Do you start salivating at the thought of spicy Indian fare? Indian food is a colourful blend of different regional cuisines, each influenced by climate, geography and historical events. In Australia, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a wide variation of interesting Indian dishes and be part of the growing interest in Indian cuisine.
Around Kashmir and the Punjab, curries are thickened with yoghurt and cream while meat is fried in butter, reflecting the use of dairy products.
Northern dishes are generally mild and more fragrant and are usually accompanied by Naan, the staple bread.
This is also the home of tandoori, marinated meats traditionally cooked in the tandoor - an egg-shaped clay over fuelled by charcoal.
Islamic influences appear in the many stuffed dishes like kebabs and koftas (Indian meatballs). Dhal (spiced lentils or peas) and chutneys are common.
The Bengalis are famed for their love of fish as well as rich desserts.
Here vegetarianism is popular, with fresh vegetables being combined to create numerous side dishes. Hot madras curry is a speciality, whilst crispy poppadums accompany meals.
These coastal areas feature a wide range of fish recipes. Bombay duck is a traditional delicacy, but is in fact made from a small dried fish called the Bummalo.
Indian cooking tips to make Indian fare healthier
- Cook curries ahead of time to allow them to improve with age.
- Not all Indian dishes are hot. Kormas and Kashmir style are mild and creamy, for example. Indians add chilli and mustard seed to spice mixes to increase heat but you can omit them if you prefer mild curries.
- Allow meat to marinate to soak up the spices (ideally overnight in the refrigerator). Cut deep gashes in large pieces of meat or chicken to let the curry paste flavour penetrate. I find pastes deliver the best flavour.
- Mix yoghurt into a curry paste and coat the meat or chicken first to tenderise.
- Always cook chicken without skin. The spices penetrate the chicken more and the dish contains less fat.
- Condiments such as mango chutney tease the palate with sharp contrasts and add balance to main dishes. Yoghurt and cucumber sides provide a cooling contrast.
- The authentic accompaniment to all Indian meals is basmati rice, a fragrant long grain rice. Stick to plain steamed rice, NOT rice with butter and vegetables
- The best way to finish off an Indian meal is with a plate of fresh tropical fruit. Cut up pieces of pineapple, mango, papaya and lychees.
- chillies - ranging from tiny hot ones to mild sweeter types depending on the dish and your own preferences
- curry paste/powder
- fresh coriander
- spice pastes
- chutneys and relishes
- basmati rice
|Pakora fritters, 4||2078||19.4||9.7||520|
|Tandoori lamb chops||2210||38.4||19.2||260|
|Potato & pea curry*||736||12.8||4.2||882|
|Pea fritters, 2||1986||33.4||11.2||99|
|Dhal lentil puree, 1 cup*||1130||2.7||0.5||12|
|Cucumber raita, 1 tbsp*||58||0.4||0.2||72|
|Rice, steamed, 1 cup*||999||0.4||0||262|
|Kashmiri rice with almonds and spices*||770||8.5||2.5||42|
|Naan bread, 1||1201||8.6||2.8||95|
*Indicates best choices based on kilojoule content
How to stop the chilli burn
Forget water. Drinking water doesn't help as capsicain (the active ingredient in chilli responsible for the burn) is not soluble in water, but in oil. So sip lassi (yoghurt drink) or rinse out your mouth with some cold milk.
Forget wine. Indian fare blasts your mouth so it's impossible to appreciate a delicate white. A gutsy red is better. But beer or cider are best to counteract the heat.
Sucking on an ice cube helps for a while but the heat quickly comes back to sting once your mouth returns to normal temperature.
Eat lots of the cucumber-yoghurt raita side dish. This cools and mops up the heat there.
Other than that, time will gradually restore your burning mouth back to normal! The good news is that your palate adjusts so you can eat hotter and hotter dishes as you get used to chilli!