South Asian cuisine
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South Asian cuisine, also known as Desi cuisine, includes the cuisines from the Indian subcontinent. It has roots in the Hindu beliefs, customs and practices practiced by the large population found in the region, alongside influences from neighbouring regions and cultures, particularly from Muslim cultures of the Middle East and Central Asia, such as Persia, the Turkic and Arab countries.
Staples and common ingredients
Naan, a type of flat bread from the former regions is a common part of meals to be had in many parts of South as well as Southwest Asia. Other staples of many of the cuisines include rice, chapati made from wheat and barley, and beans.
Foods in this area of the world are flavored with various types of chili, black pepper, cloves, and other strong herbs and spices along with the flavored butter ghee. Ginger is an ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet recipes in South Asian cuisine. Chopped ginger is fried with meat and pickled ginger is often an accompaniment to boiled rice. Ginger juice and ginger boiled in syrup are used to make desserts. Turmeric and cumin are often used to make curries.
Common meats include lamb, goat and chicken. Beef is less common than in Western cuisines because cattle have a special place in Hinduism. Prohibitions against beef extend to the meat of (water) buffalo and yaks to some extent. Pork is considered as a taboo food item by all Muslims and is avoided by most Hindus. A variety of very sweet deserts which use dairy products is also found in South Asian cuisines. The main ingredients to South Asian desserts are reduced milk, ground almonds, lentil flour. ghee and sugar. Kheer is a dairy based rice pudding, a popular and common dessert.
Many of India's foods go back as far as five thousand years. The Indus Valley peoples, who settled in what is now northern Pakistan, hunted turtles and alligator. They also collected wild grains, herbs and plants. Many foods and ingredients from the Indus period (c. 3000–1500 B.C.) are still common today. Some consist of wheat, barley, rice, tamarind, eggplant and cucumber. The Indus Valley peoples cooked with oils, ginger, salt, green peppers, and turmeric root, which would be dried and ground into an orange powder.
The Aryan-speaking peoples who came to India between 1500 and 1000 B.C used leafy vegetables, lentils, and milk products such as yogurt and ghee. They also used spices such as cumin and coriander. Black pepper was also often used by 400 A.D. The Greeks brought saffron and the Chinese introduced tea. The Portuguese and British made red chili, potato and cauliflower popular after 1700 A.D. The major contributors to India's culinary custom are the Muslim peoples from Persia and present-day Turkey, who began arriving in India after 1200.
These peoples, known later as the Mughals saw food as an art, and many of their dishes are cooked with as many as twenty-five spices. They also used rose water, cashews, raisins and almonds.
Regional South Asian cuisines
- Afghan cuisine
- Bangladeshi cuisine
- Bhutanese cuisine
- Indian cuisine
- North Indian cuisine
- South Indian cuisine
- East Indian cuisines:
- Maldivian cuisine
- Nepalese cuisine
- Pakistani cuisine
- Sri Lankan cuisine