Breakfast in India

7 Nov

 

poha

Poha and parathas for breakfast at Denwa Backwater Escape, Satpura, Madhya Pradesh.

By Patric Baird

Visitors will notice that they do a lot of things very differently in India. Although the art, music, dancing and architecture are very diverse across the states of the enormous country, everything still somehow manages to remain uniquely Indian.  And the same goes for the food.  Wherever you go, you’ll get ‘curry’.  That’s if you’re a Westerner, of course, as the term curry is pretty much meaningless in India, having been invented during the British Raj as a catch-all term for any dish containing a meat or vegetable cooked in a spiced gravy.  Each region has its own style of cooking, from the milder, coconut and fish-based dishes of Kerala in the far south, to the fiery vindaloos of Goa and the rich, dairy-heavy food of Northern India.  Rice and local flatbreads always appear no matter where you are, particularly at breakfast time.  Again, each region has its favourites with a stand-out example being Southern India’s dosa, a kind of fermented pancake made from rice batter and lentils, usually stuffed with a turmeric-infused potato curry and served with coconut and tomato chutneys.  Other south Indian breakfast specialities include medu vada, small doughnut-shaped savoury fritters, idli which is a steamed cake made from fermented rice and lentils, aloo bonda, potato-stuffed fried dumplings, and upma which is a kind of  porridge usually made from semolina flour.  On a recent trip to Madhya Pradesh, the rice dish poha inevitably made an appearance at breakfast, and it’s one of the things I’ll miss most about my visit to MP.  At first sight, it’s yellow rice with bits in but, on closer inspection, it’s more complex than that.  The rice is actually flattened rice, which has had the husk removed and beaten flat into flakes.  The yellow colour comes from turmeric and other ingredients include fried potato, curry leaves, mustard seeds, peanuts, onions and chillis.  It is delicious, especially when served with the ubiquitous paratha, a flaky, fried flatbread.  It may not sound like the world’s most exciting breakfast, but I’ll take it over toast and cornflakes any day of the week, especially when served with a milky, spicy masala coffee.

dosa

Masala dosa breakfast with all the trimmings in Kerala.

 

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