As anyone who has enjoyed a succulent tandoori dish or a spicy vindaloo will know, Indian cuisine offers plenty to entice those that enjoy their meat. However, it is also one of the best countries in the world to visit if you prefer to follow a vegetarian diet. In fact, there are a number of states on the Indian sub-continent that are predominantly vegetarian. The sprawling state of Uttar Pradesh is one; the western region of Gujarat is another. And when it comes to vegetarian cuisine, the wide range of delicious fruit and vegetables that thrive on India’s shores mean that the sub-continent offers a veritable rainbow of recipes guaranteed to brighten any vegetarian’s day.
South Indian cuisine is particularly renowned for its use of delicious and exotic local produce as ingredients. Here are a few of our favourites to get your 5-a-day in the South Indian kitchen…
If there is one ingredient synonymous with Indian food, surely it has to be the spicy chilli pepper? Chillies are particularly prevalent in South Indian cooking, whether in their whole, dried or powdered form. There are a wide range of chillies used in Indian cooking which range from the very mild to those that reach a level of heat that certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The gently swaying coconut palms that fringe the coast of South India signify one of the most popular ingredients in this part of the country. From coconut chutneys to creamy, seafood curries this ingredient is utilised to the maximum. The flesh can be grated into dishes whilst the milk adds a subtle yet luxurious texture to gravies.
The tangy yet refreshing flavours of lime crop up in a variety of South Indian sides, mains and even drinks. Lime is often used to prepare rice dishes, making a zesty, cooling accompaniment to a number of curries. It is also used to make a deliciously sour lime pickle, a popular side to add to your thali.
Mango is the national fruit of India and the sub-continent grows an abundance of different varieties every season. One of the most coveted species of mango is the mighty Alphonso mango, renowned for its sweet, juicy flesh and rich colouring. Mango can be eaten raw or cooked and added to a variety of curries, pickles and desserts. It is also a common ingredient for the famous lassi, a creamy Indian beverage.
Commonly known as ‘bhindi’ in India, this tasty vegetable makes for a popular snack or main dish in the southern states. Fried okra; okra curry and okra pickle are common, everyday morsels in the south whilst this ingredient is also regularly added to traditional favourites such as sambar and dal.
If you want to try fresh, quality produce featured in a range of authentic Indian recipes, book yourself a table at one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants. Not only will you be able to choose from a range of exotic options to help you hit your 5-a-day, you can sample recipes inspired by the most authentic dishes in India.