Indian cuisine is renowned for its extensive use of spices, herbs, and legumes. From garam masala to tamarind, these ingredients bring a unique flavor to dishes across India. In Philadelphia, PA, you can find a variety of Indian restaurants that offer a range of dishes from North Indian to South Indian cuisine. Let's explore some of the common ingredients used in Indian cuisine found in Philadelphia. Chili pepper, black mustard seed, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, rose petal essence and asafoetida powder are all commonly used in Indian spice blends.
Garam masala is a popular blend of spices that includes cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Mint, coriander and fenugreek leaves are also used to add flavor to dishes. Clove adds an aromatic touch and a sweet counterpoint to many dishes. Coriander seeds add a spicy flavor that stands up to even the fiercest chillies.
Chickpeas are an essential legume for many cultures around the world and are rich in protein, dietary fiber, folic acid and iron. Tamarind brings a touch of umami (the pleasant salty flavor found in tomatoes, soy sauce and miso paste) to curry and dahl. It also has a beautiful touch of sweetness that makes it so delicious. Garlic is an essential ingredient for savory dishes. Curry is a thick and creamy sauce popularly served with meat or vegetables.
While it's common for Indian restaurants to present dishes as part of a uniform cuisine, in reality Indian food is as specific and regionally diverse as its population. In South India you can find dishes such as dosa which is soft on the inside with a crunchy exterior. North Indian cuisine reflects a strong Mughal influence and is the style of Indian food most commonly found in restaurants outside the country. Roti is an unleavened flatbread that can be baked or fried and often appears as a side dish in Indian restaurants. An essential element of traditional Indian dishes is the expert use of spices and aromas. Chicken tikka masala is a popular dish on many Indian menus.
Bread is eaten as an appetizer with various chutneys or sauces or to accompany a snack or meal with curries and sauces. With a mostly vegetarian population, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas are used as sources of protein and nutrients. Pappadams are the only South Indian food frequently found in Indian restaurants outside the country. This fried crispy rice cracker is usually seasoned with black peppercorns. Western Indian cuisine is largely influenced by geography with Goa having connections with Portugal while Gujarat has a strong Chinese influence. To make North Indian meals such as chicken tikka masala marinated chicken is cooked with onion, tomato, pepper and spices before being finished with fresh cream.
Hailing from one of the most populous countries in the world, Indian food reflects the unique mix of cultures and regional identities found across the country. The distinctive use of coconut, chillies and freshly ground spices in the Tamil Nadu region gives South Indian food its characteristic warmth and depth of flavor. With its rich history and diverse flavors, Indian cuisine offers something for everyone in Philadelphia.