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INDIA, NORTHERN

prepared) and has contributed to the growing popular- ization of Punjabi cuisine throughout the world. In many cases, tandoori cuisine is synonymous with Indian cuisine.

THE TANDOOR AND TANDOORI CUISINE

Northern Indian Cuisine by State

Tandoors are clay ovens that are air-dried, embedded in sand or earth, and fired with either wood or char- coal at the bottom. The heat generated is distributed up the sides of the oven. The average temperature within a tandoor ranges between 1,112 to 1,472°F (600 to 800°C). Some tandoors can withstand extreme heat, up to 2,552°F (1,400°C).

Tandoors are most commonly used in Punjab. It is a versatile piece of equipment and can be used to cook meats, kebabs, breads, and dal (lentil purée) with equal ease. Over recent years, there have been variations in the types of tandoors available: from gas- operated models to electric ones. However, in the fi- nal analysis, the flavor from the original charcoal-fired tandoor is unsurpassable. Tradition holds that a tan- door in regular use improves the flavor of anything cooked in it, because the heated clay releases a mel- low fragrance that permeates the food. In the case of meats, the final taste is a result of the smoke that em- anates from the marinade which has dripped on the hot charcoal.

Tandoors are used to cook a variety of meats and breads. The prerequisite for cooking meats in the tan- door is that they must be marinated. The popularity enjoyed by Indian cuisine around the world can be at- tributed, in large measure, to the tandoor, because it uses very little oil or fat for cooking and the foods thus cooked are moderately spiced.

Prior to use, the tandoor has to be seasoned. This is done by rubbing the inside walls of the tandoor with a paste of spinach or any other green, leafy vegetable. After this has dried, a mixture of mustard oil, butter- milk, jaggery, and salt is applied over the paste. The tandoor is then heated by lighting a small fire at the base, so that the temperature rises gradually. If the tem- perature rises too fast, the internal walls will crack and it will not be possible to control the temperature. Once heated, the mixture will peel off, and it has to be reap- plied three or four times to properly season the tan- door. Finally, the inside walls need to be sprinkled with brine and allowed to dry.

Kashmir. Kashmiri cuisine is a unique blend of Indian, Iranian, and Afghani cuisines. It is essentially meat-based and centered on a main course of rice. Unlike the Brah- mins in other parts of the country, the Kashmiri Brah- mins are nonvegetarian.

The abundance of dried fruit and nuts (walnuts, dates, and apricots) in the region has inspired their use in desserts, curries, and snacks. Sauces for curries are made from dairy-rich products.

A local spinachlike green called haak is popular in the summer months, as are lotus roots, which are used as a meat substitute. Fresh vegetables are abundant in the summer, including a prized variety of mushrooms called guhchi, used only for special occasions. Fresh fish is fa- vored in the summer, while smoked meat, dried fish, and sun-dried vegetables are used in the winter.

Kashmir is also known for a very special green tea

called kahwa, flavored with saffron, cardamom, and al- monds and served from a samovar, a large metal kettle, which originated in the Russian steppes.

Punjab. Punjabi cuisine is simple, substantial, and ro- bust, reflecting the extremes in climate and the industri- ous nature of its people. It forms a distinctive part of the culture. Everyday meals are centered on bread; there are a great variety of flat breads. Parathas (breads that are plain or stuffed with shredded, seasonal vegetables, sea- soned with herbs and spices, and baked on a hot griddle) are favored for breakfast, served with a dollop of home- made butter.

Main meals throughout the year would comprise one

(clarified butter), white butter, paneer (homemade cottage cheese), and cream in their cooking. For those who can- not afford or tolerate ghee, the preferred oils are mus- tard and peanut.

Tandoori cuisine has its origins in the northwest frontier province, now in Pakistan. The cuisine gets its name from the tandoor (the oven in which the food is

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dal, at least one seasonal vegetable, chapatis or parathas, and yogurt. Lassi (a yogurt shake) accompanies the mid- day meal, and pickles are served on the side. Some of the more popular dishes include a variety of locally grown legumes and dals, cooked whole or split, saag (spinach), mutter paneer (homemade cottage cheese cooked with peas), and baingan bhartha (smoked eggplant cooked with tomato). Punjabis are fond of nonvegetarian food like tandoori chicken, chicken curry, and meat koftas (meat- balls in gravy). Sweets are welcomed; carrot halva (grated carrots cooked with milk solids and clarified butter and garnished with almonds) served hot is a favorite in win- ter, while chilled kheer (rice pudding) is popular during

the summer. Makki ki roti (corn bread) and sarson ka saag

(mustard greens) served with white butter is another well- liked winter dish. Rice, which is prepared only for spe- cial occasions, is rarely served plain. It is made with cumin or fried onions or, in winter, jaggery. Punjabis prefer aro- matic basmati rice, especially at banquets and large so- cial gatherings.

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