras of Jammu being predominantly vegetarian, eat a staple diet of wheat and beans The Ladakhis eat rice, wheat, millet, locally produced vegetables and fruits, goat meat and dairy products made from yak milk. The most famous cuisine of the state though is Kashmiri. Dishes are cooked for a long time, so the meats may fully absorb the flavors of the accompanying condiments. The seasons and availability of fresh produce dictates the ingredients, some of which are dried for use in the winter months. The Kashmiri cuisine is essentially meat-based There is a variation in the different eating habits of the Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris that determines which spices are used and which meats too since beef is prohibited for Hindus.
The food of Punjab is meant for the strong-hearted. It is rich in flavours and has a liberal dose of ghee (clarified butter) and spices. Punjab has an abundance of milk and therefore milk products are an important part of daily diet. No meal is complete without large glassfuls of butter milk or lassi (yoghurt drink). The people of this region are largely wheat eaters and have developed variations of breads including the stuffed a/oo paralha (potato bread) and the makke ki roti (maize bread). Vegetarian delights such as sarson saag (mustard leaf curry), rajma-chawal (kidney beans with steamed rice) and kadhi (gram flour and yoghurt curry) are the most popular Punjabi dishes. Punjabis have also created a combination of the northwest frontier cuisine and Mughlai recipes to present rich poultry and mutton dishes. The ubiquitous “tandoori chicken” s a great favorite!
Uttar Pradesh Cuisine
The cuisine of Uttar Pradesh is just as diverse as its geography. Ranging from simple every day fare to rich, elaborate banquets, the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh has absorbed and adapted a variety of cuisines to create an entire smorgasbord of wonderful dishes. The people of Uttar Pradesh love to cook, to eat and to feed! Difference in communities notwithstanding, as a people, they are very warm and hospitable. For most of them, the ultimate in hospitality means you feed your guests till they beg for mercy. Many Hindu communities are staunch vegetarians and they have created a vast variety of vegetarian dishes ranging from the all time favorite puri-aloo (potatoes and fried wheat bread) to savouries and divine desserts and sweetmeats.
The Muslims, Kashmiris, Kayasthas and Christian communities cook up a storm of non-vegetarian dishes including a delectable selection of breads, kebabs, curries and biryanis. The Muslim cuisine, of northern Uttar Pradesh is very different from the Mughlai food of Delhi. The Nawabs of Oudh (now Lucknow) were great gourmets and encouraged their master chefs to create new styles of cooking like the famous Dum Pukht where the food is sealed in large pots called “handis”, placed over a slow fire and left to cook in its own juices. When opened, these dishes release the most fragrant and delicious aromas. Lucknow and its neighboring towns were put on the culinary map of India thanks to these rich curries, melt in the mouth kebabs, fragrant rice biryanis and pulaos and an eclectic collection of leavened and unleavened breads.
India best known cuisine came from the Mughals and along with European cooking, influenced the royal kitchens However, the common man kitchen in Rajasthan remained unaffected and the simplest ingredients go into preparing most dishes.
The food owes much to the demands and ingenuity of the lifestyle of the people. For example, the universal favorites Dal-baati (lentil curry with wheat dough balls roasted in hot coals) and choorma (dry. flaky, wheat bread crumb pudding garnished with raisins and almonds) were food items that could be carried for days in the hot desert climate by warriors. Baalis could be buried in the hot desert sands and slowly baked till required. Non-vegetarian dishes include soola or barbecued meats marinated to succulent tenderness and grilled on open coal fires. Its origins lie in the yesteryear hunting expeditions of the nobility.
In the desert areas of Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Barmer the scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables had- its impact on the creativity of the cooks. Instead of water, the womenfolk of the herdsmen used milk, buttermilk and clarified butter that was available in plenty, as well as dried lentils and beans from native plants. Gram flour is a major ingredient and is used for preparing delicacies like gatta ki sabzi, pakodi and khata. Bajra and corn, the staple grains, go to making rotis, rabdi and kheechdi. And various chutneys prepared from locally available spices like coriander, garlic, mint and turmeric round off the regional flavor.