India has the second largest population in the world, and food is an important part of Indian culture. The food eaten varies from place to place. Each part of India has its own style of cooking and special dishes. According to some ancient traditions in India, food is a gift from God and food should be prepared and eaten slowly, with seriousness and concentration.
We have featured simple and tasty dishes from Indian cuisine. Some of them have been contributed by famous Indian food bloggers. As well as helping you to cook something new, we hope we can dispel any myths and stereotypes that you may have.
Let’s start by learning some common terms in Indian cooking.
Masala – This means a mixture of herbs and spices specific to Indian cuisine. Some masalas are a mixture of about 20 different herbs and spices. Indian spices are used not only to give flavour, they also have practical purposes. They retain water in the body and also protect against infection.
Curry – In Europe, most dishes from South Asia are referred to as ‘curry’. However, in India curry refers to a dish that has ‘gravy’ or ‘sauce’. Curries are eaten with either rice or rotis (flatbread).
Chutney – These are pastes from overcooked or grated raw vegetables and fruit. They can either be spicy or sweet, depending on the amount of ginger and chili in them. They are similar to dips in European or American cuisine and go well with fried food. The word 'chutney' is the English equivalent of the Hindu 'chatni', meaning 'finger licking'.
Aachar – This refers to pickled vegetables in oil and spices. Pickles can be made from most vegetables and, in some parts of India, also from seafood. They are available in all stores, but the best are home-made.
Some of the stereotypes people have of Indian food and cooking are as follows.
''Indian food is too spicy''
This is the most common stereotype about Indian cuisine. Indian food uses a lot of spices and condiments in it, not all of them are hot. If you are not too fond of spicy food, you should add less spice than is stated in the recipe. Eating Indian food with yoghurt also helps reduce the spiciness of the dish.
''Indian food takes a long time to prepare''
Dishes that use just vegetables as an ingredient cook faster than those that use meat. Using fresh ingredients also helps speed up the cooking process.
''Indian food is too greasy''
Dishes from India can be prepared not only by frying but also by grilling and baking. If you are health conscious or concerned about your waistline, use less than half of the oil stated in the recipe.
''Indian food uses a lot of rice''
Food from the south of India uses a lot of rice as rice is grown there. However, in the north of India, where wheat is grown, people eat rotis or chappatis with their meal. Rotis and chappatis are flatbreads made with wheat or any other grain.
''Indian food is only vegetarian''
The most common religion in India is Hinduism. For religious reasons, most Hindus do not eat meat. The cow is a sacred animal to them, so beef is not common in dishes from India. Chicken and lamb are sometimes used.