Mention Indian Food to anyone from the west and immediately, visions of exotic culture and traditions come up. One can easily conjure up images of elephants and dancing women in saris without even having to smell curry.
Real Indian food though is much more than what we see in television and movies. In fact, it is hard to capture Indian food in a single phrase or even vision. Indian cuisine has a world of its own. It is both diverse and complex which is actually a reflection of Indian culture and way of life. Eating Indian food can be quite confusing, especially for those who are not familiar with the Indian culture. If you want to understand and better appreciate Indian food, there are some basic principles that you need to know first.
Staples in Indian Food
In all cuisines, there are what we can call as staples. Food items that are present almost every time. In Italian cuisine, for example, pasta is almost indispensable. The same is true with rice in Chinese cuisine. In Indian food, the staples are bread and rice. These are eaten in almost all regions of India and just differ in the way they are prepared from one part of the country to another.
One of the things that you need to understand about Indian bread though is that it is not baked unlike the kind of bread we are used to eat here in the west. Indian bread is usually flat and are cooked on a stove or on a clay oven called a tandoor. Different kinds of flour are used in preparing Indian bread. Of course, the type of flour used reflects what kind of flour is abundant in that particular area. The most common Indian bread is the chapatti, a round, flat and light bread that is made with whole wheat flour. It is like a very thin pancake minus the fluffiness. The chapatti goes well with almost all Indian dishes. During special occasions though, more elaborate kinds of breads are prepared.
Main Chicago Indian Restaurant Dishes
A typical meal in an Indian household consists of bread or rice and two main dishes. Traditionally, there will be a vegetable dish and a lentil preparation known as daal. The vegetable dish can be prepared dry or with curry sauce. Daal can also be prepared in many different ways. In some parts of India, meals are often accompanied by a curd or yogurt. The sweet flavor of yogurt is used to offset the spiciness of some Indian dish.
It is a myth though that all Indian dishes are spicy. In fact, the typical food served in Indian households are not spicy at all. Spicy foods are only highlighted in Indian restaurants in the west to emphasize its difference from western dishes. In Indian culture, dishes do not usually come with special beverages. Traditionally, meals are served with warm or hot water to aid in digestion.
Authentic Indian food may not be for everyone but for those adventurous enough to try something new, Indian dishes hold plenty of delightful surprises.