As soon as I stepped out of my hotel room in North India, I was engulfed by a tantalizing mix of spicy aromas and sweet fragrances. I thought to myself, maybe this is why my friend’s Indian mother is always obsessing about his food habits. It’s hard to imagine a life without pompous meals when you come from a land where there is a fresh food type to be found at every corner. This dawned on me even more as travelling through North India, I was exposed to not two, not three but more than 9 different kinds of cuisines. And these are only the foods that have been categorized, hotels and street trucks come up with innumerable variations every day.
Ryan Biddulph: A traveler to North India
The famous Dum style of Awadhi cuisine, the Pitthas from Bihar, the ever-tempting Kormas of Bhojpur, the mouth-watering dishes of Kumaonis, the over 30 ways of cooking Mutton in Kashmir, the addicting cuisine of the Royal Mughals, the earthy Baati churma fromRajasthan, the delectable Kebabs of Lucknow, the appetizing Saaks from Punjab, and more was nothing less than a gateway to a food lover’s paradise. Each cuisine is prepared with unique recipes that none can duplicate or dream of matching and the distinct taste of flavors in each dish served makes the foodie’s senses go wild.
The most exciting part though, is that it doesn’t stop here, because the condiments are every bit as inviting as the other dishes. In fact, they are so brilliantly prepared that they can be feasted on even separately. The bright colors and exquisite tastes of Pickles are something one can never forget the joy of experiencing. Whether it’s a sweet lemon yellow pickle or a spicy mango red pickle, they are all worth a taste. I could not resist having little licks of pickle throughout the meals. In fact, there were times when all I had was roti and pickle, just dabbling it in rice made my stomach happy. It is the perfect complement to each cuisine.
Later, when I researched, I also came to know about the health benefits of pickle. A slice of pickle can also make up for 20% of your daily K vitamin requirement, this helps in preventing blood clots after injuries. They are also rich source of Sodium, Potassium and Vitamin C. The high sodium content helps the hydration process as it helps the body retain water for longer period of time.
Also, I noticed as all these lovely flavors mixed inside my mouth, there was one that I could not ignore was a common pungent strong flavor. Upon further inquisition, I discovered it was the unmissable, ever-alluring taste of Mustard oil! It is the soul and heart of all North Indian pickles, dressings and sauces.
The sharp yet smoothly dissipating taste of mustard is what sets it apart. Not only this, but it is also great for your heart due to the fatty acids it contains that protect the cardiac muscles.
It kills bacteria and is a delicious way to preserve pickles for the long run. It is used in cooking alongside sesame seeds sometimes as well.
Some are rich and shining yellow, leaving the whole kitchen in a fragrant haze while others are less strong. But whether it is used in pickles or gravies, whether it is zingy or bland, one thing is constant- mustard oil makes every pickle and Indian north cuisine palatable!