Though vegetarian dishes featuring rice and a variety of beans dominate Indian cuisine, India's cooking has also been influenced by traders such as the Arabs and Chinese, and invaders such as the Persians, Mongols, Turks, British and Portuguese. North Indian food features more dairy and pulses, while South Indian cooking includes more rice, curries, and fruits like coconut.
Throughout its history, India has been invaded by armies, traders, and immigrants from all over the world. Major culinary influences result from significant historical invasions, including the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great in 326 B.C. Greek and Middle Eastern ingredients and cooking techniques are obvious in Indian cuisine. Moghul invaders in the 16th Century introduced meat and rice dishes to India. Portuguese rulers introduced chiles, and the more recent rulers from Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries had an influence on chutney development. Interspersed throughout these major historical events were influences from Bactrian, Mongol, Scythian, Parthian, Kushan, Hun, Arab, Turk, Afghan, and Dutch invaders.
In the northernmost areas of India, close to the Himalayas, the weather is temperate. Wheat is the predominant grain and meat dishes can be elaborate. Much of the food is cooked in oil.
To the south towards the equator, dishes become hotter—sometimes fiery. Rice is the predominant grain crop, and a vegetarian lifestyle predominates. Much of the food is steamed.
Seafood dishes are prominent along the coastline of India, where the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian Ocean offer rich bounties of fish and shellfish. Jungle areas of India offer mangoes, guava, papaya, bananas, and coconuts.
Vegetarian cuisine is widespread, resulting from the predominance of Hindus in India. There are a wealth of dishes which solely rely on grains, legumes, and vegetables. In contrast, the Muslims rely on beef and lamb as integral parts of their diets.
from Kate's Global Kitchen:
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