Category Archives: India

Random Notes on Indian Cuisine

Chicken Kolhapur from Chennai Chettinaad Palace

From Madhur Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking,” 1973 (43 years ago)

“Curry” is just a vague, inaccurate word which the world has picked up from the British, who, in turn, got it mistakenly from us.

“Us” being Indians.

If “curry” is an oversimplified name for an ancient cuisine, then “curry powder” attempts to oversimplify (and destroy) the cuisine itself.”

“Try to buy only whole spices and grind them yourself in small quantities.”

  • in coffee grinder
  • better flavor
  • whole spice that the grindings came from lasts longer
  • store in jar with tight lid away from light

“It is the preparation and combination of whole or freshly ground spices which makes Indian foods unique.”

Ghee: two types. See p. 9

Her recipes are adapted for American kitchens and stores. They focus on Delhi and adjacent sections of Uttar Pradesh.

Meat is usually goat. Fairly tough, so it is cooked slowly or tenderized.

80% of India is Hindu, who technically do not eat beef.

Cooking chicken? Usually remove skin first.

A tandoor is a clay oven with a live coal or wood fire.

Tandoori chicken is indeed popular in India.

“Indians never use olive oil,” but she does.

Fruits and veggies in India  (1973) were/are very seasonal. Not eaten out of season.

Coriander (Chinese parsley or cilantro) and green chilies are essential.

Many Indians don’t like or eat hot (spicy) foods.

Most Indians eat a lot of greens: spinach, mustard greens, fenugreek greens, white radish greens, gram (or chick pea) greens. Spinach is popular over all of India.

Potatoes are a staple in North India.

The average Indian (1973) eats 1/2 to 2/3 pound of rice/day [cooked weight, I guess]. Her recipes use Carolilna (a long-grain uncooked rice) or basmati. (I must re-read. Is Carolilna really Carolina?)

Dals = lentils or pulses = varieties of dried beans and peas.

  • daily in most Indian homes
  • always eaten with rice or bread

Various home-made pickles are popular. By no means only made with cucumbers. Even meat can be pickled.

Chutney p. 226-7.

Her childhood family had servants.

Indian breads are called roti.

  • chapati, paratha, porris, naan
  • naan is leavened
  • typically whole wheat flour
  • cooked on a cast iron griddle or clay oven (tandoor)

In India most meals end with fruit.

 

From “Beyond Curry Indian Cookbook” by Denise D’Silva Sankhé, 2016. Subtitle: A culinary journey through India.

She’s a columnist at Serious Eats (Beyond Curry).

Over 50 languages in India.

“Curry, to most Indians, is only one type of dish, a gravy or sauce-based one, which can have meat or vegetable in it. “In India, there is no one “curry powder.”

Again, many regional differences in flavors and foods.

Grind your own spices. Store them dark and dry, in steel or glass airtight, in fridge maybe.

A masala is just a blend of spices; quite variable.

Nutmeg is poisonous, but use it anyway.

Dal designates more than lentils. Dals  are a staple, served at least a few times/week. Dal-chawal is a simple dish of lentils and rice, and perhaps the most comforting of foods to Indians.

“Indian food is traditionally eaten  by hand.” The right hand. The left is unclean.

“Mise en place” p. 35.

Some religions forbid alliums (e.g., onions and garlic) and root veggies. Substitute asefetida for the alliums.

Desserts and sweet treat are common, especially in religious and other festivals and celebrations.

Shop for pantry essentials and spices at specialty stores: Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern.

Buy spice in small quantities. They don’t store well for long.

Green chilis (sic): lighter-colored, longer ones are less spicy. Shorter, dark green ones are very hot. Thai and serrano chiles (sic) are fine substitutes.

When her recipes call for onion, she means red onion (can substitute white ones).

 

Testimonials

Search DietDoctor and you will find. Also http://indialchf.com

 

From Today’s Dietitian magazine:

August 2014 Issue

Indian Cuisine — Foods That Hold a Special Place in Plant-Based Food Traditions
By Sharon Palmer, RDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 16 No. 8 P. 17

[Ed.: copy/pasted with a few paragraphs deleted. Click the link above for some recipes.]

Gita Patel, MS, RDN, CDE, LD, CLT, author of Blending Science With Spices, explains that Indian culture leans toward vegetarianism due to Hinduism, which hosts a central theme of nonviolence, including animals. “A profound respect for all life is a common Hindu belief that supports vegetarian eating styles,” adds Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

However, British colonial influences and Western food trends, such as the emergence of fast-food restaurants, have brought more animal foods into India, Patel says. “With the globalization of the world and technology, some of the urban lifestyle changes have significantly affected traditional food practices in India,” Sheth adds, listing as evidence the increasing number of fast-food restaurants and premade foods replacing traditional meals in India.

Traditional Eating Patterns
“A lot of people are drawn to Indian cuisine. People like the flavors, herbs, and spices,” Patel says, noting that home cooking is vastly different from what you’re likely to sample in an Indian restaurant.

“The traditional eating pattern is very balanced,” Patel says. She describes typical meals consisting of dal (a legume dish), rice, roti (bread), vegetable, salad, fruit, and a yogurt or buttermilk drink, which may vary slightly depending on the region.

Indeed, there’s scientific consensus that a disease-protective diet is based on a variety of whole plant foods, which sums up the traditional Indian eating pattern. “The traditional Indian vegetarian diet is one that’s rich in a wide variety of grains, beans, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs. Research has found that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease and some types of cancer,” Sheth says. The National Cancer Institute reports that cancer rates are lower in India than in Western countries, and that diet characteristics such as a high intake of fruits, vegetables, spices, and tea may be responsible for protecting Indians against certain forms of cancer.2

Key Components
While the specific dishes may vary according to different regions of India, the key ingredients basically are the same and include the following:

• Vegetables: “Vegetables are grown all over the country due to the climate,” Patel says, adding that many vegetables are unique to India, such as specific types of gourds, radishes, beans, and greens. However, other dishes are based on more familiar vegetables, such as beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, corn, eggplant, green beans, various greens, okra, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. In addition, fermented foods such as pickled vegetables are a regular feature in Indian cuisine.

• Grains: Rice and wheat are staples in India and used in flatbreads (eg, dosa, roti, chapati), doughs (eg, samosa, kachori), and side dishes (rice) to accompany meals.

• Legumes: Indian cuisine relies on the regular and flavorful use of legumes, such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, and beans. In addition to dal, many legumes are sprouted or used as flour in breads.

• Fruits: Apples, apricots, bananas, figs, grapes, guavas, lychees, loquats, mangoes, oranges, papayas, passion fruit, and sweet limes are common fruits in India.

• Dairy: From milk and buttermilk to yogurt and paneer (fresh cheese), dairy products are regular features of the Indian diet. Patel reports that most Indian households receive fresh milk, which is then used for beverages and cooking. Households make their own ghee (clarified butter) from the milk fat, and leftover milk is made into fresh yogurt every day.

• Vegetable oils: Most oils used in traditional cooking are unrefined vegetable oils, such as peanut or sesame. However, Patel reports an increase in the use of refined oils, such as soybean oil, in modern cooking.

• Herbs and spices: At the heart of Indian food is a long list of culinary herbs and spices that have been used for centuries, many of which are proven to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer effects. Indian spices include amchur (made from mangoes), aniseed, asafetida (a pungent, onionlike flavor), bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garam masala (a spice blend), garlic, ginger, mango powder, mint, mustard, nutmeg, onion seeds, parsley, pomegranate seeds, poppy seeds, saffron, sesame seeds, tamarind, and turmeric.

— Sharon Palmer, RDN, is a contributing editor to Today’s Dietitian and the author of The Plant-Powered Diet and Plant-Powered for Life.

 

 

 

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Indian LCHF Diet Has an Internet Following at dLife

Chennai Chettinaad Palace Indian restaurant in Phoenix, AZ

At my Paleo Diabetic blog, Santosh left a comment informing me that dLife has a forum dedicated to Indian LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) eating for diabetes and obesity!  (I hope that link works for you.) I don’t think Santosh would mind my reproducing the comment here:

Hi Steve,

I saw your reply on one of the Indian LCHF site (http://indianlchf.com/) and from their I could trace you here.

In that particular reply, you have mentioned that, “I am very interested in type 2 diabetes in folks of Indian ethnicity. I know that LCHF eating does wonders for Europeans and European-Americans in terms of weight and blood sugar management. I suspect that LCHF works equally well in Indians, and Tina and her husband’s experience supports that idea. But I’m looking for firmer evidence than anecdotal. I haven’t finished my scientific literature review yet. I spent 30 minutes on pubmed.gov last night and came up with nothing.” which caught my eye!

We have a dedicated forum for Indian Diabetics wherein we advocate and follow LCHF diet to maintain diabetes at bay and you can get testimonies from many folks there.

It would be nice, if you can join our forum dlife.in (http://www.forums.dlife.in/) and share your views as well.

Cheers,

Santosh

Just FYI, if you’re interested like I am.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Do You Use a Pressure Cooker?

Vegetarian Fried Rice with bits of cabbage, carrot, celery, and (?) cilantro.

Definitely NOT low-carb: Vegetarian Fried Rice with bits of cabbage, carrot, celery, and (?) cilantro.

Judging from the bloggers I follow, pressure cookers started making a comeback within the last couple years. I remember my mother decades ago occasionally using one, for what, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about a pressure cooker myself recently as I learn more about Indian cooking.

As you may know, many Indians are vegetarians. They eat lots of legumes, as do non-veg Indians, as an important source of protein. If you cook dried beans, it normally takes hours unless you get them from a can, pre-cooked. A pressure cooker reduces cooking time to 40 minutes.

Dr. Travis Saunders wrote about his pressure cooker, which was inspired by Dr. Stephan Guyenet. Travis wrote:

For those who are unfamiliar with pressure cookers, they’re a bit like slow cookers. The difference is that they seal in pressure (this is why the old fashioned ones sometimes exploded when left unattended), so they can cook food much faster than a regular stove or slow cooker. So things that would normally cook all day, can be cooked in under an hour.

Travis uses his to make yogurt and soup. It also cooks rice. 

I’m gonna get one someday.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Does Indian Food Confuse You, Too?

 

Chennai Chettinaad Palace Indian restaurant in Phoenix, AZ

The first time I ate at an Indian restaurant, I was as confused as a newborn baby in a topless bar. The menu had too many unfamiliar foreign words.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame published a guide to Indian food for greenhorns. A snippet:

Let’s first consider the mild: Korma, Passanda and Muglai are the words to watch for. Liberal in their creamy mildness, these dishes, from different areas of the Indian sub-continent, will be face and bowel-savers when the chips are down.

For those who favour the dryer ,purer and not-too-hot taste of the source meat or fish, try the Tikka or Tandoori versions.

Really spicy hot stuff will be tackled head-on in the Madras or Vindaloo variations on the theme. Brave but occasionally foolish forkers, like me, will feel compelled to go for the Phal or Tindaloo, those macho show-off botty-crippling dishes which we become strangely ever-addicted to. Nothing disrupts a band sound-check like the pervasive after-effects of the Tarka Dhal (lentils and garlic).

It’s a very helpful guide to Indian restaurant menus although not necessarily for authentic Indian cuisine.

In case you didn’t get my metaphor…

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Does LCHF Eating Help Indians With Diabetes?

Surfing the net, I ran across an Indian lady named Tina who is successfully treating her T2 diabetes with LCHF eating (low-carb, high-fat). Both she and her husband lost excess weight, too. Click for her website.

In turn, she directed my attention to a YouTube channel by Dr. S. Vijayaraghavan, who is also a LCHF advocate for people with diabetes, type 2 anyway. Check out Goodbye Diabetes.

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I Lost My Virginity at an Indian Restaurant

 

Chennai Chettinaad Palace in Phoenix, Arizona

Chennai Chettinaad Palace in Phoenix, Arizona

Tonight I ate at my first Indian restaurant, Chennai Chettinaad Palace, at 2814 W. Bell Rd., Phoenix AZ 85053. This post isn’t a restaurant review, however. It’s a thumbnail sketch of my introduction to Indian food.

img_3828

We ended up here because it was recommended to my wife by an Indian gentleman she happened to sit next to on a plane trip. The restaurant has an extensive menu of what they say is authentic North Indian, South Indian & Gujarati food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

We arrived at 6:40 PM and there were few patrons present. One hour later the place was full of apparent Indians.

Two of us started out with, and enjoyed, an appetizer called Gobi Manchurian.

Gobi Manchurian: spicy cauliflower pieces lightly battered and fried.

Gobi Manchurian: spicy cauliflower pieces lightly battered and fried. Yum!

It would have been too spicy for my third dining mate, who simply ate garlic naan (bread) and vegetarian fried rice. Both were delightful, although the rice was a tad oily. The rice dish easily serves four diners. The naan is addictive; split an order with your mate or you’ll eat too much.

Garlic Naan, a type of flat bread

Garlic Naan, a type of flat bread

Vegetarian Fried Rice with bits of cabbage, carrot, celery, and (?) cilantro.

Vegetarian Fried Rice with bits of cabbage, carrot, celery, green onion, and (?) cilantro.

My main entree was Chicken Kolhapuri. I was forewarned it would by spicy hot. I enjoyed it. My wife wouldn’t dare taste it. I’d get it again. I dipped my naan in the copious chicken sauce (a curry?).

Chicken Kolhapuri. Sauce includes ginger, garlic, sesame, and red chilly (sic) paste.

Chicken Kolhapuri. Sauce includes ginger, garlic, sesame, and red chilly (sic) paste.

Brian ordered Chicken Tikka Masala but didn’t like it. I don’t think it was bad; it just didn’t suit his taste, the way some folks don’t like asparagus.

Chicken Tikka Masala with a "traditional North Indian sauce" of roma tomatoes, fenugreek, and garam masala.

Chicken Tikka Masala with a “traditional North Indian sauce” of roma tomatoes, fenugreek, and garam masala.

We finished with an ice-cream style dish. If you want ice cream, stop at Baskin-Robbins on your way home.

Mango and Pistachio Kulfi

Mango and Pistachio Kulfi

Service was good. Our waitress was patient with us Indian food virgins. If you’re not familiar with Indian food, you won’t make sense of much of the menu. The restaurant was too cold for my wife, but fortunately she had brought a jacket. The bill for three of us was $63.42 (USD). We brought home two platefuls of leftovers.

I’ll visit again. I’m interested in vegetarian dishes, lamb, goat, and seafood. The secret to Indian food may be in the spices.

The rice, naan, and desert have too many carbohydrates for many diabetics. I’m sure there are low-carb alternatives, even if you have to make them yourself.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The restaurant offered a 10% discount for customers paying with cash instead of credit. I always thought the credit card companies cut of credit card payments was only 3-4%.

 

 

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Are You Visiting This Site From India?

Gadi Sagar temple on Gadisar lake at sunset, Jaisalmer, India

Gadi Sagar temple on Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

I’ve been surprised by how many blog visitors I get from India—often more than I see from U.K, Canada, or Australia.

If you’re Indian, is there anything in particular you’d like to see me address here? Leave a comment below or email me at steveparkermd AT gmail.com. Thank you.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Please let me know if you are aware of a good source of low-carb Indian recipes in English. I have a growing interest in curries.

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