A nutritious dish based on leafy greens commonly makes up one course of any home-cooked Indian meal. No cuisine makes heavier use of fresh beans than does Indian food, and hard squash and gourds also appear in a wide assortment of meals. Tomatoes are also remarkably common in Indian cooking, which is hardly surprising since tomato plants thrive in hot weather.
Many Indian cooks sprout mung beans and garbanzo beans in their kitchen. The sprouts are either cooked in curries or added fresh to salads. Spices are the foundation of Indian cooking. No other cuisine employs such a wide assortment of fragrant and colorful spices.
You can think of curry powder as the SparkNotes of Indian cooking—they give you the gist of the experience without having to invest any significant time. You can buy pre-ground curry powder in any grocery. If you are new to Indian cooking, curry powder offers a convenient way to jump in and produce meals with deliver classic Indian flavors. That said, serious chefs would cringe at the idea of purchasing curry powder. Instead of using curry powder, Indian chefs use a number of classic Indian spices in the proportions they judge suitable for a given meal.
Of these spices, turmeric deserves a special mention.
But it somehow meshes perfectly with other Indian spices. They look like miniature orange ginger roots. Just like ginger, you can skin and mince fresh turmeric and then mix it in with your other seasonings. Other common curry spice ingredients are cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, chili powder, and minced or powdered ginger.
Garlic and onions are also ubiquitous in Indian food, and go perfectly with the classic Indian spices we just reviewed. Another popular pre-mixed Indian spice is called garam masala. The only heat-carrying spice in garam masala is a tiny amount of black pepper. Most other garam masala spice ingredients are sweet rather than hot, and include, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, star anise, and nutmeg.
As with curry powder, every chef will choose a slightly different assortment of spices when preparing garam masala from scratch. For both curry powder and garam masala, the spices are toasted together in a dry skillet, and then ground up into powder. These regions feature completely different dishes, but they do share similar flavors since all rely on curry spices.
While South Indians rarely cook with paneer cheese , neither North nor South Indian cooking is reliably dairy-free. The diversity of milk-based offerings complicates finding reliably vegan food at Indian restaurants.
No cuisine is more likely to contain undetectable amounts of milk, cream, ghee. Sometimes the presence of dairy is obvious, such as in a yogurt garnish, but mostly the stuff blends undetectably into rice dishes, curries, flatbreads, you name it. When dining out, you must always stay vigilant to avoid squirts of ghee here and dollops of yogurt there. Finally, I want to warn you about one incredibly confusing restaurant practice. Many of these restaurants put dairy in practically everything.
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The French, the Italians, the Vietnamese, and many other cultures can all lay strong claims to this honor. Worldwide, there are thousands of chaat houses devoted to nothing but snacks. Chaat is often served out of a food cart, and is ideally suited to being eaten while walking. Since the yogurt is served on the side, be sure to ask for no yogurt when ordering. Centuries before the State Fair of Texas came into existence, Indians were eating deep fried bread.
The most common form is puris, which are deep fried whole wheat dough, served with chutney. A similar but exceedingly eye-catching dish is chole bhature, which looks like ordinary puri but is several times larger. You tear off pieces and dip them into whatever spicy sauce accompanies your order. Other than size, the main difference between puri and bhature is that the latter is usually made with white flour.
Both puri and bhature dough commonly contain curds or yogurt, so vegans must always inquire before ordering. Two other popular deep fried chaat items are samosas and pakoras. Samosas are triangular vegetable-stuffed pastries, usually served with a mild or spicy chutney, or dunked into a spicy chickpea curry.
Pakoras are bite-sized pieces of vegetables dipped into a spicy chickpea flour batter and deep fried. While samosas sometimes contain meat, a vegetarian samosa is reliably vegan. And pakoras are always vegan. Although not as well-known as samosas or pakora, aloo tiki is by far my favorite chaat item. Admittedly, on your first visit you may feel overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar offerings. I suggest you hang out at the counter for a while before ordering, so you can see what other customers are getting. When you spy something coming out of the kitchen that looks especially appealing, inquire about its name and its vegan status.
The most well-known sorts of Indian food are the curried stews of Northern India. These stews are made from beans or vegetables, and are usually served over rice, or combined with crushed idlis. Equally popular is chana masala—chickpeas in a spicy curried sauce.
Indian Muslims do not eat pork or any pork products, and meats must be halal. Post your question. It uses a lot of rich dairy ingredients, such as butter, cream and yogurt, as well as saffron and nuts. Mchuzi curry is a common dish in East Africa, where it was introduced by Indian immigrants during the colonial period. A dish for special occasions, Malai kofta is the delicious vegetarian alternative to meatballs in Indian cuisine, koftas are meatballs.
Your Hindi vocabulary lessons here are:. Perhaps the most nutrient-dense of all popular Indian entrees is Saag Paneer. Since Saag means spinach and paneer means cheese, this dish, when prepared traditionally, is never vegan. Not only does this meal contain cheese, a little cream is usually mixed into the spinach.
But when cooking at home you can swap out the cheese for firm tofu or your favorite hard vegan cheese. A bit of cashew cream or other unsweetened vegan milk will substitute nicely for cream. Think of saag paneer as creamed spinach with Indian spices and a fair bit of oil.
By far the most popular Indian soup is called dal. Many Indians eat it daily. Dal has loads of flavor since it contains plenty of curry spices and fresh ginger. Thinly-sliced onions and minced or slivered garlic are also commonly included. Dal is usually served in a small bowl alongside a meal, sometimes eaten with a soup spoon and other times poured over rice. The lentils or split peas make dal among the most protein-rich dishes in Indian cooking. The fermentation gives the dosas a tangy flavor.
Regular dosas are made from rice and lentils, whereas the also-popular rava dosas are made from wheat and lentils. Dosas are typically folded around a small amount of filling, most often spiced potatoes and onions. Many South Indian restaurants offer at least ten varieties of dosa, each with different fillings and spices. If you like heavily seasoned food, order a masala dosa.
One of the most popular foods in India are idlis—oblong balls or disks made from steamed ground-up white rice and urad dal white lentils with the black husk removed. They range from about the size a peach pit to as big as your palm. Idlis have little flavor, and are intended to soak up and thereby counterbalance rich Indian soups and sauces. Indians often order idlis instead of basmati rice, and mash them into their curried stews—this is quite similar to mashed potatoes and gravy, albeit with different starches and proteins.
Indian restaurant menus often list idli sambar as a single item to be ordered together. When dining at Indian restaurants, your waiter will protest if you attempt to order a curried dish or a soup on its own.
These dishes are invariably accompanied by either flatbread or rice. Flatbreads accompany a great many meals in India, and are often used in place of utensils. As an aside, this is why most Indians are in the habit of washing their hands right before eating—many restaurants in India even have a hand-washing sink in the main dining area.
The two most common varieties of flatbread are roti and chapati, the former rolled flat with a rolling pin and the latter patted flat by hand just like a homemade Mexican corn tortilla. Neither roti nor chapati dough commonly contains dairy products, but these breads are often garnished with some butter or ghee after cooking.
Naan is Iranian in origin, and similar to the lavash bread served in the Middle East. Unfortunately, you should assume naan contains milk unless the waiter or ingredient label tells you otherwise. Indian restaurants commonly serve small bowls of steamed plain white rice to accompany their meals.