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Even four millennia ago, inhabitants of the north’s fertile Indus Valley enjoyed ingredients that characterize the cooking of the region now: cereals and basmati rice, pulses, dairy, spices like mustard and fenugreek. Across the growing fields of Uttar Pradesh and eastern Rajasthan, northward through the Punjab, and up into mountainous Kashmir, ancient cooking techniques survive, too. Breads bake inside clay tandoor ovens, and spiced meats, such as the chile-brothed lamb dish mirchi qorma, simmer atop wood fires. Invaders added to the cuisine: Alexander brought cumin, fennel, and coriander from the Mediterranean, and the Mughals, from Central Asia, introduced toothsome kebabs and dishes, like the syrup-soaked royal toast, lavished with dried fruits or nuts, and the saffron that thrives in Kashmir’s Himalayan foothills.

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