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Food is their medicine: how Ayurveda influences South Indian vegetarian cooking, and how to tell you

More people in Western countries are choosing to abstain from eating meat and seafood, either some or all of the time. In India, it has long been a way of life for millions.

Around three in 10 Indians follow a vegetarian diet, according to a 2016 National Family Health Survey. Indian vegetarians tend to be lacto-vegetarian, eating milk, cheese and other dairy products, while excluding eggs from their diet.

Being such a vast country, the ingredients and cooking styles of vegetarian food vary widely from North India to South India. In the north, curries are heavier than in the south, where they use more pulses; the blend of spices cooks use are different too; and in the north curries are served with breads rather than rice.

Many ingredients in South India are used for their medicinal properties instead of their inherent flavours, says Arun Alex Pudupadi Eaganathan, owner of Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Restaurant in Hong Kong. “In South India, we hold that food is more [than just] the taste. Food is our medicine. We consume for its health merits,” he says.

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