There is always a catch when it comes to cooking ethnic foods. Read the post to learn the cooking techniques used by Indian homecooks for consistently well flavoured taste.
Are you intimidated by cooking Indian food at home or wonder why your dish does not taste the same as the one in the restaurant or at someone’s house?
Cooking any cuisine that is outside your comfort zone can be a challenge for some.
However with the right type of ingredients and the cooking techniques under your belt the task of cooking gets much easier and clearer.
Most likely , you will have eaten the cultural dishes before, maybe at a restaurant or someone’s house before trying to make it at home following a recipe.
But there are few catches that we miss. Recipe guides us through the cooking steps but skips the little nuances or as we say the ‘granny tricks’ that give it that authentic taste.
In this post, I will be sharing with you the cooking technique and trick applied by regular Indian home cooks that ensure their dishes taste consistently good!!
This Indian cooking style is a process that many fail to practice but, if you wish to learn how to cook Indian food, the right way, then I highly recommend following this.
Understand The Different Cooking Methods
Like any activity or sport you do, there are few techniques or guide that you tend to keep in mind while doing it.
It could be keeping your back straight while running, bending your knees before picking up something heavy, arranging your cards in a certain order when playing rummy etc.
The same applies when you learn to cook Indian food as well.
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!!
What I mean by cooking technique is the know-how of cooking a particular dish.
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 Indian food cooking.
To cook Indian food at home you will have to adopt 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 styles used.
The list is not exhaustive but the most commonly used methods of cooking are:
- Deep frying
In Indian cooking, Sauteing or the term used in Hindi ‘Bhuna’ is perhaps the most frequent and important method of cooking.
Almost all Indian 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 raw form.
They impart a very strong and pungent taste. If left uncooked they make the dish slightly metallic and flat-tasting instead of enhancing the flavour.
Cooking spices and other ingredients till it losses their rawness is the main idea.
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!
Most Indian style of cooking will have some sort of curry base.
This post shares how to make a basic Indian curry sauce without the need to follow a recipe.
Having a base sauce handy is a Indian home cook trick that makes cooking Indian food easier and faster.
Following a Cooking Pattern
Finally, let’s talk about ‘the process’!
You may have noticed that cooking food especially cultural foods involves a pattern or a specific cooking order to follow.
For example, making sushi involves a certain technique, breads follow a pattern etc.
This applies to cooking Indian food as well.
Indian cooking is a stagewise- stepwise process.
Since Indian food involves working with different kinds of ingredients, cooking them at every stage ensures that each ingredient has contributed to the dish.
You need to follow them through one at a time as opposed to putting all ingredients together in a pot.
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.
The Indian Cooking Process
Depending on the number of ingredients or the recipe, there may be many steps to follow to complete a dish.
Here is a glimpse of the various cooking stages and steps involved in most Indian regional cuisine:
Tempering of spices
This is the almost the first step to begin cook Indian food. Here we heat oil and add any whole spices such as whole cumin seeds, cardamoms, cinnamon to the warm oil to infuse it with flavour.
Adding the Aromates
At this stage you add aromates such as onions, ginger and garlic and sometimes even tomatoes and use the sauteing or the bhuna method to cook them till the raw smell disappears.
Add powdered spices or main ingredients
Once you are sure that the onions are well cooked and not raw there are two options of steps to follow depending on the recipe.
At this step as well you should continue to cook until the spices looses the rawness.
Making the sauce base
In most cases the final cooking stage concludes by creating a base or in most Indian dishes a gravy. This would involve adding water for making the sauce or sometimes other liquid or semi liquid ingredients such as yogurt, tomato puree, coconut milk etc.
Some dry dishes may skip adding any liquid but may continue to cook on a low heat until cooked.
Garnish or finishing touch
Once your dish is cooked, this is the middle stage between finished to being served. This will involve adding cooked flavour enhancing ingredients such as roasted spices like garam masala powder, herbs like fresh coriander leaves or kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves) and also cream depending on the dish.
And this concludes the 5 different Indian cooking stages that is followed by most home cooks.
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 do not use onions. You will save about half the time.
This post shares some time-saving tips on cooking Indian food at home.
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 recipes on youtube 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 and easy to make.
All you need to do is follow the cooking process tip I have shared and get cooking your own Indian dish that will taste authentic!
If you love Indian food, have tried making it at home and feel a bit disappointed with 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.
My only tip is not to rush into cooking an Indian dish or 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.