If you hold the opinion that Cooking Indian Food is complicated then this post will help to shed a few misconceptions.
I would be misleading you if I said that cooking Indian food at home is effortless.
It can, however, become easy if you simply follow a process!
In this post, I will be explaining
Indian food is one of the world’s most diverse, intriguing and delicious cuisines.
Many may find the long list of ingredients a bit off-putting when it comes to cooking Indian food at home.
But let me assure you, that you do not need an armory of spices nor a battalion of pots, pans and ingredient list to make an Indian dish at home.
All you need is to use your sense of smell and sight with a hint of patience and start with these 5 must have Indian Spices.
It is like baking with a child.
You need to gather all the ingredients, mix them one by one at each appropriate stage, holding on to your patience when the kids shout ‘is it done yet!?’ and queue up your nose and eyes to any warning burn signs!!
This is exactly ‘How to Cook Indian Food’!
To set the mood or (kill it, as you take it), I will NEVER say that cooking an authentic Indian meal is quick!
When I initially started my cooking classes, I named it ‘Curry in a Hurry‘, one because I like the rhyming sound and two because the dishes we prepare are simple and easy to follow.
This does not mean that you need to attend a cooking class, although I would love to have you join mine ;-).
So, how to cook Indian food without attending a class?
Let’s start with the basics and understand why is Indian food considered different and complex when compared to other popular cuisines.
Why Does Indian Food Taste Different?
If you are reading this post then I can assume that you are a lover of Indian food or at least have eaten it.
If so, then you know that the unique flavour of Indian food is achieved through the exquisite balance of different tastes and texture.
It is not like making a stew where you put onions, garlic, spices, vegetables, and meat all together and bring it to boil.
If you have been doing this and calling it an Indian curry then I am almost certain that it also tastes like a curried broth as opposed to an authentic Indian dish.
What makes Indian food different than the rest of the cuisines is the use of spices.
The balance between the sharpness of spices, the sweetness of the onions, pungency of ginger and garlic and the sour taste of tomatoes come to play when trying to get an authentic Indian taste.
Apart from spices, the addition of essential aromatics such as onions, garlic, ginger, herbs, and tomatoes add to its overall taste.
This is where the complexity of Indian cooking comes to play, which if you follow the process makes it easier to get the taste right.
I read an article which conducted a study on why Indian food tastes different than other cuisines.
The interesting find is that Western cuisine primarily use complimentary food ingredients.
What this means is that they pair ingredients which share a common flavour, for example, cheese and milk or sage and rosemary etc.
Indian dishes on the other hand use ingredients that are completely different in the flavour spectrum, such as chilies and jaggery, yogurt with cumin powder and many more, hence making it more exciting to our gustatory senses.
You can read the study here to understand why food lovers enjoy eating Indian.
Indian Cooking Method For an Authentic Taste
The correct form of cooking technique applied has an impact on the taste, flavour, appearance and texture of food.
That is why Chinese stir-fries are different from sauteed vegetables!!
I hope you get the idea of what I am trying to say about cooking techniques!
This is not going to be neuroscience or a mechanical thing, so relax!
Its simple everyday way of cooking, but perhaps a bit more time involved when it comes to cooking Indian food.
Cooking Indian involves one or few of the following methods depending on the recipe.
Each of the cooking techniques is explained in detail in this post, but for now, let’s just stick to the key techniques used.
The list is not exhaustive but only the most commonly used methods used for cooking. These are:
- Deep frying
In Indian cooking, Sauteing is perhaps the most frequent and important method of cooking.
Almost all dishes barring a handful, use this method.
The reason is because of the use of spices in the dishes.
Spices such as cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, and many others are used in a raw form.
They impart a very strong and pungent taste if not cooked or fried properly for enhanced flavour to get over the sharpness of its raw taste.
This method of cooking is what makes Indian dishes taste different to other cuisines.
It is like an arranged marriage between spices, and the aromatics i.e. onion, garlic, ginger, etc while oil and other fresh ingredients add to the party!
The Proven Cooking Process to Follow
Finally, let’s talk about ‘the process’!
Since Indian food involves working with different kinds of ingredients, cooking them in a stage-wise process ensures that each ingredient has contributed to the dish.
Each stage of cooking an Indian dish involves finishing the present and then coming to the next.
For example, if the recipe asks you to brown the onions, you must brown it first, till its cooked and the rawness goes and then move to the next step which may include adding ginger garlic paste or tomatoes or spices depending on the recipe.
And that is the process you must follow each time you make an Indian dish.
There may be many steps to follow to complete a dish, so you must allow time to cook each ingredient at each stage before moving to the next.
A well-written recipe will give you an approximate time needed for the step to complete. Do follow that.
Apart from that, follow your sensory intuitiveness, that is smell, taste and look at what you are cooking and make your judgment call.
This is where your patience comes to test.
However, if you are hard pressed for time then simply try recipes which does not involve using onions. You will save about half the time.
Few Recommended Easy Indian Recipes to Try
There are thousands of recipes out there simply if you google ‘Indian recipes’.
You will also get many videos of the recipes on you tube where you can learn a particular recipe.
But watching a dish being made and experiencing the whole process is different.
You need to get in, get stuck and make it, to understand the process!
I have collated a list of 10 easy to make Indian recipes for you to start trying the cooking process.
Unlike some recipes that claim to be easy, these selected 10 recipes are all tried and tested by my students during the class and at their homes so I know they are achievable to easy to make.
So here you have the key to get cooking your own Indian dish that will taste authentic!
Good Luck !
If you love Indian food, have tried making it at home and feel a bit disappointed on the lack of authenticity then maybe a change in your way of cooking will up the game.
Since Indian food involves a combination of different ingredients, following a stage-wise cooking process will help in achieving that authentic taste.
I only tip is not o rush into cooking an Indian dish nor feel intimidated by the list of ingredients.
Simply bring all the ingredients together while sipping on a glass of wine (or juice) and stir the magic flavour pot!!
Let me know if you have any experiences and stories on cooking Indian food at home.
Would be fun to learn from each other.