Indian food 101

Indian cuisine is known for its vibrant flavors, rich spices, and diverse range of dishes. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just beginning to explore the world of culinary delights, Indian food offers an incredible culinary adventure.

From flavorful curries to fragrant biryanis, this guide will introduce you to some of the most popular Indian dishes and help you master the basics.

The Four Basic Flavors of Indian Cuisine

Much like any cuisine, Indian food is comprised of a few basic flavors. Sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and spiciness all combine to create the unique flavors of Indian cuisine.

Sweetness is often achieved through the use of sugar, honey, or jaggery (a type of unrefined cane sugar). Saltiness comes from salts like sea salt and Himalayan pink salt. Sourness can come from tamarind, tomatoes, yogurt, limes, or other acidic ingredients. Lastly, spiciness is usually added from chile peppers, cumin, ginger, garlic, cardamom, and other spices.

This is worth mentioning because, in the West, many people think of Indian food as simply “spicy” without realizing that other flavors are just as important. With the right mix, you can create the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy flavors in every dish.

Further, there are many conventional ingredients in Western cuisine that are not typically used in Indian food, yet still contribute to the flavor. For example, cheese and cocoa powder are not common ingredients in Indian cooking, but there are other ingredients that can give familiar flavors to Indian dishes.

Regional Cuisines in India

India is a land of diverse cultures, languages, and traditions, and this diversity is beautifully reflected in its regional cuisines.

Each region in India has its own distinct culinary traditions, flavors, and cooking techniques, making Indian cuisine one of the most diverse and fascinating in the world.

North Indian Cuisine

North Indian cuisine is known for its rich and indulgent flavors.

The region is famous for its mouthwatering dishes such as butter chicken, biryani, kebabs, and various types of bread like naan and paratha.

The cuisine heavily relies on dairy products such as ghee (clarified butter), paneer (cottage cheese), and curd (yogurt). The use of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cloves adds depth and complexity to the dishes.

South Indian Cuisine

South Indian cuisine is largely vegetarian and is characterized by its generous use of rice, lentils, and coconut.

The region is famous for its dosas (fermented crepes), idlis (steamed rice cakes), and sambars (spicy lentil stews). The cuisine is known for its tangy and spicy flavors achieved through the use of tamarind, chili, pepper, and other spices.

East Indian Cuisine

East Indian cuisine is influenced by its proximity to the Bay of Bengal and the availability of seafood.

The cuisine features a wide variety of fish and seafood dishes, including fish curries, prawn malai curry, and crab masala.

Rice is the staple grain in this region, and sweets made from ingredients like jaggery (unrefined sugar) and coconut are popular desserts. The use of mustard oil and panch phoron (a blend of five spices) is distinctive to East Indian cuisine.

West Indian Cuisine

West Indian cuisine is heavily influenced by the state of Gujarat, which is known for its vegetarian fare.

The region is famous for dishes like dhokla (steamed fermented chickpea flour cake), thepla (fenugreek flatbread), and Gujarati kadhi (spiced yogurt soup).

The cuisine often combines sweet and savory flavors, and the use of ingredients like jaggery, tamarind, and peanuts is common. Maharashtra, another state in the western region, offers a diverse range of dishes such as vada pav, pav bhaji, and puran poli.

Northeast Indian Cuisine

Northeast Indian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity and use of local ingredients.

The region is known for its love of fermented foods, which are an integral part of the cuisine. Dishes like momos (dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup), and bamboo shoot curries are popular in this region.

The cuisine also incorporates unique ingredients like black sesame seeds, king chili, and fermented soybean paste.

Central Indian Cuisine

Central Indian cuisine is a blend of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

The region is known for its spicy gravies, kebabs, and biryanis. Dal bafla, a dish consisting of baked wheat dumplings served with dal (lentil curry), is a specialty of this region.

The cuisine also showcases a range of chutneys and pickles made from locally available fruits and vegetables.

Not All Indian Food is “Curry”

There is a stereotype that all Indian food is “curry”; however, this is not true.

Curry is a term used to refer to any dish with a sauce or gravy made from a combination of spices and herbs. In Indian cuisine, there are an infinite number of curries ranging from mild to fiery hot.

There are many other dishes that are not curries but are still staple parts of Indian cuisine. These include chaats (snacks), tikkas (grilled kebabs), and various types of bread such as naan, paratha, and puri.

And you can find all of the best Indian foods at O’Desi aroma.


Whether you want to experience the fiery flavors or mild curries, there is something for everyone in Indian cuisine. From north to south, east to west, and all the regions in between, India has an incredible variety of dishes that can tantalize anyone’s taste buds.

India’s rich history and dynamic landscape is the reason it has one of the most versatile cuisines in the world. At O’Desi aroma, we are incredibly proud and honored to bring these flavors to your table.

The food, spices, and culture of India are waiting for you! Bon appetite!

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