Northern Indian cuisine is synonymous with rich food. Many dishes are made using ghee or fresh cream, with the internationally-loved Butter Chicken being the prime example. The cuisine is characterized by spicy vegetable stir-fries, decadent gravies, tender and moist slow-cooked meat and divine desserts. And there’s one thing that all dishes have in common: they are all packed full of flavour.
Many people in the western world lump all Indian food together as just that: “Indian food”. However, this concept couldn’t be further from the truth. Each region has its own unique dishes, all of them completely different from the other. A lot of this depends on the availability of ingredients within that particular region of the Indian subcontinent, and in northern India, this involves a plethora of fruits, vegetables, spices and grains that make the cuisine particularly colourful, rich and vibrant.
Although dishes from northern India often take hours to prepare with several intricate steps, the gastronomic joy to be found when you take your first bite is guaranteed to be well worth the effort. They also love using dairy in their food, with most traditional meals served with chaos and paneer and washed down with a creamy lassi. Naturally, milk-based desserts tend to follow, such as kulfi and kheer.
North Indians take their food very seriously. Here, we reveal some of the most popular dishes in the region…
This is one of the most popular Indian dishes in the UK, and it originates from the Kashmir region, although it is thought to have been initially introduced to the country by the Mughals. Usually made with chicken or lamb, it is a slow-cooked dish in which the meat is simmered in oil, yoghurt and numerous spices. Despite its red colour, it is not particularly spicy.
This dish comes straight from the Punjabi kitchen and is typically accompanied by a lassi. Usually served at breakfast time, it consists of spicy chickpeas (chole) and fried bread made from maida flour (bhatoora). It is traditionally served with green chutney, carrot pickle, onions and achaar. CholeBhature was actually invented in Delhi and is particularly popular in the northwest regions of India.
Malai Ki Kheer
This delicious dessert is made from ground rice, condensed milk, cream, khoya and nuts. The basmati rice is ground in a bowl before being added to the boiled milk, along with sugar, saffron, green cardamom powder, pistachios and almonds –a comforting and nourishing way to finish a meal.
Chicken Dum Biryani
A speciality of Hyderabad, this traditional one-pot Indian dish comes from the royal kitchen of the Nizams. Marinated raw chicken is layered with partially-cooked basmati rice and cooked on the dumover a very low heat. When the lid is opened, the rich, fragrant aromas can be sensed from a mile off; pure ghee and saffron make this decadent, home-cooked meal one of the most popular dishes around.
If you are looking to experience real, authentic Indian cuisine from the various regions, head to one of London’s fine dining Indian restaurants. Here, you will find talented regional chefs who are able to create authentic dishes with a contemporary flair.