The concept of Indian cuisine encompasses a huge range of dietary influence from across the vast country. Throughout the various regions in India there is a massive variety in the climate and the soil types, therefore producing an interesting selection of different locally grown produce in each place. Therefore the vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs that are locally available vary greatly.
Indian food has also been traditionally influenced by the cultural and religious beliefs of particular groups of people. For example, vegetarianism is a widespread practice of the Hindi people. As the most popular religion in the country, and also as the majority of people speak the Hindi language, vegetarianism is an incredibly common practice.
It is also noteworthy that influences from abroad have brought new foods into the country. For example, the Portuguese brought potatoes and chillies to India and the spice trade between Europe and India has notoriously changed cuisines around the world. India has been trading and interacting with other countries for over 5000 years, providing ample opportunity for alternative influences.
A typical diet of the early Indian population consisted mainly of fruit and vegetables as well as grain and some dairy products. Meat was also sometimes consumed however this has decreased as vegetarianism has become a more popular option. Cows are considered sacred in line with the Hindu religion, another reason why many Indians choose not to kill and eat them. However there are regional variations on this belief.
As India moved forward towards the Middle Ages, new methods for cooking and preparing food were developed. New ingredients were also introduced such as saffron and other spices. This development in the Indian cuisine was largely aided by increasing trade with the Assyrian, Sumerian and Arab cultures.
Today the most commonly used ingredients in Indian cuisine, regardless of location or language spoken, are rice, whole-wheat flour and a range of pulse products, such as lentils and other beans. It is also common for most dishes to be cooked in either peanut or vegetable oil.