Did you know that the stones of the Great Wall of China are held together with sticky rice? Workers apparently mixed calcium carbonate with rice to make a porridge and used it as mortar to lay stones! Well, if it can hold a mighty 21000 kilometer long wall together, we have no further questions on its ‘super’ food status.
Rice is by far the most versatile staple food. There is a rice dish for every mood! Want something spicy? Have biryani. Craving for something sweet? Have Kheer. Had a bad day and need comfort? Dal-Chawal to your rescue! This one cereal grain is used ingeniously in multiple cuisines- in a Sikkimese kitchen to make their savory-sweet flatbread Sel Roti, or in a South, Indian kitchen to make our beloved Idlis and Dosas.
Today, come with us as we explore the many rice variations across North-Eastern, Central and Southern kitchens of India.
North-eastern cuisine –
Despite its picturesque location and Instagram-worthy holiday pictures, there is a lot about this region that we still don’t know- including its cuisine. For instance, did you know that this region alone is the largest contributor of tea to our country?
Since 70% of their terrain is covered by hills and receives heavy rainfall, north-easterners rely heavily on rice; seafood, and meat (chicken, geese, pork, and beef) being their major source of protein. Although not spicy, their cuisine is hot. Although not oily, their food is fatty.
Kabok, a Laddu made from puffed rice and sugarcane syrup is a traditional dish of Manipur; while Apong, a healthy drink made from rice and millets is a local favorite of Arunachal Pradesh. Here, you will also find powdered rice used in Wungwut Ngam- a slow-cooked chicken side dish flavored with local spices.
Steering towards Nagaland, Assam, and Meghalaya- one will find the tastiest varieties of seasoned and dry-aged pork in their kitchens for round-the-year usage. Dishes thus prepared are often served with steaming hot rice and use plenty of ginger, garlic, and Bhut Jhalokia- the spiciest chillies in the world. The most beloved dish of Meghalaya is ‘Jadoh’, a type of pork biryani cooked in its fat with a different set of spices. Assamese, although not big on meat, widely use chicken, fish and duck meat in their diet along with rice, of course!
Central and eastern India kitchen-
People living in the heart of our country are huge fans of rice, with many dishes being common between states. Rice is a major part of their diets, right from breakfast to dinner. For instance- Poha, which is rapidly gaining national popularity, has its roots tied in Indore Madhya Pradesh, and Bhajias are a Chhattisgarhi native!
Rightly known as the rice bowl of India, Chattisgarhi cuisine revolves around rice dishes. Although it has many dishes to offer, their most famous contribution to breakfast- the Mona-Lisa of breakfast if you may- is the rice Chila. Made from rice and Urad dal batter, this is a quick, light and healthy start to your day. Other must-try dishes are Farra and Dubki Kadhi Chawal.
Talking about famous contributions, one can hardly overlook Maccher Jhol and Bangali Chingri curry that go just as well with steamed rice. Hailing from West Bengal and Orissa, these stand out dishes are packed with their quintessential flavors of turmeric, garlic and mustard oil. Another must- try from the eastern kitchen is Litti Chokha from Jharkhand and Bihar. (It doesn’t have rice, we just love Litti Chokha!)
South Indian cuisine-
While rice definitely forms the base for almost all south Indian dishes, the cuisine, however, is packed with spicy flavors. They have Pulihaara (tamarind rice), Pesarattu (rice batter pancake), Bisi Bele Bhaat (rice dish cooked with spices and vegetables) and the oh-so-famous Hyderabadi Biryani– all having their distinguished taste.
The rice we find while traveling down south is fluffier and lighter. It is a common practice in south India to strain the water from rice mid-cooking, which removes excess starch from it. This is also the reason why they don’t feel sleepy after a hearty lunch! Rasam, curry, and curd are some of their favorite accompaniments to have with rice- curries can be both vegetarian and meat-based.
The most famous curry from Tamil Nadu- Chettinad chicken curry is a spicy blend of coconut, black peppercorns, and red chilies. This curry is also amongst one of the spiciest in our country!
Want to try these dishes and more? Hop over to our menu to try the taste of India!