Recently, I asked on social media, “what comes in your mind when you think of Indian food?” The response I got was diverse; fatty, too many calories, time consuming to cook, spicy, blood orange/red colour, a layer of ghee, curry powder etc. Indian food, though hugely popular, is highly misunderstood.
A very few responses reflected the true meaning which are flavoursome, aroma, diversity, healthy. I am on a mission to change the attitude towards the Indian food.
For me following are the top misconception about Indian food
1) Indian food is hot and spicy
Believe me it is not true! The spiciness of dish depends on the region from which it comes. The further north of India you go the milder the dishes are, and the further south you go, the spicier the dishes are. The reason for this is, in Northern part of India the temperature is ambient, so generally not very hot, whereas, compared to Southern part of India you are exposed to heat. Now, you may be wondering why am I explaining all this to you and How does it connect? According to Science of Ayurveda spicy food causes people to sweat more, which is the body’s way to cool down. The spiciness triggers an increase in the metabolism, which raises the body temperature a little bit. This includes sweating as a mechanism for cooling down.
Personally, I don’t like my food to be very spicy, so if I am cooking for me and my family I don’t make it spicy. While spices are used in Indian cooking, they are not what makes food spicy. Chillies or chilli powder are the one which make your food spicy and it all depends on your preferences and mood which can be omitted if you don’t want your food to be spicy. I do have lots of clients who don’t like their food to be spicy and as a personal chef I always make sure that their food is not spicy yet is flavoursome. On the other hand, if you want to impress someone with a level of spice you can tolerate, by all means I can present that to you keeping in mind the flavours are preserved.
At Dalvi’s that is what I am promoting. I cook all your dishes as per your dietary requirements and taste buds without compromising on flavours.
2) Blood orange/red colour
When I came in this country I was shocked to see few red coloured starters and curries. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and I had never seen my family or neighbours or friends using red or orange colours in their curries and in starters. When I went to one of the popular restaurants in Fylde Coast and asked the chef what is the main reason to use red/ orange dyes in food? He said that these colours are used to make the food look more attractive and that’s what the customers always want to see. But if these dyes are bad for your body and health what is the point. Indian use spices like turmeric, saffron, red chilli powder and paprika to make the food colourful and flavoursome. Colours don’t add any flavours to the curries. These colouring agents are linked to tumours, hives, nausea and cancer (https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/mar/24/foodanddrink ) Why do you want to spoil beautiful Indian dishes with colours? – That’s what I think anyways.
3) Indian dishes are fatty and unhealthy
Seriously, it is like saying that all Italian food has pasta or Chinese food has soy sauce in it. It all depends how you cook it. Traditional homemade Indian food is not only delicious but is incredibly healthy too. A simple dish of Daal with rice, chapatis and sabji (Veg) is staple diet for most of the people in India. My nan always says that it is a complete food where you have proteins, complex carbs and fibres.
If you use lots of oil or ghee in your food, it does become fatty. But that’s with any kind of cooking. There are lots of Indian dishes where Indian use very minimal or no oil/ ghee when cooking.
4) All Indian food has curry powder
Definitely not, What I have seen most of the time is whenever people mention Indian food, they always refer it to curry- a very generic word. In India there are 29 states and 7 union territories. Every state has a very distinct way of preparing food as locally available ingredients are considerably different. What makes Indian curry very distinct is not the curry powder but the way they cook, the local ingredients they use, and a distinct mixture of locally available spices called garam masala.
5) Indian food makes me feel bloated
Indian food does not make you feel bloated. It all depends how oily or spicy your food is. Indians use spices like fennel seeds, carom seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida in their cooking and they are incredibly potent in helping one digest food. According to Daniels, bloating happens when people go out in a restaurant and eat re-heated starchy food like rice, potatoes, pasta. She says when you reheat these starchy foods, their molecular structure changes and cannot be digested in the small intestine but passes into the large intestine- The bacteria that helps break down produces gas, hence bloating. To avoid this, she recommends eating freshly cooked food. Freshly cooked homemade Indian food does exactly that and that is what I am trying to promote.
6) The dish Saag is made from Spinach
Please note that saag is not spinach. The main ingredient for saag dish is mustard leaves and not spinach. Apparently, when Indians came in England, closest ingredient to mustard leaves, they could find was spinach. Hence, the misconception that saag is made from spinach.
7) Indian food is the same all over India
India is a nation that is so vibrant and diverse that every state exhibits different culture, tradition, language, a way of life and cuisine. Given the range of diversity in soil type, weather, culture, ethnic groups Indian cuisine vary substantially from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits. North Indian food is mainly plant based. South Indian food features a lot of fish and seafood, as these are coastal areas. If I take just a simple example of cooking oil- mustard oil is popular in Punjab, North Indian states and Bengal. Sesame oil is popular in Tamil and some other south Indian cuisine. People from Kerala have a clear preference for coconut oil that makes their dishes stand out.