Written by Arkaprabha Das.
Almost every Indian is a foodie. Indians love their food and it is a mandatory aspect of every occasion, big or small. Every season has its own separate range of dishes, every state has its own specialities and every community has a marked dish that defines their traditions. Food is not just a nutrition provider for the busy in India, it is an emotion.
Although the range of delicacies is never-ending in Indian cuisine, there are certain dishes that are very special for every Indian. These specific delicacies bring back memories from childhood, solves the stress in the lives of people and even citizens who live abroad tend to find places in other countries that can serve them these dishes. Here is a list of these comfort foods that have remained as constant support for Indian through every generation.
That surreal feeling of having khichdi on a rainy day is not comparable with any other emotion. Khichdi is one of the oldest comfort foods in India and through generations, every child, every grandparent, every family have fallen in love with it. A dish that is not only craved for its taste but has the power to bring the entire family together with smiles on their faces even after a tough day. Khichdi is primarily made of rice and lentil, cooked to reach a thick porridge form. The dish can be added on with vegetables and is also accompanied by curd, pickle, eggplant fries and papad.
2. Dal Makhani
A bowl of warm and creamy dal makhani can make you feel that maybe the sole purpose of your life was to gorge on this delicacy. Any North Indian food lover can have bowls after bowls of this lentil variant with butter naan (Indian flatbread) and pickles. This is not only a comforting home food, but it is also even served to guests at lavish Indian weddings.
Many non-vegetarians often talk about how lucky they are to be able to have butter chicken, but then when they get to have dal makhani, they realise maybe vegetarians are not really missing out on anything. Dal makhani has become almost a staple food in India and is available across many restaurants all over the country.
Biriyani is often stated as not just food but an emotion. There are more than 50 types of biriyani all over India and the world and almost every state in India has its own variant. Though many claims that the top 5 variants are Mughlai biriyani, Lucknowi biriyani, Kolkata biriyani, Hyderabadi biriyani and Ambur biriyani, but almost all the types something unique about their taste and texture.
Although this is just a dish which has rice cooked with meat and spices, from the Kings of medieval India to the millennials of the 21st century all have agreed to the happiness this dish can bring to them.
4. Gulab Jamun
Doesn’t just the picture make you feel like these warm fried rounds made of milk and sugar are calling you to grab as many as you can and savour it until there is no one to disturb you during this mouth-watering journey? There are many desserts in India, but one dessert out of all which can any day top the charts is gulab jamun. People almost fear and hope to never get diabetes otherwise they would receive a red sign on this sweet dish.
If someone is angry with you, just experiment by offering a plate of gulab jamun, I bet they will have to turn their face and extend their hands to get a bite and then the sweetness will easily melt away all the rage. Indian kids may grow up and go away from their homes for higher education or job, but when the phone rings and it says “Today we had homemade gulab jamun”, the thoughts of home and the comfort quickly rushes into the mind through the imagination of this food.
The saviour after a warm summer day at work, this traditional Indian drink is a classic Punjabi culture mark. There are so many variants of this yoghurt drink starting from mango lassi, strawberry lassi, chocolate lassi, mint lassi, you name it. An instant energy-boosting and refreshing drink that is not only made at home and at restaurants but now can be majorly seen outside the office area stalls waiting to boost the moods of the employees who have been working for long hours.
Lassi not only serves as a comfy companion when we feel lost but also takes care of our digestion. Another pro-tip, if you want to impress your guests then just serve them with a glass of lassi and sit back to see an instant smile pop up on their faces.
Wherever you visit in India, you are sure to find restaurants selling idli-sambar and dosa. Travellers who might sometimes be in a tiff on what to eat so that their digestive system is not hampered often fall back on these South Indian dishes because nothing better option could be available in terms of a cheap, clean and healthy food.
Idli along with sambhar and chutney is also a common breakfast option in many Indian households. And guess the popularity of this comfort food has reached so many different cities all across the world that there is also an entire day dedicated to this dish, March 30 is being celebrated as World Idli Day.
Though it is true that these are not the healthiest of all options, but who can deny a plateful of these deep-fried triangle-shaped samosas when served with some hot tea and chutney. Almost every nook and corner of India has a stall dedicated to this soul comforting food and every state has combined their most craved foods with a samosa in some way or the other. Delhi has its own samosa chat, Mumbai has mixed samosa inside the pavs, Chinese food lover has stuffed noodles inside samosa and many more such interesting combinations rule the foodie’s world of Indian people.
Even the feeling of a warm fuzzy blanket over you on a cold winter month is incomparable to the taste of soft parathas with desi ghee as a winter morning breakfast. A guilty pleasure every health expert has indulged in and is now finding healthier ways to substitute the common ingredients with which paratha is made so that at least they can continue claiming their love for this food guilt-free.
Parathas are even considered to be the national breakfast of India and young mothers often stuff vegetables inside parathas to be able to feed their child some veggies which otherwise he or she won’t eat. Parathas have immense power to become the comfort food of any generation.
9. Mishti Doi
This Bengali dessert made with thickened milk and jaggery has a separate fanbase altogether. Whenever you visit a sweet shop in India and look for your favourite sweet, there might be chances of that dessert not being available, but you will always be able to get your hands closed upon Mishti Doi. In Bengal, it is almost mandatory to have Mishti Doi on all special occasions, whether it is a wedding, a festival, or a family get together. Sometimes a child can even say no to the tastiest dish you have made but surprisingly you will always find him or her nodding a yes when offered Mishti Doi.
Starting from famous Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities to politicians, everyone will tell you one thing, “I love jalebi”. In India, every family waits for their special breakfast on a Sunday morning, a plate of kachori, aloo ki sabzi and jalebi. The special breakfast loses its charm if you forget or are unable to get the star of the show “jalebi”. Every locality has its own marked shop where they would get the best jalebis.
A vacation to the grandparents’ house has to include jalebis for breakfast and evening snacks. Diwali without jalebi is like crackers without sparks. Any small or big celebration has to have a platter full of jalebis. Also, when your life turns tipsy turvy, instead of watching a motivational video, grab a bite of jalebi and see the energy rise up inside you.
11. Strawberry Shrikhand
A traditional creamy, yoghurt based dessert from the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in India, this is one of the fab=vorite desserts of everyone in the family. There are so many childhood memories attached to this dessert for every person in the family. Children wait for the day when they would return from their evening play and be welcomed with bowls of strawberry shrikhand waiting for them on the kitchen table.
The smile on the child’s face would be a reassuring signal to the mother who would know that her child would surely complete his or her homework that day on time. Such are the memories associated with shrikhand and as we grow up, the signal received by the mother changes from homework to an assurance that the child would come back home from a faraway city where he or she has been assigned from the company.
Out of all the members of your friend circle, you are bound to find a pani puri lover in India. There are bets that take place in every city among friends on who can eat the most number of pani puris. Every pani puri lover knows the best stall in the locality and the exact mix and match of taste that they want. You will find people who will tell you that they can eat everything healthy but should be allowed to have pani puri at least once a week. This is how we fall back on our love for pani puris. Pani puri is not just street food, it is a connection maker, love stories and beautiful memories are bounded all over the experiences of having this delicacy.
If you are travelling to India, make sure to grab a couple of bites of these amazing comfort foods that every Indian will vouch for. India’s culture and tradition are blended in its foods and what better way to understand the hearts of Indian people than tasting these delicacies that are available in every nook and corner of the country.
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Arkaprabha Das is the Founder & Editorial Chief at The Strong Traveller. He has always been a man of many caps. Apart from being an MBA professional, he is a freelance writer and possesses the mind & heart of a true entrepreneur! You can always reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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