India: A Land of Exotic Food

Indian cuisine is considered as one of the most varied and expansive cuisines. Streets of India are often considered as gastronomical delights. India and food are inseparable and Indians are famous/well-known for both fasting as well as feasting. Famous food stories include how Maharajas and Nizams would carry their Chefs or Royal Khansamas along with them wherever they went. Many recipes from different parts have been adapted and improvised to suit local palates. If a visitor to India ever asks a local about the local food and delicacies, chances are he/she will end up as a guest or “Atithi” and served every possible dish. There’s a dish for every season and every reason. Feeling festive? Enjoy special sweets like Chenna Poda and rich, aromatic dishes like Dhansak. Feeling sick? Bounce back with a dose of humble khichdi or haldi-doodh.

The world is already familiar and in love with dishes like Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala with the later even being named the “British National Dish” in 2001. There are many dishes that are unique and exotic to India. What truly makes them unique is perhaps the combination of ingredients which are native to India and hard to replicate elsewhere. No doubt Chefs all over the world try to recreate the dishes but sometimes originality and authenticity is the key.

When in India

Indian food caters to almost all and has a dish or two that suits almost every palate. Dishes vary from hot and spicy to soothing, having exclusive ingredients to one-pot variants, humble and plain to rich and colorful. There’s an adventurous part too which some consider unique and exotic and some as weird. Here’s a look at some of the exotic dishes that one should try when in India:

Black Rice – Black or Purple rice is native to Manipur and is said to hold medicinal and health benefits. It is generally cooked along with dried vegetables and chunks of meat.

Makhan Malai – Known as Makhan Malai in Lucknow or Daulat ki Chaat in Delhi, this dish is a labor of love. Milk is churned for one complete full moon night, especially during winters, to make this frothy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth dessert. It is sold only in the early winter mornings, as it melts as the day gets warm.

Ande ka Halwa – On that sweet note, Egg halwa or Ande ka Halwa is another sweet that is unusual and exotic.  Preparation requires a lot of patience and a handy recipe to the original dish that has traveled over generations.

Junnu/Kharwas – Made from the first milk of lactating cattle (cow/buffalo/goat) this creamy, cheesy and extremely nutritious dish is popularly known as Junnu in Andhra Pradesh or Kharwas in Maharashtra.

Benami Kheer – “Kheer” reminds one of the favorable mix of rice and milk with sugar and loads of dry fruits. While the dish has many variants, Benami Kheer is perhaps the most unusual. The main ingredient of this dish is, “Garlic”. Strange, but it is definitely worth a try.

Karandi Omelet – A twist to the regular fluffy and filling omelet, this one is ball-shaped.  Traditionally cooked in a ladle or karandi which provides it the ball-shape, it also contains tiny bits of meat.

Kane Bezule – Fresh Kane or Lady Fish is caught off the Mangalorean coast. It is then crumb fried and served. It blows away the patrons with its crunchy yet tender taste.

Mutton Rogan Josh – A mouth-watering mutton dish from Kashmir, the Master Chefs believe that it is the water of the Jhelum that gives this dish a unique taste.

Baby Shark Curry – Also known as Mori Xacuti, this Goan dish has baby sharks, cut into small pieces and de-skinned. They are then cooked in gravy made from coconut and Goan spices.

Chaprah – A zesty, tangy hot chutney or condiment with an ingredient that’s unusual. Chaprah is made of Red Ant and its eggs. Native to the forests of Chhattisgarh, the ants are sun-dried, sprinkled with special spices and ground to form this special chutney.

Frog Legs – Indian bullfrog legs are battered and deep fried. Natives of Sikkim love this dish and swear by its medicinal properties too. Goa also serves up this dish during monsoons which are aptly nick-named “Jumping Chicken”.

Paya –This one is another ‘leggy’ dish from the Nizami kitchen. This is a curry made of hoofs of animals like goat and is traditionally slow-cooked, usually overnight, to bring out the true flavors.

Eri Polu – An exotic dish from Assam, this is made out of silkworms. The silkworms are first boiled and then cooked with a mix of spices.

Doh Kleh – A pork and onion salad garnished with, hard to believe, pig’s steamed brain. This extremely adventurous dish is easily found in the hills of Meghalaya.

Hone your Culinary Skills

The above list is not enough to describe the Indian Culinary Heritage. Every region, state, and even the cities has one dish or another to boast about. The rich food tradition and diverse palate of Indians have been a blessing for the Culinary Industry in India. Many colleges are offering Culinary Courses helping to realize the dreams of many – To be a great Chef. Here’s a list of course offered in various Culinary Colleges and Universities in India.

  •    Hobby Chef Courses
  •    Diploma in Food & Beverage Service
  •    Diploma in Bakery & Confectionery
  •    Diploma in Kitchen Management
  •    Diploma in Culinary Arts
  •    Advance Diploma in Culinary Arts
  •    Craftsmanship Course in Food Production & Patisserie
  •    Craftsmanship Course in Food & Beverage Service
  •    Craft Certification Course in Food Production
  •    Degree in Culinary Arts
  •    BSc in Hospitality & Hotel Administration
  •    Bachelor’s Degree in Catering Technology & Culinary Arts
  •    Post Graduate Diploma in Culinary Arts
  •    MSc in Hospitality Administration
  •    MSc in Dietetics & Food Service Management

India, which is often termed as “A Traveler’s Paradise” has a lot more to offer than just beautiful scenic lands, colorful cultural festivals, and historic monuments. It is also one of those countries which offer exotic foods belonging to more number of cuisines than one can imagine. It can also be termed as “A Foodie’s Paradise”.

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