The Indian sub-continent was first united under British rule. Although earlier empires came close to uniting the sub-continent, such as the Mughal Empire (which didn’t conquer the southern areas of Goa and Hyderabad) no one nation consolidated the peninsula until the British successfully did it after driving out the Portuguese, Dutch, and French. As such, modern India has a rich regional culture of both foods and art that vary significantly from one another.
Indian cuisine is known, first and foremost for its spices but also for rich and creamy sauces with ghee. The high spice content is thought to have originated from the tropical climate which is also similar to other areas that have spicy food, such as Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China. Indian cuisine is more varied then just that with religious influences, colonial influences, and regional delicacies all having an impact on the cuisine.
Delhi, as the former capital of the Mughal Empire, has strong flavors that are influenced by the history of the area. Delhi has large Hindu and Muslim populations and tends to avoid certain meats banned by these religions such as beef and pork. Rich sauces laden and infused with spices are popular here and ghee is used as a flavoring for many of the fried breads such as naan. Stuffed flatbreads are common with the high density of Punjabs in this area.
Goa in the south was originally a Portuguese port and has strong influences from its colonial days. An emphasis is on fresh seafood and many dishes are based on rich and spicy sauces. A popular dish originating in Goa is vindaloo which emphasized the intense flavor of the region.
Hyderabad and many other southern cities in India have a vegetarian diet due to the religious influences there. Religions such as Jainism prevent the consumption of all meat products and by-products. While other religious groups are not as strict as Jains, vegetarian cuisines are common here. Dosas, which are fried hard pancakes that are commonly stuffed with potato and peppers are a common dish in this area. Another regional delight is bhel puri which is a puffed rice dish flavored with tamarind sauce.