The Cuisine of India’s North-Western Frontier

The North-Western Frontier is a region of India renowned for its creative culinary delights and incorporates the cuisine of some of the best-known foodie states in the sub-continent. From the northern reaches of the Punjab, the western shores of Gujarat and the sweeping state of Rajasthan, a diverse range of cultural influences have shaped the cooking techniques and recipes of the people to produce some of the finest speciality dishes in India.

A popular cooking technique of the North-Western Frontier, is to slow-cook marinated meat for long periods of time before serving. Mutton is particularly favoured and when it is slow-cooked in this style, the meat becomes exceptionally tender, rich with its own juices and filled with flavour. Meat is often marinated for up to a day and a half before cooking in order to let the masalas to do their work and fill the dish with all the flavour of the East.

A few of the top specialities of Frontier cuisine include dishes that were simply made for slow-cooking. Haleem, a popular dish consisting of ground meat, pulses and spices is traditionally cooked for around seven or eight hours, as is the wholesome and filling dal makhani, a lentil preparation that’s popular throughout the country.

As you can probably tell, rich flavours are integral to the cooking of the North-Western Frontier. However, this is more likely to be achieved through the use of spices and herbs rather than the heavy creams and liberal usage of ghee which is a key element of the North India cooking tradition.

Meat and vegetables are laced with exotic spices, using flavoursome masalas. Frontier cooking particularly favours blends of cardamom, cumin, mace and chilli powder to produce a warm, slow heat with a fiery kick.

One trademark element of Frontier cuisine is a staple cooking technique from the northern state of the Punjab. The hot clay oven known as the Tandoor makes an excellent resource for baking breads as well as roasting a whole host of meat, including the famous Tandoori-style chicken that we know and love here in the UK.

Food cooked in the Tandoor, as well as the hot oven itself, traditionally helped to stave off the cold, winter nights that can be surprisingly harsh in the higher regions of India. Despite the impression we might have that India consists of hot city streets and golden shores, the mountainous regions and desert states can experience extremes in temperature that require the right sort of food to help people survive.

You too can experience some of the most tantalising dishes of Frontier cuisine with a visit to one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants. At some of these excellent establishments you can sample authentic Tandoori specialities, cooked to succulent perfection in a traditional oven.  You might even be lucky enough to witness your food being cooked in a variety of traditional techniques via a show-stopping open kitchen.

Although these restaurants stay true to their roots by taking inspiration from traditional Indian recipes and techniques, they also add their own unique twists to their menus, bringing the dishes into the 21st century with sophisticated, contemporary tweaks.

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