The distinctive flavours of North Indian cuisine differ greatly from those preferred in the southern states. Of course, this is in part due to the changes in climate and the availability of local ingredients. But it also dates back to influences drawn from a long and rich history of cultural stimuli, including Central Asian cuisine and the experimental kitchens of the mighty Mughal Maharajas who had a predilection for decadent textures, flavours and feasts.
As a result, the food of the north is typified by luxurious gravies, tender slow-cooked meats and creamy desserts – North Indian cuisine can never be accused of sacrificing flavour in the name of cutting calories. And it’s this decadent dedication to its culinary art that enables the northern states to produce such vibrant treats – more than enough to inspire the menus of some of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants.
Additionally, the north of India plays host to a wide variety of ingredients. A plethora of seasonal fruits, vegetables, grains and the distinctive spices inherent to Indian cuisine are cultivated and thrive in this part of the country. Different dishes can be indulged in at different times of the year depending on what sort of produce is available.
Dairy produce from the cows and buffalo that are an important part of the agricultural landscape of the north are key to northern cuisine. Produce such as milk, cream, milk-solids and paneer play an integral part in the northern kitchen and are utilised for delights such as milk-based sweets, desserts and drinks.
Here are some of the most decadent dishes of North India:
- Maas ka sula
A recipe straight out of the Mughal kitchens, this succulent dish involves marinated chunks of mutton or lamb, baked or grilled over hot coals. A smoky, tender dish, spices were mixed with yoghurt which clung to the meat, allowing the flavours to infuse to perfection.
- Sev kadhi
This creamy curry was particularly favoured in the state of Rajasthan. Generous helpings of spice and a dollop of ghee are used to create the smooth gravy into which soft, chewy dumplings made from besan flour are dropped, absorbing the sauce and adding layers of luxurious texture to the dish.
- Murgh makhani
This dish, otherwise known as butter chicken, is a favourite of the Punjab region. Chicken pieces are marinated all night long before being cooked in a buttery sauce rich with tomatoes, cream and spicy masalas. The ultimate comfort food, this dish is reportedly a favourite of Punjabi truck drivers stopping on at a roadside eatery looking for a taste of home.
The king of desserts, Indian ice-cream is said to have been developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughals, when ice would be fetched from the mountain regions for the enjoyment of the royals. A sweet, dense iced treat, cooked with condensed milk and flavoured with a sprinkling of dried fruit and nuts (and perhaps a few strands of that most expensive of spices: saffron), this dessert is truly fit for a Maharaja.
Guest blog written by fineindianrestaurants in London.
Real Indian food and fine dining, at three Central London locations. You can visit their website at www.fineindianrestaurants.com
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