Food & Drink
The word 'curry' is the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed. The Indian cook has some 25 spices or masalas. Many of these spices are also noted for their medicinal properties and vary from region to region. Broadly speaking, meat dishes are more common in the north, notably, Rogan Josh (curried lamb), Gushtaba (spicy meat balls in yoghurt) and the delicious Biryani (chicken or lamb in orange-flavoured rice, sprinkled with sugar and rose water). Mughlai cuisine is rich, creamy, deliciously spiced and liberally sprinkled with nuts and saffron. The ever-popular Tandoori cooking and kebabs are also northern cuisine. In the south, curries are mainly vegetable and inclined to be hotter. Specialities to look out for are Bhujia, Dosa, Idli and Sambar and Raitas. Coconut is a major ingredient of southern Indian cooking. On the west coast there is a wide choice of fish and shellfish. Another speciality is the Parsi Dhan Sak and Vindaloo. Fish is also a feature of Bengali cooking as in Dahi Maach and Malai .In the south rice is the staple food, in the north breads, such as Pooris, Chapatis and Nan. Common throughout India is Dal and Dahi, the curd or yoghurt which accompanies the curry. It is a good 'cooler'; more effective than liquids when things get too hot.
Sweets are principally milk-based puddings, pastries and pancakes. Available throughout India is Kulfi, the Indian ice cream, Rasgullas (cream cheese balls flavoured with rose water), Gulab Jamuns (flour, yoghurt and ground almonds), and Jalebi (pancakes in syrup). Besides a splendid choice of sweets and sweetmeats, there is an abundance of fruit, both tropical - mangoes, pomegranates and melons - and temperate - apricots, apples and strawberries. Western confectionery is available in major centres. It is common to finish the meal by chewing Pan as a digestive. Pan is a betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamom.
Besides the main dishes, there are also countless irresistible snacks available on every street corner, such as Samosa, Fritters, Dosa and Vada. For the more conservative visitor, Western cooking can always be found. Indeed, the best styles of cooking from throughout the world can be experienced in the major centres in India.
Tea (or chai) is India's favourite drink and many of the varieties are enjoyed throughout the world. It will often come ready-brewed with milk and sugar unless 'tray tea' is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink), Lassi (iced buttermilk) and coconut milk straight from the nut are cool and refreshing. Soft drinks (usually sweet) and bottled water are widely available, as are Western alcoholic drinks. There is a huge variety of excellent Indian beer. There is also good Indian-made gin, rum, brandy and wine. Bottled water, essential for visitors, is sold everywhere in India, but make sure the bottles are properly sealed.
Restaurants have table service and, depending on area and establishment, will serve alcohol with meals. Most Western-style hotels have licensed bars. Visitors will be issued All India Liquor Permits on request by Indian Embassies/High Commissions, Missions or Tourist Offices. Various states impose prohibition but this may change; check with the Tourist Office for up-to-date information. In almost all big cities in India certain days in the week are observed as dry days when the sale of liquor is not permitted. Tourists may check with the nearest local tourist office for the prohibition laws/rules prevailing in any given state where they happen to be travelling or intend to travel.