Indian cuisine is unique and different than any other due to its sophisticated use of spices and herbs.
Spices are the heart and soul of their food and nutrition, and food is an essential part of Indian culture. Of course, they don’t use the same spices or prepare the same kinds of meals throughout India and recipes and ingredients differ from state to state, from region to region. Also, different religions and regions have left a great mark on what can be called traditional Indian food.
Many of the classic Indian recipes used to this day were thought of while people of different religions, including Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others lived in the area.
- Staple Foods of Indian Cuisine
The most important elements in Indian cuisine are rice, whole-wheat flour (also known as atta) and around 60 kinds of pulses, including chana (Bengal gram), toor dal (pigeon pea/red gram) and mung (green gram). These ingredients can also be processed in different ways, so basically there are so many varieties of ‘similar’ meals that it can be pretty difficult to catch up. Moreover, in India they mostly use groundnut oil, mustard oil and coconut oil for frying, but recently they have started using sunflower and soybean oil, as well as hydrogenated vegetable oil called Vanaspati ghee.
- Prominent Spices
When it comes to the most important spices, those that are rarely left out of any meal, are chili peppers, black mustard seeds (called rai), cumin (or jeera), turmeric, ginger, fenugreek, coriander and asafetida (or ‘hing). They also usually don’t make meals without garam masala (consisted of 5 or more spices, including cinnamon, cardamom and clove).
They also use leaves such as mint leaf, coriander leaf, bay leaf and curry leaves (more used in the south parts of India). As for sweet treats, inevitable spices include cinnamon, cardamom, rose petal essence, nutmeg and saffron.
As you have already noticed, Indian food is very aromatic.
It is truly special and there isn’t a type of cuisine in the world that could compare to this one. Although many spices are used, this doesn’t mean that their food is always too hot or that people who are not used to this type of food can’t handle it. The spices are used to enhance the flavor of the food and make each meal amazingly tasty and aromatic. Permutation of some spices can significantly improve a dish and make it completely different from any other.
Besides the spices and herbs, Indian cuisine is just like any other – they use the same kinds of meat and the same vegetables, they just prepare their food in different ways and make it special.
Here are some of the most popular Indian dishes:
1. Bhapaa Aloo (A Perfect Combination Of Flavors)
This dish combines potatoes with lots of spices and you wouldn’t believe how delicious and super simple to make it is.
You need to boil 200g of peeled potatoes in salted water and when they are done drain them and put them aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of mustard oil in a non-stick pan and add the 5-spices mixture (whole jeera, saunf seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds and kalaunji) and four halves of red chilies, and then stir until they splutter.
Once this is done, pour the mixture over the potatoes and start making a marinade using ½ tsp of mustard paste, 1 tsp of curd, ¾ tsp of coconut paste, a pinch of green chili paste and a pinch of turmeric powder. Whip it until you get a homogenous mass and then mix it in with the potatoes, salt to taste and a give it a dash of lime juice as well.
Put everything on a steel plate and put some banana leaves on top. Steam for up to 8 minutes and your delicious meal is ready to eat.
2. Chicken Stew (Chunks Of Chicken In Coconut Gravy)
It will take you only one hour to prepare this heaven-like dish.
To make the stew, put 4 tablespoons of coconut oil into a deep pan and add 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped red chili, 2 chopped green chilies and a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste.
Fry everything until it gets a gold color, and then add half a kilo of chicken and fry for 3 minutes. Add 2 chopped tomatoes and 2 diced potatoes, and mix it all in. Add coconut milk extract, salt and pepper to taste, add some water and let it cook for 45 minutes under the lid. When it’s done, add some more coconut milk extract, a small bunch of coriander, and the juice of one lemon.
This stew goes perfectly with appam, a popular breakfast dish.
This is the go-to breakfast dish in India, and you will absolutely adore it with its cloud-like soft texture.
Cook 1 cup of rice and when it is done put it into a deep bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of grated coconut and mix everything until it becomes a smooth paste. Let it ferment overnight and the next day add ½ tsp of baking soda into it, along with ½ tsp of salt, 1 tbsp of sugar and some water. Mix everything until it becomes a homogenous mass.
Take a small kadhai (any wok-like pan with a lid would do as well), and spread 1 ladle of the appam batter evenly. Cover the appam for up to 2 minutes and then fry it until there are holes appearing through it and the edges get a brownish color.
4. Hyderabadi Biryani
This is one of the most famous biryani recipes for a dish you can enjoy by yourself or serve at a fancy dinner party. Preparing it is easy and it will take you around 1 hour.
Put one kilo of cleaned meat into a pan, add salt, 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste, 1 tbsp of red and 1 tbsp of green chili paste, sautéed brown onions (to taste), ½ tbsp of cardamom powder, 2-4 sticks of cinnamon, 1 tbsp of cumin seeds, 4 cloves and mint leaves to taste, and squeeze in some lemon juice.
Mix it all well, and then add 250mg of curd, 750mg of semi-cooked rice, 1 tbsp of saffron, 1 cup of oil and 1 cup of water, and mix it all again.
Put some sticky dough on the sides of the pan, put the lid on and cook everything for around 25 minutes. Once you take the lid off, this deliciousness is ready to eat. You can add some boiled eggs, sliced carrots and cucumbers to add to the flavor, and eat it all while it’s hot – that’s when it tastes best!