Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Spices and South Indian Cuisines: An Unmatched Combination

                     Idli Sambar

One word that perfectly describes India is diversity which is ideally reflected in its culture, traditions, festivals and cuisines. For a country that has the maximum population, second only to China, the food habits here vary from region to region. In fact, food from one part of the country may not be cooked in another part. That being said, food is one of the most important factor that binds the people of this country together as almost everyone here likes to taste food from other parts of the country. In addition, one common thread that runs through Indian food is the use of numerous spices that add a distinctive flavor and aroma to all the dishes. Though almost all the regions of India use spices, South Indian food is popular for its high spice content which provides a brilliant blend of flavors, colors, seasoning, nutritional balance, taste , fragrance and visual appeal to all its dishes.

Spices are defined as 'a strongly flavored or aromatic substance of vegetable origin, obtained from tropical plants and commonly used as a condiment.' During the Middle Ages, spices were considered as one of the most luxurious products available in Europe. The most popular spices that were traded with during this time period included black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Trading of spices between the 8-15th century was very popular, with Venice having monopoly over the trade. This resulted in Venice growing very rich during this period. Most of the spices that were exported to these regions came from Asian plantations. Today, spice trade is just as successful with Indian traders exporting spices to various countries around the world. In other words, spice trade has impacted the lives of many people, especially in the manner that we eat food as meals taste so much better with the addition of a little spice.

                              South Indian Lunch Menu

Masala is a word that is commonly used in Indian cooking and is simply the Hindi word for spice. So, whenever spices are combined with herbs and other condiments, it is called masala. As there are so many spices in the market today, Indian spices can be categorized into three categories, namely basic spices, complimentary spices and aromatic/secondary spices. Further, while all regions of India use liberal amount of spices, Authentic South Indian cuisine is known for spices like cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Additionally, spices also have a range of health benefits, which increases their popularity in South Indian cuisines. Spices like cardamom, black pepper, clove, cinnamon and turmeric are said to have benefits from aiding weight loss to improving digestion. Most of the South Indian dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian have rich use of spices which not just aid in improving the taste but also have a lot of health benefits. Today, the popularity of South Indian food is not just restricted to India but has spread to countries all over the world. With many restaurants serving South Indian food on a global level, the popularity of these dishes is only set to rise in the future as well.


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