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Contrary to popular belief, not all Hindus are officially vegetarians. Although you'll find vegetarians everywhere, strict vegetarianism is most prevalent in the south (which has not been influenced by meat-eating Aryans and Muslims) and in the Gujarati community. There are considerable regional variations from north to south, partly because of climatic conditions and partly because of historical influences. In the north, much more meat is eaten and the cuisine is often Mughlai, which bears a closer relationship to food of the Middle East and Central Asia. The emphasis is more on spices and less on chilli; grains and breads are more popular than rice. In the south, more rice is eaten, there is more vegetarian food, and the curries tend to be hotter. Another feature of southern vegetarian food is that you do not use eating utensils; just scoop the food up with your fingers - though not with those of your left hand.
There's more to Indian food than just curry - the country has more than 15 different regional cuisines (curries are favored in the south). Thali (pronounced TAR-ley) is the most ubiquitous meal in India. Served either as a vegetarian dish or with meat, it consists of rice and chapatis (similar to heavy flour tortillas) with five sauces and curds. Even those afraid of spicy food will love the mild chicken tandoori or Kashmiri-style dishes or, in Kerala, fish flavored with coconut, ginger or fruit. Any dish prepared in the Kashmiri-style will be delicate and have lots of fruits and nuts (in Kashmir itself, find a restaurant offering a wazwan, a traditional feast containing as many as 17 meat dishes). Pakoras (fried vegetable fritters) also provide an easy introduction to Indian cookery. Samosas are breaded, fried vegetable triangles. Dal, an Indian lentil soup, can be found anywhere, and if the name of a dish has the word paneer in it, the dish contains cubes of compressed cottage cheese (it's better than it sounds). Dum aloo is a wonderfully spicy potato dish found in the north. Buff refers to water-buffalo meat, and mutton is usually goat. The breads are superlative - there's none better than naan (baked in a tandoori oven), but do try papadum, a wafer-thin lentil-flour bread, at least once. For dessert, try kheer (rice pudding). Fruit lassis are a yogurt-based drink that can be very refreshing; curd, a very mild yogurt, is often served with meals. We generally advise against eating from street stalls, unless the food is freshly cooked before your eyes. Indian food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand only. In addition to Indian foods, Western and Chinese restaurants abound. Beware of ice cream and dairy products except at the finest hotels. If you're in an area where you don't trust the food but are really hungry, buy a package of the ubiquitous glucose biscuits, a bland (but safe) cookie. Steamed rice cakes, known as idli, are available almost everywhere and are considered the lightest and safest meal for sensitive stomachs. Beware of vendors selling soft drinks that are not normally available in India (whatever's in those bottles, it's not what it says on the label). Don't accept ice in your drinks, except from the absolutely finest hotels - the water that goes into the ice might not be so good. Some states prohibit the sale of alcohol.
Short Tours in Rajasthan
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Rajasthan with Agra
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Rajasthan Agra Varanasi
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Ganges Valley Tours in India
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