Indian cuisine has a distinctive taste and smell due to the many different kinds of spices and herbs used in cooking. Most of the traditional cookery is vegetarian, but there are many dishes that do contain meats, such as chicken, lamb and goat. Beef is not part of Indian cuisine because of the Hindi religion and Muslims do not consume pork or ham.
Rice is the staple food of Indian cookery, as well as whole wheat flour, called atta and pulses. Pulses refer to dry grain crops and they come in many different varieties. Those used most commonly in the cuisine of India include red lentil, Bengal gram, pigeon pea, black gram and green gram. They can be used whole or split, but the split variety is the most common. Some of them are ground into a type of flour.
Curry is fried in vegetable oil and it is this that gives off the scent associated with Indian food. Groundnut oil is popular for use in North and West India, mustard oil is used in the East and the people in the South prefer to use coconut oil or Gingelly oil for preparing the curry.
Spices are very important for the taste of this food. The most commonly used ones are chili pepper, black mustard, garlic, ginger, cumin and fenugreek. However, each area of the country has its own traditional dishes and flavors. Dairy products are an important part of the cookery in Northern India and the griddle is used to make flat breads.
East India is famous for its delicious desserts and the cuisine of this part of the country is not as spicy as in the others. A typical meal consists of many vegetable side dishes and fish is very common for the main dish.
Rice and coconut feature prominently in the cuisine of Southern India, but there are four different types of cuisine in Western India, due to the diverse geographical regions. Here one will also see influences from other parts of the world, such as Portugal and Britain, and this influence dates back to the colonial period.
Tea is the main drink served with meals and there are several different varieties, depending on the spices that are added to the mixture. Coffee is the drink of choice in Southern India. Alcoholic beverages do exist in India, but the alcohol is not used in cooking.