All the different flavours, the many textures, the intense aromas and the unusual cooking techniques make the Indian cuisine so incredible and unique. We ate at many dhabas, restaurants and street stalls, we took a cooking course (at Spice Paradise in Jodhpur with Rekha), we tried Beena’s delicious home cooking when visiting Rajesh, and even though we had both previously tried Indian food, we kept being surprised with new flavours every day. We of course did as the locals and ate with our hands, and strange as it sound, everything tastes much better when eaten with your fingertips!
It is impossible to describe in a couple of posts what Indian food is like, I would say that it’s not even possible to do it in a book. And being India such a huge country it is normal that North Indian tastes are very different to South Indian ones. These are some of the pillars of North Indian cuisine:
- The spices. So important in Indian cooking, the spices are the starting point for every dish and a good spice box is a must in every kitchen. Many cooks, after years of practice trying to find a good balance, are experts in the mixing of spices and don’t like sharing the secrets of their masala (spice mix).
- The tandoor: This cylindrical clay oven is used both for cooking and baking. The tandoor is the king of the ovens! I so wish i could have one in my house… The charcoal fire of the tandoor is used to cook the juiciest of the chickens and the tastiest of the naans.
- The breads: In northern India food is mostly eaten with bread. With the wide variety of breads available, India is definitely a paradise for bread lovers, from the simple chapatis to the incredible naans and parathas, they are all just delicious. Here I am with my first chapati.
- The curries: The word curry is used to describe a variety of dishes in the South Asian continent. Curries can be veg or non-veg, dry or sauce based, with curd or without it… but the common denominator between all of them is that all must contain spices to some degree or another.
- Thali: So representative of the day to day live in India, a thali is the main meal for many people. A thali is a selection of different dishes served in a small bowl in a round tray. What goes in depends on the region you are in: dal (lentil soup), curries (veg/non-veg), chutney, rice, roti, puris, papads. The best is that you can ask to refill your plate as many times as you want!
- Biryanis: A very aromatic, flavoursome but not spicy Indian paella. In the picture you can see the Namkeen Khichdi, a type of Rajhastani biryani eaten only in special occasions, we cooked in our cooking class. Spectacular!
Other than these, here are some other Indian delicacies that made our stomach happy for a few weeks!
- Shahi Paneer and Palak Paneer. In our opinion the two best paneer (cottage cheese) curries. The first one with a creamy tomato sauce, and the second one with a spinach and spices sauce, they melt in your mouth. We learned how to make both curries with Rekha and we were surprised how easy and quick was making them.
- Chola batura. We had the luxury of trying this dish at Rajesh’s home. Beena cooked this chickpea curry for us and showed me how make the Bhatura (deep fried bread).
- Chura matar. Poha (flattened rice) and peas dish commonly eaten for breakfast. Beena spoiled us cooking this specialty from Varanasi. It was sooooo good that I ended up buying some Poha in Jodhpur and sending it home so I can cook it when I get back.
- Chicken tandoori. For those like me that love roasted and barbecued chicken, this is a perfect match. The chicken is marinated overnight in a curd (yogurt), spices and lemon juice mix and then grilled in the tandoor. Gosh how i miss it!!
- Raita. Curd and cucumber salad, similar to the Greek tzatziki. Great to accompany any dish and to calm your mouth from the fiery spices.
- Kofta. Koftas are a range of spicy meatballs, usually made of minced meat, vegetables and spices. In India you can also find vegetarian Koftas. They can be cooked in many ways: grilled, fried, steamed, in a rich sauce. In the picture a delicious malai kofta.
After all this thinking about Indian food I am now getting hungry and craving a good shahi paneer with a warm garlic naan bread!! Yum Yum Yum!!