India is the second most populous country in the world, so food, language and culture greatly vary from one region to another. There is no official national food or dish of India. Each region of the country has its own dish that remains popular among citizens and tourists. A common thread among most regions and dishes is the use of spices, or curries, to create aroma and flavour. In Northern India, curries are thick, moderately spicy and creamy. The cuisine of Southern India is the hottest; hot peppers are used to make spicy curries. East India is known for using mustard oil and paste in a large portion of the dishes. The cuisine in West India is very diverse and largely vegetarian.
The term Curry was adopted and anglicised from the Tamil word kaṟi meaning “sauce”, which is usually understood to mean vegetables and/or meat cooked with spices with or without a gravy. Curry (plural curries) is an umbrella term referring to a number of dishes originating in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. There are many varieties of dishes called ‘curries’ and dishes may contain fish, red or white meat, poultry, or shellfish, either alone or in combination with vegetables. Additionally, many are entirely vegetarian with lentils, potatoes and other vegetables. In original traditional cuisines, the precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, religious practice, and, to some extent, family preference. Such dishes are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods: for example Chicken Masala, Chicken Tikka, Tandoori Chicken, Pav Bhaji.