Myths About Indian Cooking

Indian food uses many spices and, therefore, is very spicy. – Yes, Indian food uses many spices: this is not a myth. Is a reality. Not only do they use many spices, but they use it in a different way. For example, whole cumin seeds; ground cumin seeds; Toasted and ground or unmilled cumin seeds; cumin seeds fried in oil and then ground or not… Each way of preparing spices adds a different flavor to the dishes.

But is it spicy? Yes or no. Especially if you cook at home, where you have total control over the ingredients. Spices add flavor to dishes, but “flavor” does not necessarily mean “spicy”. The spicy ingredients are green chili peppers, dried or not red chili peppers, dried chili peppers, red pepper flakes (which are, in fact, also chilies, or dried chilli peppers) and cayenne. If you do not like spicy foods, skip them or use a lot less than what is specified in the recipes. I do it like that because I cannot take a lot of spice.

It is very complicated.- No kitchen that serves to eat daily is complicated, because here and there in all parts of the world, women, who are usually those who cook, work like donkeys. Yes it is true that many dishes are made at the same time. But you do not have to do it. Traditionally, Indian meals include one or two main dishes and some side dishes, such as salads, pickles ( achaar ) or chutneys. It is also based on the combination of flavors and textures, this kitchen, so at each meal we can find sweet, salty, spicy and crispy flavors. Of course: like all kitchens, you need preparation and planning.

Indian food is not healthy and is also heavy.- Anupy Singla argues that the western Indian restaurants have given a bad reputation to the food of their country. They cook with too much butter and too much oil, but this is not true Indian food, which has to be delicious, fresh and soft.

The quintessential Indian bread is naan bread. – Well, no. The naan is made of refined flour and is cooked in a tandoor. In houses, nobody has a tandoor. The daily bread in Indian food is calledroti, chapati or phulka. It is a flat bread without yeast that is made in the pan. Naan is served in restaurants, which usually have a clay oven to cook it.

Indian food is not slow. Well, it is. Dum Pukht is a cooking technique that is about 200 years old. A very low flame is used, the casserole is sealed with a dough made with wet flour (a bread dough that will impregnate the flavors and then be the perfect accompaniment to the dish) and cooked for hours. So if you have a slow pot, it’s amazing how many Indian dishes you can make in it. By the way, Anupy Singla says that when he was doing the tests for his book The Indian slow cooker, discovered that the spices that were placed in the slow pot, even without having toasted them before, as they were cooked for hours, gave the same flavor to the food as if they had been made in the traditional way (ie, fried in oil in the pan before adding them to the plate).

Curry is essential in Indian food. Well, no. The curry was brought there by the British. It is not a traditional spice mix in India. Mind you: it’s a popular ingredient in Japan (for its curry rice), Singapore and some areas of Malaysia. And the Hindu shops sell it, but it is not part of traditional Indian food. The word curry is used in India to refer to a dish with broth (like chicken curry). Sabjirefers to a dish without broth, like the aloo gobi.

Indian food is at eye.- As all kitchens: can be by eye or you can help with scales and cups. Most people cook without measuring the ingredients, but the truth is that kitchen scales help a lot. And, when you start introducing yourself to any gastronomy, the truth is that to gain confidence, it is better to measure and weigh.

Indian food has many dishes. – That’s true. But you do not have to do them all. A typical Indian meal includes a “wet” dish (with sauce or broth); a “dry” dish (sautéed vegetables), bread or rice, natural yogurt (if you’re vegan, soy) and a raita. Also pickles, salads and chutneys. Vegetables play a fundamental role in food, even if the main course is not vegetarian. There are also special drinks and desserts, of course.

In addition, it is served in a thaali or thali, which is a large metal plate, a kind of round tray, in which the bowls with food are included, which are called katori. The more festive the meal or the more important the guest is to eat, the more bowls there will be on the plate. Of course: a daily meal has a plate with vegetables, one with vegetables, roti bread or rice. It is done. If you want a more elaborate meal, you can put chutneys, pickles, a salad or papadums  (or appalam ).

The balance in Indian food is very important. For example, you will never serve two plates of vegetables together or two plates with vegetables in sauce: it is better a plate of vegetables and one of vegetables.

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