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The eating habits of Indians vary enormously depending on religion and region, but one thing that we all have in common is our love for vegetables. It is almost taken for granted that you are vegetarian, but even when you do eat meat you will almost certainly have at least one or two vegetable dishes with it.
Vegetables are not really eaten as an accompaniment in the same way as they are in the west. A traditional Indian meal will always have vegetable dishes that use a range of different ingredients, which would complement the other dishes and hence provide a healthy balanced meal.
When planning your menu, always bear in mind that a typical Indian daily meal will normally only feature three items, the main dish, a side dish, and a staple, which would be rice or bread, however some families would have both. Chutneys, salads, raitas, and pappadums would also be eaten for taste, to cool the palate, and also to help balance the meal.
So a meat dish would always be accompanied by a vegetable dish, or if you were a pure vegetarian there would be two vegetable dishes, with rice, breads and the accompaniments. Dishes with a drier consistency are normally accompanied by a curry or a lentil dish. Deciding what dish to serve as the main is important, as this ensures that the flavours of the dishes complement rather then compete with each other. Generally a lightly spiced side dish is more enjoyable when the main dish is spicier.
An Indian meal would not be served as separate courses, as all the dishes complement each other, they would be brought out to the table at the same time, and diners would help themselves to any of the dishes in any order.
When entertaining and on special occasions, a traditional family three dish menu with accompaniments, can be transformed into a lavish dinner party meal by adding other dishes, like a starter and a dessert.
An Indian meal will usually ends with fresh fruit, rather than elaborate or cooked desserts, as a result of the abundance of delicious fresh fruit grown in India. However Indians are famous for having an incredibly sweet tooth and have devised all manner of sweets and desserts, often milk and yogurt based, along with nuts, dried fruits, saffron, coconut and sugar. Desserts are not really made or served every day, but are reserved for special occasions such as religious festivals or weddings.
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