Traditional South Indian Thali served on banana leaf

Many people perceive Indian food as bowls of spicy curries served up with rice and naan bread. I don’t even know where the term naan bread evolved from. Naan itself means bread so people everywhere are saying bread bread!!! Don’t get me started on the term “Curry” – it’s probably been bastardized as the British could not pronounce Kozhambu. Kozhambu is a tamil word for a dish made generally with lentils, tamarind and a few spices and pronounced Korrhhambu with the r and h sounds coming from rolling your tongue.

Most people’s experience of Indian food has been Butter Chicken that has been hybridised to suit the palate of the locale. Case in point – when we took our children to India when they were still in primary school, they did not like the Butter Chicken served up in the restaurant there as it neither resembled nor tasted anything they had back home!!! Eating proper Indian food is a revelation and it does wake up all your taste buds. Home cooked Indian food, the dishes are lighter, well balanced and nutritious. For me, it is healthy, cost effective and ultimate comfort food.

Cloves, cardamoms and cinnamon

The story of Indian food is as complex and diverse as India’s history. The cuisine evolved over the years with all the socio political influences. The country itself is huge and divided into 29 states – each state has it’s own distinct language and food. More rice grows in the South and so rice is the staple starch. In the North, where more wheat is grown, rotis are the staple starch. Although there are stark differences between the regions and states, one thing that is common is the use of spices. It may surprise you that you will not get any “curry powder” in the supermarkets in India. The most you may find is dry spice blends like garam masala powder. Each household makes their own blend of spices fresh each day, based on what is on their menu or what is available in the markets. Yes lots of people still go to the markets every morning to get fresh, seasonal produce for the day. Spices are still the hallmark of Indian food and if you delve deeper into the origins of spice usage, it will become evident that the information is within Ayurveda which is the ancient Indian “Knowledge of Life”. Spice combinations and their usage is regarded as essential for well-being and to ward off indigestion, etc Ayurveda is a sophisticated science, incorporating all branches of medicine, yoga, meditation and nutrition – a real blue print to live a healthy and happy life. People are now taking turmeric or curcumin supplements whereas Indians have added a pinch of turmeric to their dhal or vegetables for as long as they have been eating. I guess what I am trying to say is that the principles of Ayurveda, or food combinations therein have been woven into traditional Indian meals. You always get served rice with dhal because this combination makes the proteins in the lentils more complete and available.

Good food needs to be simple, available, uncomplicated and fresh. I love Indian food because it is good, simple and uncomplicated food.

 Cooking is an art and like any art form you have permission to be creative.

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