As a team of self-confessed foodies, few things give us more joy than chatting about our favourite foods and most beloved family recipes. Not only do these conversations offer us a brief escape from work, but they also help us learn more about the various backgrounds that make up the team.
This month, we sat down with our Account Executive, Taran Sangha, to chat about her favourite foodie traditions from her family’s home country of India. Universally recognised as one of the world’s best cuisines, we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into this one!
Food in Indian culture
India is an incredibly diverse country, with cooking styles that vary from region to region. What remains the same wherever you go, however, is the central role of food in bringing people together.
This is especially true during times of cultural or religious ceremony, where food forms a key part of the celebrations. During Diwali, for example, it’s customary for Hindus to exchange small boxes of sweet treats (called “mithai”) with friends and family!
Differences in culture and geography give each region its own distinctive cuisine. In the Punjab, the home of Taran’s family, the food is centred around the wheat, dairy and vegetable products that are farmed locally in large numbers – this is how the region got the name of “India’s breadbasket”.
In the central regions – especially in the cities where there are more students and tourists – the food is more diverse and more likely to feature meat. Another regional difference that Taran notes is the northern preference for roti and naan over rice as an accompaniment to curry.
Food in India has evolved over time and has also been heavily influenced by the people who have settled there, particularly the British and Portuguese. No matter where you go, it’s the distinct blend of spices that gives Indian cuisine its flavour and aroma.
Foodie traditions for Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas
Later last month (24th October), millions of people around the world celebrated Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas. For centuries, these ceremonies have been celebrated in unison, bringing Hindus, Sikhs and other groups in India together.
As families light up their homes and let off fireworks to mark the triumph of light over dark, a range of flavoursome foods are exchanged and enjoyed by celebrating parties. Taran shared some of her favourite snacks and sweet treats from the celebrations below.
Indian cuisine is famed for its array of light bites and appetisers. Perhaps the most popular of these snacks are samosas, which are stuffed with vegetables and then baked or fried to form a delicious, cone-shaped pastry.
Pakoras are another staple snack enjoyed across India and around the world. Made with vegetables and mixed with chickpea flour, these crispy fritters are a regular feature of festivals and family feasts.
Indian dinner parties are also likely to include potatoes, which are often enjoyed in the form of aloo tikki. This hearty snack, which roughly translates to “potato patty”, is popular across India but particularly in the north where most of the country’s potatoes are grown.
Indian cuisine is also rich with delicious desserts. These sweet treats may have less of a reputation abroad compared to their savoury counterparts, but they remain a key part of culinary tradition and cultural celebration within India.
Mithai, the collective name for traditional Indian confectionary, is quite unlike the intensely sugary and often processed sweets found in many Western cuisines. It’s typically made with milk, flour, sugar, nuts and, in some cases, vegetables!
Highlights include gulab jamun, a dessert consisting of fried dumplings in a sweet syrup, and laddu, which are little balls of dough made with flour, sugar and ghee or oil. Gajar, a carrot-based sweet pudding, and barfi, a milk-based sweet, are two other popular picks.
Which of these Indian foods are your favourite? Let us know and share your pictures with us on social media!