During our time in India I have been blessed with excellent experiences to learn how to cook authentic Indian food. I shudder at the memory of the days when I cooked “curry” in America. I have learned so much from my Indian friends, I’ll never forget the lessons they have taught me in the kitchen. Here’s a short list of what I’ve absorbed.
1. Fresh Is Best
One of the many reasons that Indian food is so much better for you than American food is it’s always fresh. For nearly all of India the concept of what Americans think of as a “Grocery store” is not a reality. Vegetables are purchased in the open air, daily. You eat what’s in season, and you use it before it goes bad.
In our neighborhood the fresh veggies were delivered to a nearby shop twice a week and you bought what you ccould carry home. You get what you get. Maybe there will be carrots this week, maybe there won’t. But you won’t be substituting frozen broccoli or canned corn in the mean time.
2. You Can Never Have Enough Onions
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Indian recipe started without first chopping a hefty amount of onions and garlic. A proper Indian kitchen has an endless supply of both and Indian women could put a Food Network host to shame with their deft onion chopping abilities. Speaking of which,
Forget what you think you know about chopping onions and peeling garlic.
No one chops more onions than an Indian cook and they have honed the perfect method, which is not the one I learned years ago by attending the University of Youtube. Head there and search for “how to chop onions like an Indian” and you’ll find many mesmerizing videos.
3. A Little Garlic Skin Never Hurt Anybody
When you peel dozens of cloves of garlic a day, you’re not so picky about that tiny, sticky bit of garlic skin that didn’t come off easily. This may seem like a small tip, but it was a big revelation for me. I’ve avoided garlic altogether in the past because peeling it is such a pain. Now I’m a lot more devil-may-care with my garlic (and onion) skins. Newsflash: all parts of the plant are edible.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty
The Indian mantra seems to be:
“Why use a utensil for what your hand can do?”
I’m pretty sure the American mindset is the exact opposite. Where I’m reaching for a spatula, my Indian friends are using what the good lord gave’em. Where I would find my dough attachment for my Cuisinart, my Eastern counterparts are digging in with their fingers.
5. Mortar and Pestle, Please
The mortar and pestle is a brilliant instrument that keeps you from having to chop all of that garlic you’re going to be peeling for all of your Indian recipes. I told you I’ve avoided my beloved garlic in the past because peeling it is a pain. Well, so is chopping it. Enter your lovely M&P.
Pound that garlic and ginger into oblivion. Get out your pent up aggression and prep dinner all in one. Check out mortar and pestles on Amazon. Trust me, they’re worth it.
Make Time to Cook
And lastly, my Indian friends taught me that time spent in the kitchen isn’t wasted. I’ve had more than one person comment that Indian women set a lot of time aside in their life for cooking. They cook fresh, hot food, up to four times a day (breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner). It’s inspired me to rely less on frozen chicken nuggets when I return to America. :)