Year: 2015


Indian food, with its hodgepodge of ingredients and intoxicating aromas, is coveted around the world. The labor-intensive cuisine and its mix of spices is more often than not a revelation for those who sit down to eat it for the first time. Heavy doses of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other flavors can overwhelm an unfamiliar palate. Together, they help form the pillars of what tastes so good to so many people.

But behind the appeal of Indian food — what makes it so novel and so delicious — is also a stranger and subtler truth. In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.

Before we go further, let’s take a step back and consider what flavors are and how they interact. If you were to hold a microscope to most Western dishes, you would find an interesting but not all-too-surprising trend. Popular food pairings in this part of the world combine ingredients that share like flavors, which food chemists have broken down into their molecular parts — precise chemical compounds that, when combined, give off a distinct taste.

Most of the compounds have scientific names, though one of the simpler compounds is acetal, which, as the food chemist George Burdock has written, is “refreshing, pleasant, and [has a] fruity-green odor,” and can be found in whiskey, apple juice, orange juice and raw beets. On average, there are just over 50 flavor compounds in each food ingredient.


High-Quality Food
A good restaurant sets a high standard for its food quality and ensures that guests receive the same quality with every meal. Serving quality food can earn your restaurant a good reputation and compel your guests to return for repeat visits. High-quality ingredients and an experienced cook are important to serving good food consistently. A good cook understands your guests’ needs and works well with the kitchen staff to ensure that guests receive their meal the way they ordered it every time.

Different from the Rest
If your restaurant provides good food and service but is too similar to other restaurants, customers may overlook your restaurant when deciding where to dine. A good restaurant should have one or more unique features that stand out in a customer’s mind and give it a competitive advantage over others. For example, your restaurant may be the only restaurant in town that makes its ingredients fresh daily or it may have an amazing view of the city that none of your competitors have.

Good Business Management
A good restaurant owner manages the business aspect of the restaurant properly, which increases the chances that it can provide quality food and service without interruption. Running your restaurant properly can also help boost your small business’s profits. You must manage your restaurant’s finances, keep good records and stay current with regulatory requirements, such as taxes and health inspections. For example, consistently paying your vendors on time reduces the risk of running out of items on your menu.

Good Overall Experience
Providing good customer service in a clean environment helps to enhance your guests’ overall experience of your restaurant. The staff who interact with your guests should be courteous and maintain a positive attitude. Servers should know the menu well, deliver guests’ food and drinks on time, and quickly address any issues that an unsatisfied guest may have. All staff should help to keep the restaurant clean at all times, including the kitchen, food preparation areas and any areas that guests come into contact with.


Indian cuisine is ancient, diverse, and steeped in tradition, an amalgam of different ethnic influences, much like the country itself. The spicy food displayed at buffets in the US, or the ubiquitous “curry” in Britain are only a small fraction of the variety and quality available to food lovers.

Gourmet Indian food is typically associated with the food cooked in the courts of Indian royalty, particularly those of Mughal emperors in Delhi and Lucknow in North India and the Nizams of Hyderabad in the South. This food is characterized by elaborate cooking techniques and the use of expensive ingredients. However, there are thousands of hidden culinary gems to be found in kitchens, little-known restaurants, and places of worship around the country that require a discriminating palate and hence can be classified as ‘gourmet’. Religion and climate are two factors that have significantly impacted the development of cooking styles and food habits in India.


Over 80% of Indians follow the Hindu religion and its offshoots such as Jainism. Hinduism prescribes respect for life forms and has contributed to the prevalence of vegetarianism in India, particularly in the North. One impact of this on cuisine is that lentils and beans are the main sources of protein as opposed to fish and meat. Although cows are sacred to Hindus, milk is considered auspicious and milk products such as curd, vegan cottage cheese (‘paneer’) and sweets made of milk solids are part of the cuisine. Spices are generously used to provide variety in the vegetarian diet. Certain sects of Hinduism forbid the use of onions and garlic in food, and so substitute flavorings such as cumin seeds, ginger, and cashew paste have been incorporated into the cuisine.

With Muslim rule established in India in 1194 AD, the cuisine began to reflect Islamic influences. The main difference from traditional Hindu cuisine was the use of meat and fish. West and Central Asian cooking techniques and ingredients (such as the use of dates and nuts in rice dishes, and grilling of meat into ‘kebabs’) were adopted. Muslim rulers were great gourmets, famous for their lavish courts and elaborate meal rituals and many of the dishes they patronized are today part of the Indian gourmet heritage. The Christian tradition in India is as old as Christianity itself, with St. Thomas reputed to have made the first converts to Christianity in the Southern state of Kerala. Later, the Portuguese and British accelerated the growth of Christianity. Like the Muslims, Christians ate meat and fish, but developed their own cooking techniques. In Kerala, where Christianity took root over time and in tandem with local culture, food incorporates many local ingredients and cooking techniques and has few European influences. In Goa and Calcutta, where Christianity came with the British and Portuguese and conversion happened more rapidly, food reflects European customs and traditions (for example, rum-flavored cake is a traditional favorite at Christmas in Calcutta). Unlike Muslims who are prohibited from eating pork, and Hindus who are vegan, Christians have no restrictions on the type of meat that can be consumed.

Religious festivals – whether Hindu, Muslim, or Christian – often have special foods associated with them linked to the mythology of that occasion. For example milk and milk products are said to be favored by Lord Krishna, and so on ‘Krishna Jayanti’ (Krishna’s birthday), food and sweets prepared from dairy products predominate. Similarly for Muslims, there are special foods called ‘Iftari’ for breaking the Ramadam fast (or ‘iftar’) such as ‘Seviyan’ (sweet vermicelli cooked in milk).

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