North Indian cuisine typically represents foods of Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan area. All the states north of Maharashtra are often clumped together in this generalization. Each state has its own specialties but it is the similarities that classify the food of this region. North Indian food is often called “Punjabi food”. North Indian food is the most popular food in restaurants and is often understood to represent Indian food.
Wheat is the staple food of this region. “Basmati” rice is grown in the northern plains and is often the rice of choice for pulaos and biriyanis. Variety of dals or beans such as garbanzo, kidney, urad as well as moong and toor dal are used. Milk, butter and ghee are used extensively. Chicken and mutton are the most popular meats eaten in this region. Most of the cooking is done on the stovetop using the roasting and frying method.
Punjabis popularized tandoori food (that gets its name from the tandoor clay oven in which the food is cooked) in this region. Today most Indian restaurants around the world serve tandoori dishes and typically Punjabi food.
North Indian food is a mix of simple to very elegant vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. A simple vegetarian meal may consist of moong dal, subji and phulka (thin fat-less roti). The food is seasoned with asafoetida, cumin, turmeric, coriander powder and garam masala. Other Indians often refer to Garam masala as a north Indian spice blend. Onion and garlic may or may not be used. Then there are the non-vegetarian favorites like chicken and lamb dishes heavily seasoned with spices, onion, ginger and garlic. Foods like stuffed parathas, saag and makki ki roti, chole and bhature, kofte, rogan josh, tandoori chicken, biriyanies and pulao’s are very popular here. North Indian desserts like barfies, laddus, and gulab jamun are extremely popular throughout India.
North Indian food is often described as “rich”. The food is often fried, and a fair amount of ghee, butter and nuts may be is used. The food is seasoned heavily with onion, ginger, garlic and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cloves that give the food a “rich” color and flavor.
Nutritionally speaking North Indian meals with plenty of whole grains, green vegetables, beans and lean meats (poultry without skin) are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The overall fat and saturated fat content of traditional meals may be high due to extensive use of milk, butter, ghee and oil. This is where the meals can be modified in fat content by using small amount of oil to season the food. Also substitute low fat or fat free milk wherever possible and use butter and ghee sparingly.North Indian food can be easily incorporated in a healthy lifestyle. If you have diabetes it is important to watch the carbohydrate content of each meal. Plan balanced meals of roti, dal, meat (if non-vegetarian) non-starchy vegetables and salad. A typical ‘thaali’ meal (pre- portioned out foods in small cups served on a large plate or ‘thaali’) with balance of nutrients, flavors and textures may work well with diabetes and a healthy diet. The amount of carbohydrate in each meal is individualized based on needs. Portion size of foods is important to determine the actual carbohydrate intake. Remember within reason most foods can fit into a diet for a person managing his/her diabetes. See sample menu below.