Most Indian cuisine’s are related by a similar use of spices and Indian cooking is often distinguished by the use of a larger variety of vegetables than many other cuisine’s. Within these recognisable similarities, however, there is an enormous variety of local styles.
In the north and the west, Kashmiri and Mughlai cuisine’s show strong central Asian influences. Through the medium of Mughlai food this influence has propagated into many regional kitchens. To the east, the Bengali and Assamese styles shade off into the cuisine’s of East Asia.
All coastal kitchens make strong use of fish and coconuts. The desert cuisine’s of Rajasthan and Gujarat use an immense variety of dalls and achars (preserves) to substitute for the relative lack of fresh vegetables. The use of tamarind to impart sourness distinguishes Tamil food. The Andhra kitchen is accused, sometimes unfairly, of using excessive amounts of chilies.
All along the northern plain, from Punjab through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, a variety of flours are used to make chapattis and other closely related breads. In the rain-swept regions of the north-eastern foothills and along the coasts, a large variety of rice's are used. Potatoes are not used as the staple carbohydrate in any part of India.
To the casual palate, Bengali food means rice and fish. From this it is easy to guess that Bengal is on the monsoon-drenched east coast of India. The other characteristic of coastal cuisine’s, the use of coconut, is clear in the cuisine of eastern Bengal (Bangladesh). Unlike other coastal kitchens, however, coconut oil is not used. The preferred cooking medium is mustard oil. Bengali spicing is somewhat different from the norm in the heartland of India, but similar to that used further east.
Modern India is going through a period of rapid culinary evolution. With urbanisation and the consequent evolution of patterns of living, home-cooked food has become simpler. Old recipes are recalled more often than used. A small number of influential cookbooks have served the purpose of preserving some of this culinary heritage at the cost of homogenising palates. Meanwhile restaurants, increasingly popular, encourage mixing of styles.