Win at Indian Cooking: Mish’s Top 14 Tips
Hello, and welcome! If you’re excited to dive into the delightful world of Indian cuisine, you’re in the right place! Indian food, celebrated for its diverse flavors and rich tradition, can be prepared easily and enjoyed at any time by anyone. Allow me to guide you on this flavorful journey with 14 beginner-friendly tips to help you perfect the art of Indian cooking. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1. Start with the Basics
- 2. Use Regular Kitchen Cookware
- 3. Embrace the “Masala Dabba”
- 4. Incorporate Tempering: Effortlessly Master “Tadka”
- 5. Master One Dish at a Time
- 6. Do It Yourself: Freshly Ground Spices
- 7. Respect the Ratio
- 8. Ready Your Ingredients: Prep Ahead When Possible
- 9. Understand “ginger-garlic paste”
- 10. Choosing the Appropriate Cooking Oil
- 11. Explore & Experiment: Embrace Regional Varieties
- 12. Embrace Patience and Persistence
- 13. Have Fun and Experiment!
- 14. Embrace Your Own Indian Culinary Adventure
1. Start with the Basics
Learning any cuisine begins with understanding its basic elements. For Indian cooking, that means spices. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the most common ones – turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and garam masala to name a few. Smell them, taste them, and as you cook you’ll learn how they transform a dish.
2. Use Regular Kitchen Cookware
While there are certainly traditional tools and equipment used in Indian cooking, one can easily get started with standard kitchen cookware. An essential set would include a good quality non-stick pan for sautéeing vegetables and spices, a large pot for cooking curries, a saucepan for making dals and gravies, a small flat pan for tempering spices, and a coffee grinder for grinding your own spices if you wish.
Remember, Indian cooking is more about the ingredients and techniques than the cookware. As you progress and gain confidence, you can consider investing in more specialized equipment, like a pressure cooker for instance, but in the beginning, your regular kitchen tools will serve you just fine.
3. Embrace the “Masala Dabba”
A ‘Masala Dabba’ is a traditional Indian spice box housing the most used spices in separate compartments. Having one at your fingertips will streamline your cooking process and keep your spices fresh and handy.
4. Incorporate Tempering: Effortlessly Master “Tadka”
While the technique of tempering spices, or “tadka,” is a vital part of Indian cooking, rest assured that you don’t need to learn it as a separate skill. As you journey through various recipes, you’ll naturally pick up this technique because it is typically integrated as an initial or final step in the cooking process.
Tadka is an Indian cooking technique where spices and herbs are heated in oil or ghee to release and intensify their flavors.
This method, often applied at the beginning or conclusion of preparing a dish, infuses food with a rich aroma and enhanced taste.
5. Master One Dish at a Time
While the complexity of Indian cuisine can be overwhelming, taking one dish at a time keeps the process manageable and enjoyable. Start simple with dishes like aloo gobi adraki (potato and cauliflower curry with ginger) or dal (lentil soup).
6. Do It Yourself: Freshly Ground Spices
Nothing beats the aroma of freshly ground spices! While convenient, pre-ground spices could lose their aroma over time. A coffee grinder will do this job perfectly.
7. Respect the Ratio
Ratios of ingredients play a critical role in the outcome of the dish. Be mindful of this, especially when handling spices. An extra teaspoon could dramatically alter your dish’s flavor! Especially for spices like garam masala or chilli powder.
8. Ready Your Ingredients: Prep Ahead When Possible
To ensure a smooth cooking process, and to save time during weeknights, a bit of preparation goes a long way in the world of Indian cuisine.
Many Indian dishes start with a base of sautéed onions, garlic, and ginger – a trio that lays the foundation for the symphony of flavors in Indian cooking. Having these essentials prepped and at hand can greatly expedite your cook time and enhance your cooking experience.
This might mean chopping a couple of onions every Sunday and mincing ginger and garlic separately and storing them in the fridge.
While freshly chopped ingredients do provide a burst of flavor, don’t shy away from store-bought, good-quality minced ginger and garlic, and keep them handy on nights when peeling, chopping, and mincing garlic and ginger seems tedious. They serve as excellent time-savers and can be a boon for beginners trying to navigate the bustling spice-laden streets of Indian cuisine.
9. Understand “ginger-garlic paste”
You might have seen ginger-garlic paste listed as an ingredient in Indian recipes. Ginger Garlic paste is a blend of two spices, ginger, and garlic, and is a popular ingredient used extensively in Indian cuisine. This paste is typically created by finely grinding or blending fresh ginger and garlic together, with the addition of a little water to facilitate blending.
It can be stored in the fridge or freezer and used over time to infuse dishes with the flavors of both ginger and garlic simultaneously. This handy ingredient helps to significantly reduce prep time during cooking.
I choose to grind these spices separately and store them separately and even go so far as to use two different spoons for measuring out the quantity I need as I have family members who have sensitivity to garlic.
Also, some Indian dishes only call for ginger and to blend them together would mean I would need to grind ginger separately when cooking those dishes.
I suggest finely chopping or grinding the garlic and ginger individually. Then, for convenient usage, keep them refrigerated in separate containers.
If preparing in larger quantities you can store some portion of it in the freezer. You can use ice trays to portion them out and pop them out in smaller quantities when frozen, as needed.
10. Choosing the Appropriate Cooking Oil
Indian cooking employs a diverse array of oils that contribute to the richness and complexity of its flavors.
Ghee, (clarified butter), provides a nutty flavor and boasts several health benefits, including aiding digestion.
Avocado oil, with its neutral flavor and high cooking temperature, contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. And also good for Indian vegan dishes.
Coconut oil is often used in South Indian dishes, lends a unique, sweet flavor, and offers health benefits such as promoting heart health. Additionally, some South Indian regions use sesame oil, or til oil, which infuses a distinct flavor akin to the use of olive oil in Mediterranean cuisine.
Mustard oil, another staple, adds a pungent, sharp taste to various dishes, especially Bengali dishes, and boasts anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Through the mindful selection of these oils, Indian dishes can achieve harmony of flavor and health benefits.
Typically I use either Avocado oil, ghee, or mustard oil when I cook.
For new cooks, I would just choose to cook with Avocado oil, or peanut oil if you are not allergic.
11. Explore & Experiment: Embrace Regional Varieties
India’s culinary landscape is as diverse as its topography, with each region offering its own unique spins on classic dishes. As you dive deeper into the world of Indian cooking, let your taste buds travel across the country.
I’m eager to share a medley of recipes from various regions. This includes the delectable delicacies from Bengal, the bold and hearty flavors of North Indian cuisine, to the exotic coconut-infused dishes from South India.
Don’t hesitate to change things up and experiment with these regional varieties, as each recipe brings its own exciting flavor journey to your dinner table.
12. Embrace Patience and Persistence
Delving into the realm of Indian cuisine requires an understanding and appreciation for the dance of flavors that unfold over time. Rather than rushing the process, savor each step and allow for the spices to mingle and deepen.
If a dish doesn’t turn out as anticipated, don’t be disheartened. Each cooking experience is an opportunity to learn, refine your skills, and better understand the interplay of different tastes.
Remember to practice patience in your culinary journey, and always feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have. Keep practicing, and with each attempt, you will find your dishes inching closer to the flavors you desire.
13. Have Fun and Experiment!
At the end of the day, cooking is about having fun! Don’t fret over a misstep; instead, see it as a stepping stone on your culinary journey. Remember, every dish is a celebration of flavors and cultures.
14. Embrace Your Own Indian Culinary Adventure
Authenticity is often praised when it comes to cuisine, but it’s important to remember that cooking is a deeply personal and evolving experience.
Trying to perfect an ‘authentic’ version of a dish can sometimes hinder your creativity and enjoyment in the kitchen. Instead, focus on capturing the essence of Indian flavors and incorporating them into your own unique creations.
Play around with spices, techniques, and ingredients, and remember that every cook has their distinct flare. So, unfetter yourself from the pressure of authenticity and let your Indian culinary adventure unfold at its own pace!
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to navigate your way through the vibrant colors, rich aromas, and delightful tastes of Indian cuisine with ease. So slip on your apron, roll up your sleeves, and let the journey into Indian cooking begin!