By Ricebowl Asia
Almost every human being in planet Earth has heard or tried Indian Food. Their spicy and flavourful dishes are known to evoke fiery tongues along with sweaty foreheads and are generally not for people with a sensitive tummy. Modern day Indian cuisine in certain cities now adopts a less spicy approach to their meals so that their cuisine can cater to all.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional Indians do not eat their food in stages. Food is often served on a one giant plate with little bowls of dishes in them, called a thali, with the sweet dishes enjoyed following the savoury good stuff. The dishes you find in the Starter section of a restaurant menu is usually just snacks and/or street food. Keep this in mind the next time you’re browsing through a menu at an Indian restaurant!
Read on to find to discover the Asia’s Food Experts Top 10 Facts about Indian Food that might surprise you. We are even going to debunk a few popular beliefs about this well-known cuisine.
- 6 Flavours in Harmony
Indian food typically comprises of 6 flavours that are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy and astringent. Indian meals are the perfect balance of 6 flavours, where 1-2 flavours would generally stand out to define the nature of the food. Next time you enjoy an Indian meal, try identifying each individual taste note. You’ll be amazed!
- A Side Dish, not to be Missed
Often times, your Indian meal would come with a side of yoghurt. This is traditionally called Raita or Thairu and it’s main function is to absorb the heat from the chillies you consume. The casein in yoghurt absorbs capsaicin, the compound that gives chillies their kick, thus keeping your tummy in check. This dish is ESPECIALLY useful for those you can’t handle spicy food. So the next time your mouth is on fire at your local Indian restaurant, quickly mix this into your meal. It can be consumed separately or mixed into your rice with curry.
- Curry Powder is for Beginner Chefs
For a Virtuoso, there is no such thing as curry powder. You mix your own seasonings each time using masala, chili powder, coriander, cumin and other spices to create the flavor base. The ratio of each spice varies depending on the dish you cook. The trick is to know how to create a balanced taste that complements the ingredients. If you ever see an Indian restaurant using a pre-mix of curry powder (that isn’t their own), your money would be better spent elsewhere.
- Not everything is Curry, though
Contrary to common assumption, even though most of the Indian meals will literally light you on fire, not all Indian food are curry! there are many regions in India where the food is bland and/or even sweet. It all depends on which region the food originated from. One of our personal favorites is a dish called Saag Paneer which is an exciting blend of spinach, turmeric, cayenne and cheese!
- The Food Trinity
The system of Indian food is classified into three categories:
Tamasic foods are foods that have a kind sedative effect on the body and mind. Generally, these foods are considered bad for health and according to yoga teachings, these foods should be avoided as they can cause dreariness and physical numbness.Examples of Tamaric foods: meat from any animal, chives, onions, mushrooms, alcohol, eggplants, durian and any kind of dishes that are kept overnight before consumption.
Rajasic foods are considered to have a neutral but stimulating effect on the body and mind. They are generally believed to be neither harmful nor beneficial to the body but could also lead to aggressiveness or irritability. Rajasic foods are normally harvested or obtained in a way that is harmful to other organisms or nature.
Examples of Rajasic foods: any kind of caffeinated drink, energy drinks, overly spicy food, salty food and even dark chocolate.
Sattvic foods are foods that can lead to sharpness of body and mind. These foods can and should be consumed on a regular basis and are normally accepted as offerings to Hindu gods. Sattvic foods are normally harvested or obtained without harming the environment or other organisms.
Examples of Sattvic food: grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, certain nuts, fresh milk & its derivatives, honey and water.
- Fine with Refined Sugar
Before the coming of the Portuguese to India, Indians traditionally made use of honey and sweet fruits as natural sweeteners in their dishes, making sweetened Indian food and desserts a healthier option when compared to foods from the West. The concept of ‘refined sugar’ was actually introduced by the Portuguese.
- Got room for Desserts?
Indian dessert, or Mithai, is a significant element in Indian Cuisine. There are about 137 different types of desserts. Many are flavoured with almonds and pistachios, spiced with cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper, and decorated with nuts, or with gold or silver leafs. Ingredients and preferred types of dessert vary by region. Although nearly impossible to try them all, we strongly suggest you sample one or two the next time you see any of these on sale at your local Indian shop. They normally have desserts that suit all kinds of taste buds, so feel free to ask them for advice to choose something that will satisfy your palette.
- Naan can compare
Although Naan bread is often associated with Indian cuisine, the first Naan bread however was made in Persia around 1300 AD. Typically, naans are served hot and brushed with ghee or butter. They can be used to scoop up other foods like a giant tasty edible spoon, or served stuffed with a filling. Keema naans are stuffed with minced meat, usually lamb, mutton or goat, while Peshwari naans are filled with a sweet mixture of nuts and raisins.
- Chili Champion
India is home to one of the hottest chillies in the world, the Bhut Jolokia. Also known as the “ghost chilli”, it grows in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, and is more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.
- It’s not what you Tikka
Chicken Tikka, probably the most popular chicken dish in India is actually not from India! This amazing dish was originally a Persian dish brought to India by the Mughals. It would later be adopted by the people of Punjab who created their own version of Chicken Tikka and took the recipe with them when they migrated to Britain.
Indian food is one of the most varied forms of cuisine in the world, with tastes and textures that can cater to all. If you’re not a fan of Indian food and you think you know their cuisine, think again. Chances are you just have not tried something that you would love.
On a side note, if you’re one of those who simply love to set your mouth on fire, try looking out for Chettinad restaurants as the traditional cuisine of Tamil Nadu’s Chettiar community is well-known to be spicy and vivacious yet with a complex blend of well-balanced flavours.