Learning how to make Indian food introduces the westerner to an intricate blending of herbs and spices. While only few of the ingredients appear truly exotic, it is the combination of spices as flavor enhancers that makes a big difference in the presentation and taste of dishes. Even as discovering how to make Indian food does require a few trips down the ethnic aisle of the local supermarket, finding the basic ingredients is a lot easier for this type of cuisine than the shopper may realize.
Start out your quest to learn how to make Indian food by getting together some basic supplies:
- Cast-iron skillet
- Ziploc bags
- Cutting boards (one for veggies, one for meat)
- Chef’s knife
Once these basic supplies are on hand, it is time to get started with finding out how to make Indian food.
- Focus on basic dishes first. There are distinct variations between northern and southern Indian cooking but before actually specializing in one type or another, get down some of the basic attributes that they have in common.
- Buy small quantities of fresh herbs and spices. Turmeric, ginger paste, red chili powder, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, saffron and curry powder form the basis for the majority of unique flavor combinations that make Indian food so easy to differentiate.
- Refrigerate spices in Ziploc bags. Avoid the loss of flavor associated with an exposure to sunlight and heat. The plastic bags protect against moisture buildup.
- Focus cooking techniques on vegetables. Meat plays second or third fiddle in Indian cooking. Vegetables inevitably take center stage. Rely on a good quality chef’s knife to make crisp cuts in even thicker veggies, such as cabbage. Use a different cutting board for meats and vegetables to prevent cross contamination with bacteria.
- Fry foods in the cast iron skillet. For dishes that take a bit of time to simmer in the oven, the cast iron choice offers the stove-top-to-oven option without having to dirty additional cooking vessels. While it is possible to stir-fry quite a few of the dishes in a wok to cut down on calories from oil, doing so actually diminishes the authentic Indian flavors since the spice flavors do not have the opportunity to bloom.
- Experiment with dried fruits. Adding raisins to a curry results in a unique flavor combination of sweet and tangy. Frying the raisins beforehand greatly alters their texture, which further promotes a unique (and tasty) adventure.
- Bake in the skillet. Good examples are poori, the small dough balls made from wheat flour, salt, oil and water. After making the dough and forming it into golf ball sized portions, flatten the balls and fry them in a hot oil bath. The taste is vastly different from a baked type of pastry.
Remember that learning how to make Indian food takes a bit of trial and error at first. Do not overdo the new culinary experiences and instead start out slow. Familiarize yourself with the ways the spices alter the tastes of foods that are currently second nature to you, since this approach easily transfers to the sometimes exotic and sometimes mundane ingredients.