India is a land abounding in diversity of flavours, much like its landscape and culture. The staple foods, ingredients and meals cooked in ordinary homes vary so greatly across the length and breadth of our country that one needs a complete overhaul of one’s taste palette to be able to appreciate the different regional cuisines of India. On the bright side, discovering the unique delicacies from different parts of the country is like chancing upon a treasure trove for the taste buds. While it is impossible to put together an exhaustive list of all the amazing dishes that simmer in our cauldrons, here is my pick of seven must-try regional delicacies of India for all you foodies:
This regional delicacy of India comes from Maharashtra and delivers an insane pop of flavours that are characteristic of the state’s cuisine. Pithla is a thick gravy made from gram flour with dry spices, mustard seeds and green chillies. Think the typical kadi in a north Indian home, but a lot thicker and spicier. This humble preparation is a regular fare in most Maharashtrian homes and was once considered farmer’s staple meal. It is best enjoyed with freshly made, hot Bhakri, made from rice, Jowar or Bajri flour. The locals eat it with a side of ultra-spicy thecha. Given the fiery taste of this dish, you are better off giving this dry chutney a miss. Just the ideal lunch on a rainy afternoon.
Litti Chokha, in my opinion, remains one of the most under-appreciated regional delicacies of India mainly because it is difficult to nail the authentic flavours of this dish from Bihar. Once again a humble staple food, it comprises little dough balls made of wheat flour and sattu, which is a combination of grounded lentils and gram, roasted directly on hot charcoal. Traditionally, these dough balls were cooked on burning cow dung cakes. Chokha, which is a mashed relish served with Litti, is made with roasted eggplant, tomatoes and boiled and roasted potatoes. These can be mixed together and then garnished with spices, herbs, mustard oil and lemon juice. If done right, it can be an indulgent experience that will leave you wanting for more.
Dal Baati is a regional delicacy of India that perfectly sums up the richness of Rajasthan to perfection and delivers it to you on a platter. The Baati here is quite similar to the Litti from Bihar – essentially wheat dough balls slow-cooked over a charcoal fire. The real essence of this dish lies in the dal that comprises a mix of chaana dal, tuvaar dal, moth dal, mung dal and urad dal. These assorted lentils are first soaked in water and then slow cooked over wood fire. It is the generous topping of tadka and ghee on top that adds to the richness of this dish and brings in a complexity of flavours. Dal-Baati is best enjoyed with a side of green mango chutney and buttermilk.
This Gujarati dish that traces its origin to Surat is a seasonal delicacy that the natives like to enjoy during their short-lived winter. In a simplistic description, it can be called the Gujarati version of mixed vegetable. However, there is nothing simplistic or simple about this regional delicacy of India. If you thought vegetarian cooking lacks dimension and depth, trying making the Undhiyu the authentic way sometime. All the seasonal vegetables, in addition to eggplant, beans, peas, potatoes and purple yam, are placed in an earthen pot, along with muthia or fenugreek fritters, spices and herbs. This earthen pot is then placed upside down and heated from above to slow cook the vegetable to add a nice smoky flavour to the dish.
Sepu Vadi is a Himachali speciality that forms an integral part of the dham, a traditional feast that marks festivities, weddings and get-togethers in the region. This unique regional delicacy of India remains lesser known in the rest of the country but is every bit worth making a trip to the hill state. It comprises dumplings or vadi made from fermented urad dal cooked in a spinach-based curry and tastes best with a helping of simple steamed rice. Much like its people, this delicacy from the state is simple and humble in its appearance but hides a world of richness within.
Makki Ki Roti, Sarson ka Saag
Makki Ki Roti with Sarson ka Saag is a winter delicacy relished across much of north India. While our parents and grandparents cannot seem to get by without indulging in their fair share of this staple delight, this regional delicacy of India is becoming somewhat of a lost flavour for the younger generations. Even if it feels like a preparation you have to acquire a taste for, acquire this taste you must for there is nothing quite as fulfilling and soul-satisfying that a sumptuous meal of makki ki roti-sarson ka saag eaten with dollops of white, creamy butter.
Think South Indian cuisine, and your imagination gets fixated on dosas, idlis and sambhar. But this regional cuisine of India has a lot more to offer. Kuzhi Paniyaram, a delicacy from Tamil Nadu is proof. This bite-sized crispy, crunchy delight prepared by seasoning leftover idli or dosa batter with finely chopped onions and green chillies, grated carrots and mild spices, then steaming it in a mould greased with mustard oil to lend it that crisp, brown outer crust. It is a staple breakfast and tea time snack in the state and is best enjoyed with a spicy tomato chutney.
How many of these have you tried before? Which ones are you adding to your list of regional delicacies of India to try? Let us know by leaving a comment.