It goes without saying there is more to Indian food than butter chicken and tikka masala, but only in recent years have people begun to better understand and appreciate the heritage and delight of Indian cuisine.
With nearly 1.4 billion people, 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects, and a unique topography ranging from deserts to snow-capped mountains, it’s no surprise that the country’s cuisine varies by region, town, and even family.
“India is as vast as Western Europe,” says Camellia Panjabi, renowned chef and group director of Indian restaurant group MW Eat, which owns the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Veeraswamy, Britain’s oldest Indian restaurant founded in 1926. “There is no such thing as European cuisine, but there is French, Spanish, Italian, and Hungarian cuisine. India has more than 50 cuisines, not only according to regions, but also religion and communities.”
While there are unifying ingredients across the country, like garlic, turmeric, coconut, and ghee, they vastly differ based on a region’s bounty. For example, northern Indian cuisine is generally more cream-based, while southern Indian dishes typically have more seafood, coconut, mango, and tamarind. Both in and outside India, chefs seek to elevate traditional dishes with unique flavors. Masque Restaurant in Mumbai, led by executive chef Prateek Sadhu, is an ingredient-driven restaurant with a 10-course tasting menu that explores flavor profiles from across India. Sadhu likes to create familiar dishes, but treat ingredients in unfamiliar ways.