Though our usual breakfast is a piece of buttered toast or a small bowl of cereals before rushing to work, most of us are aware of the staggering variety of food made in India as the first meal of the day. A year back, when another edition of Huffington Post was compiling an article on breakfasts from across the world and wanted inputs from several international editions, we were faced with a perplexing problem. Because there was no one Indian breakfast!
While several regions in India do not have a traditional practice of eating breakfast, there's a dizzying array of dishes consumed in the states across the country every morning. Seen together they reflect incredible culinary diversity as well as thread of continuity in the food habits of different regions. Here are some of the most popular and delicious ones.
The inventive pesarattu upma combines two popular breakfast dishes into one wholesome and satisfying one. It comprises a lentil dosa made from a batter of ground green gram dal, and stuffed with semolina upma instead of the usual potato filling. It is also known as MLA pesarattu, supposedly because it was invented in the canteen of the MLA quarters in Hyderabad. The classic version of pesarattu, made without upma, is popular throughout Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Here is a recipe for pesarattu upma.
The traditional Assamese no-cook breakfast or jolpaan is both healthy and easy to make. It comprises of soaked chivda/chira or flattened rice served with a dollop of yoghurt, milk or cream, with jaggery on the side. The rice-loving Assamese have several variations of the dish with puffed rice (muri) ground roasted rice (xandoh) and sticky rice (bora saul).
Here is a recipe for chira-doi-gur.
This healthy puttu utilises two of the most common ingredients in Kerala cuisine: rice and coconut. Puttu is a soft steamed rice cake, made with rice flour and grated coconut which is traditionally steamed inside a bamboo stalk. It is usually paired with kadala (black chickpeas) curry, but it can also be had with fish curry, jackfruit and other vegetables. Rice flour is also the key ingredient in two other breakfast favourites, the lacy appams and the noodle-like idiyappams, which are eaten with a curry or stew made with egg, chicken or vegetables.
Here is a simple recipe for puttu, but you can also make more complex variants using scrambled egg masala or keema.
Delicious urad dal kochuris accompanied by flavourful aloo dum curry and chholar dal -- the Bengali morning meal is truly a breakfast of champions. While the combination of fried luchis and aloo tarkari is more common as an everyday breakfast option, the more elaborate radhaballabhi has a festive character.
Here is a recipe for radhaballavi and dry aloo dum.
Madhya Pradesh's love affair with poha is common knowledge, but the poha-jalebi combination is especially famous in Indore. The poha here is simultaneously sweet and salty, and a play of different textures. The poha itself is light and fluffy, generously peppered with cashewnuts and peanuts, and topped with sev for that extra crunch. Served with crispy jalebis, it makes for a supremely satisfying breakfast.
Try this recipe for Indori poha.
Don't confuse the classic Goan breakfast combination of bhaji and pav with the similar-sounding Mumbai street snack. Also known as patal bhaji or tonak, the bhaji here is a spicy curry made with potatoes, coconut, roasted whole spices, and occasionally dry white peas. It is served in local Goan restaurants with soft and fluffy pav, which is freshly baked in wood-fired mud ovens by local bakeries every morning.
A popular non-vegetarian alternative is the pita-like soft bread called poi, stuffed with Goa's delicious spiced pork sausages chorizo.
Get the recipe for Goan bhaji-pav here.
Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir has a long tradition of baking in tandoors, so a typical breakfast often comprises of several freshly-baked breads bought from the local bakery or kandur. It is usually served with butter, salty noon chai, and occasionally eggs. Local breads such as the disc-shaped flatbread girda and the thin and large pita-like lavaas, are consumed with pink noon chai, or green tea made with milk, salt, baking soda and cardamom. In winter, the breads are paired with a slow-cooked lamb paste called hareesa.
A traditional Manipuri breakfast includes a savoury flatbread called tan, which is had with changang or black tea. According to Manipuri food blogger Pushpita Aheibam, there are several variations of tan: it can be deep fried or served as a savoury crepe made on traditional iron skillet with rice flour, salt and water. The latter is know as the temai tan and can be additionally seasoned with turmeric powder, maroi nakuppi or garlic chives, and freshly grated ginger to enhance the flavour.
Try this recipe for a sweet tan with jaggery.
Punjab's love for paranthas is India's worst kept secret. Stuffed with spiced potatoes, radish, paneer or cauliflower and topped with a dollop of butter, there are few breakfasts more ubiquitous than paranthas.
While idli and dosa is easily available in Karnataka, the akki roti is unique to the state. This thin pancake is made of rice flour, chopped vegetables and spices, and had with molga podi. The thin crepe-like neer dosa is a cousin of the akki roti. While it is made with rice flour and simple to prepare, it is flavoured only with coconut.
Here is a recipe of akki roti.
The light and healthy Odia dish santula can comprise of vegetables like potato, brinjal and ladyfingers, which are steamed and light sauteed, and eaten with rotis or paranthas. It can also be fried and served in the form of vegetable fritters. Like in Assam, mudhi (puffed rice) and poha (flattened rice) is also a popular breakfast option, eaten with curd, banana and sugar. Another common Odia breakfast combination is chakuli pitha (fried rice cakes) eaten with ghuguni or white pea curry.
Here is a recipe for a santula curry.
Bihar's breakfast of choice are sattu paranthas, stuffed with spices and sattu or a flour made with roasted gram flour and grains. Sattu is also stuffed in littis (dumplings) and mixed with water, lemon and cumin powder as a refreshing drink.
Another popular breakfast option in Bihar is puffed rice (chuda) mixed with curd and sugar, or eaten with pickles, vegetables or sprouted lentils.
Here is a recipe for organic sattu parantha.
The major cities in the desert state are partial to a tantalising variety of fried breakfast street dishes. Think piping hot samosas, Jodhpur's fiery mirchi vadas and Jaipur's flaky onion, asfoetida and dal kachoris, all washed down with a glass of hot milk or lassi. Outside the cities though, the traditional breakfast consists of a hearty meal of bajra rotis with curd and garlic chutney.
For Gujaratis, the thepla is an anytime snack -- it can be had for breakfast, tea or even packed for a trip abroad. It is traditionally made with whole wheat flour, gram flour and fresh fenugreek (methi) leaves, but you can also find variations with jowar, bajra and other greens. Theplas are usually eaten with a tangy mango pickle such as the chhundo or murabba.
Try this methi thepla recipe.
A typical breakfast in Uttar Pradesh is an exquisite mix of sweet and spicy flavours. Mornings start with spicy puri-like kachoris stuffed with spices and ground urad dal, and served with potato or pumpkin curry. It is followed by a plate of crisp and hot jalebis. Another winter delicacy in Varanasi is the chooda matar, made with flattened rice (chiwra) and fresh green peas. Lucknow's breakfast specialty is paya-kulcha, or hot mutton soup served with flaky bread.
Here is a recipe for Banarasi kachori-sabzi.
Everyone is familiar with idli-sambar, but it is the tiffin which provides the entire degustatory experience of Tamil cuisine's diverse tastes and smells. A tiffin can include everything from steamed rice idlis, masala dosa and medhu vada, to semolina upma and tangy sambhar and an assortment of chutneys. All washed down with a piping hot filter coffee of course.
Here's how you can make a tiffin.
Maharashtrian cuisine has a plethora of breakfast options such as the onion-flecked kanda poha, kothimbir vadi, sabudana khichdi and vada, and the nutrient-rich thalipeeth. The thalipeeth is a thick pancake whose dough is made from multigrain flour, which includes amaranth, tapioca, wheat, rice and spices. Here is a recipe for thalipeeth.
Haryana's simple and hearty fare reflects its agrarian roots. Mornings usually begin with a meal of missi roti made with wheat and chana flour, a dollop of white butter, green chilli pickle and a glass of buttermilk or curd. Traditionally in winter, homes in Haryana villages started the day with khichadi made with the nutrient-rich bajra or pearl millet, with lots of butter and hot milk. In summer, this was substituted with rabadi, a fermented porridge made with beaten wheat or chana dal and had with buttermilk.
Like the rest of Mizo cuisine, morning meals are marked by simplicity. They feature rice with bai, a mixed vegetable stew cooked with fermented pork, green chillies and a dash of baking soda. Bai is usually made with mustard leaf, brinjal, potatoes and cabbage, with no spices and salt.
Here's a recipe for bai.
Traditional breakfast in Meghalaya comprises several dishes made from either rice or pounded rice flour, with variations among the three main tribes: the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. Putharo is a sticky rice flour pancake moulded and baked in an earthen utensil, often eaten with pork curry cooked with local neiiong or black sesame seeds. Other variants include pudoh, rice flour patty stuffed with pork and wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed, pumaloi or idli-like steamed rice flour cakes, and pukhlein, a deep fried snack made of rice flour and jaggery.
Here is a recipe for putharo.
Instead of breakfast, mornings in Nagaland start with an early meal that typically includes an indigenous variety of red, brown or black rice, served with a helping of vegetables and a meat dish. Each of the state's 16 tribes has its own variations. For instance, morning meals for the Sema or Sumi tribe usually include dry pork cooked with either yam leaves or akhuni (fermented soybean chutney), steamed vegetables such as herbal leaves, beans and cabbage, and a spicy chutney made with a fiery local chilli such as raja mirchi and tomato. In contrast, the Aos combine pork with anishi or fermented yam leaves. According to Hukali Sema Akato, manager of the Nagaland House canteen in Delhi, Naga cooking uses very little oil and spices, instead opting for local herbs and techniques such as steaming, roasting and smoking. Mornings are also incomplete without a cup of steaming organic black tea without milk or sugar.
Telangana's food shares many similarities with Andhra cuisine, with idli, dosa and puri-sabzi being popular breakfast options. A tangy local version of the more famous upma, uppudu pindi is made with rice flour or broken rice rawa and flavoured with curry leaves, lime juice and mustard seeds. Sarva pindi is another regional variant of the dosa. This savoury pancake is made with rice flour and chana dal, with ingredients such as curry leaves, onion, garlic and peanuts added for flavour.
While there are considerable variations in the culinary practices of Arunachal Pradesh's different communities, an average day starts with a cup of tea, and is followed by a morning meal that consists of rice served with a helping of meat such as smoked pork, steamed vegetables such as the leafy green oik shown in the photograph below and potato fry. Jumyir Basar, a tribal studies professor at Arunchal Pradesh's Rajiv Gandhi University adds that the locals also make ample use of millet varieties such as Job's tears, in cakes, porridge and even beer. For instance, the state's Monpa tribe makes zan, a porridge-like thick broth made with millets, vegetables or meat and ginger and local garlic. However, millets are now gradually being replaced with rice.
A typical breakfast in the hill state includes paranthas and aloo gutke, or potatoes tempered with a rare pungent Tibetan herb called jamboo that is grown in the higher Himalayas. During festivals, families cook sweet semolina-based delicacies known as puas and singals, which can be eaten with aloo gutke. Both are deep fried and similar in texture and taste, but differ in their shapes: while puas are like small dumplings, singals are more ring-like in appearance.
Here are recipes for singal and aloo gutke.
Dhuska or deep fried pancakes are a cross between a dosa and kachori. They are made from unfermented rice and lentil batter, and paired with ghugni. Unlike the ghugni in West Bengal which is made with yellow peas, Jharkhand's version is cooked with black chickpeas.
Here is a recipe for dhuska and ghugni.
Fara or muthia are rice flour dumplings are a much-loved breakfast dish in Chhattisgarhi homes. The dumplings are made with leftover rice and rice flour, which is cooked in boiling water, and then tempered with sesame seeds and green chilli and eaten with chutney. There's also a sweet version called doodh fara that comes with a filling of khoya. Different kinds of fara can also be found in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengali, some like pitha stuffed with lentils, and others with a sweet coconut filling.
Try this Chattisgarhi recipe for fara.
Like its neighbouring states, Tripura's food makes ample use of rice in dishes such as bhater bhat, where it is had with vegetables such as potatoes, broad beans and red pumpkin as well as boiled egg. The indigenous Tripuri people often eat cooked rice with a curry made using a traditional dry, fermented fish called berma which has a sour taste. Bangui is another common morning dish, made with sticky rice which is wrapped in a local leaf, steamed and eaten alone or with lentils. In summer, locals prepare panta bhat, a fermented dish made by soaking cooked rice overnight in water.
A traditional Himachali breakfast features siddu, a steamed bread made from wheat flour and yeast, stuffed with onion, chillies, coriander and khus khus (poppy seeds). It is consumed with ghee and green chutney. Another popular combination in the Shimla and Mandi region comprises of makki roti made with maize flour and kheru, a tangy yoghurt dip tempered with spices.
Here is a recipe for siddu.
Popular Sikkimese breakfast dishes includes whole wheat breads such as the phale,which are eaten with the local cow milk cheese churpi and aloo dum. Each of Sikkim's three communities, the Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis, have their own morning meals, but most families generally start their day with a heavy meal that includes lentils, vegetables, rice, pickle and chutney. Binita Chamling, the owner of the Delhi-based Sikkimese restaurant Nimtho, reveals that there are seasonal variations, with the lighter yellow mung dal being eaten in summer and the heavier black phaheli dal in winter. They make ample use of local vegetables such as squash, bamboo shoots, ferns, beans and rai ka saag, which are boiled and eaten with ghee, with minimal use of spices. Some such as gundruk or mustard greens are fermented to give them a sour taste.