Indian Food

India is a huge country with many regions so Cuisine differs across the diverse regions as a result of variation in local culture, geographical location (proximity to sea, desert, or mountains), and economics. It also varies seasonally, depending on which fruits and vegetables are ripe. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.

Lentils are a staple ingredient in Indian cuisine. Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bājra), rice, whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and moong (mung beans). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. Some pulses, such as channa or cholae (chickpeas), rajma (kidney beans), and lobiya (black-eyed peas) are very common, especially in the northern regions. Channa and moong are also processed into flour (besan).

Many Indian dishes are cooked in vegetable oil, but peanut oil is popular in northern and western India, mustard oil in eastern India,[ and coconut oil along the western coast, especially in Kerala. Gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south since it imparts a fragrant, nutty aroma.

In recent decades, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and soybean oils have become popular across India. Many types of meat are used for Indian cooking, but chicken and mutton tend to be the most commonly consumed meats. Fish and beef consumption are prevalent in some parts of India, but they are not widely consumed except for coastal areas, as well as the north east.

The most important and frequently used spices and flavorings in Indian cuisine are whole or powdered chilli pepper (mirch), black mustard seed (sarso), cardamom (elaichi), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lasoon).

One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon (dalchini), and clove (laung). Each culinary region has a distinctive garam masala blend—individual chefs may also have their own. Goda masala is a comparable, though sweet, spice mix popular in Maharashtra.

Some leaves commonly used for flavoring include bay leaves (tejpat), coriander leaves, fenugreek leaves, and mint leaves. The use of curry leaves and roots for flavoring is typical of Gujarati[ and South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are often seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences.

See more from the Indian community in Cleveland and beyond

Rajma (Indian kidney bean dish)

Anjan Ghose, assisted by his wife Kathy, prepared a Rajma (Indian kidney bean dish) at an Asian cooking demonstration at the 9th annual Cleveland Asian Festival.  Rajma consists of red kidney beans in a thick gravy with many Indian whole spices and usually served with rice.


  • 2 cups dark red Kidney Beans (2 large cans) –
    If it is dry beans, soak the beans overnight in water and then boil them until they are soft. Discard all the water.
  • 1 large Onion cut in small pieces
  • 1 inch Ginger slice
  • ½ cup Tomato cut in small pieces
  • 1 Tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 Green Chili
  • 2 Bay Leafs or Lime Leafs
  • 2 dry Red Chili
  • 1 Tsp Dhania (Cilantro) chopped
  • 3 Tsp Oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Heat the oil in a pan
  • Add cumin seeds and fry for one minute
  • Add the onions and fry until golden brown
  • Add all the spices with the tomato and cook for another 3 minutes
  • Mix all the ingredients in an electric crock pot.
  • Add water, put setting on low and cook until all the beans are soft
  • It will take about 1 to 2 hours
  • For faster cooking you can use a pot on the stove top.
  • For garnish you can use fried onions and/or cilantro


Cucumber Raita (Cucumber in Yogurt)

Anjan Ghose, assisted by his wife Kathy, prepared a Cucumber Raita (Cucumber in Yogurt) at an Asian cooking demonstration at the 8th annual Cleveland Asian Festival.  The side dish is made with cucumbers, yogurt and spices.


  • 2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 32 oz plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon table salt
  • 1/t tablespoon red chile powder
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground roasted cumin

Add all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and refrigerate until served.


Sweet and Sour Strawberry Snack

Anjan Ghose, assisted by his wife Kathy, prepared a Sweet and Sour Strawberry Snack at an Asian cooking demonstration at the 8th annual Cleveland Asian Festival. This snack is made with strawberries, green Chile, cilantro and other spices.


  • 2 boxes of strawberries – cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 green Chile chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Add all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and refrigerate until served.