How healthy are South Indian foods

Indian cuisine: world of spices

Barbara Boettner

Anyone who appreciates light, vegetarian recipes that taste good and are original will sooner or later discover Indian cuisine. Especially the numerous Spices give the vegetable and legume dishes their unmistakable note.

Unlike in our country, vegetarianism has a millennia-old tradition in India. About 80 percent of Indians belong to the Hindu religion, which includes belief in rebirth. According to this, an animal can also accommodate a person's soul. Killing animals is therefore unthinkable for many Hindus; Eating meat is like cannibalism. Hindu monks even try not to trample an ant. Because of this long tradition, cooking without meat has become a high art in India.

Indian cuisine: vegetables in all variations

Although animal foods are rarely used in Indian cuisine, it is extremely versatile. In addition to spicy curries and legumes in all variations, it offers refreshing yoghurt dishes and crispy flatbreads. The great variety of the Indian menu results from the different customs of the numerous ethnic groups: Sikhs from the Punjab cook and eat differently than the Muslims from Uttar Pradesch. Hindus from Kashmir know different specialties than Syrian Christians in Kerala or Catholics from Goa. For the Sikhs, beef is forbidden, the Muslims do not eat pork, and the Hindus reject all animal products except milk, but all eat vegetables.

Indian cuisine knows an incredible variety of different types of vegetables and fruits. In addition to the carrots, tomatoes, beans, pumpkins and cabbage known to us, Indians also process various green leaves and starch-rich fruits and tubers such as jack tree fruit or yam. Unripe chickpeas, papayas and mangoes are also considered delicacies in some regions. For eggplants alone, there are at least 15 different types of preparation in which the vegetables are either roasted, mashed, deep-fried, boiled, braised, grilled, filled, pickled, eaten hot or cold.

Indian cuisine gives only few suggestions for fresh food. Salads are almost unknown, and many vegetable dishes are cooked until they crumble. The small, varied raitas are a good way to serve something fresh. The vegetables prepared in yoghurt are served as a cooling side dish with every main meal.

Flatbreads replace spoons

The main component of every meal is rice. It is eaten in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Several hundred types of rice are known in India, with Basmati rice grown in the north being particularly popular. We can also buy it unpeeled in health food stores and health food stores. The rice is swollen for a few hours with twice the amount of water and then cooked and salted. It can be lumpy because it is usually eaten with the hands.

In addition to rice, simple Indian meals always consist of chapatis and dal. Chapatis are small, thin flatbreads made from wholemeal wheat flour and water and baked on hot plates or in pans. They come freshly prepared on the table and serve as a substitute for bread and a spoon. Dal is a puree made from cooked legumes that is served as a sauce with dishes. In addition to rice, Dal is almost exclusively served, especially in poor households. The puree, flavored with numerous spices, is mainly made from lentils, but also from beans and peas. Indian cooks prefer shelled and split yellow and red lentils that cook quickly. But delicious dals can also be made from whole lentils if you put them on with enough water and let them swell until they disintegrate. Peas and beans are also made into dumplings, pancakes and delicious sweets.

A separate blend of spices for each dish

Many people shy away from Indian cuisine because it has a reputation for being very spicy. In fact, Indians, especially in the south of the country, love the fiery heat of chili peppers. If you like it milder, you can prepare all dishes with little or no chilli. The other spices should not be missing, however. What you don't need for Indian cuisine is curry powder. This standardized mixture is intended exclusively for foreigners. An Indian cook prepares her masala, that is, her mixture of spices, always fresh and suitable for the respective dish. Cumin grains (cumin) and fennel seeds provide a typical Indian aroma. They are often roasted and ground before eating. Cardamom is either cooked as a green capsule in tea or rice or added to food as individual seeds. Cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, coriander seeds, ginger (dried and fresh), sesame and turmeric powder (turmeric) are also required for both sweet and savory dishes. So that the aroma is retained and the spices do not spoil so quickly, Indians usually keep the whole seeds and capsules. Just before use, they are crushed in a mortar or a spice grinder. They can also be ground in the grain mill with a little rice or wheat. Some spices can only be found in Asian shops. These include black cumin (Kalazheera), black cumin (Kalonji), black mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida (devil's dung), which is made from the resins of various root tubers and has a strong truffle aroma.

Yogurt sweet and salty

Although cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and are not allowed to be slaughtered, their milk is considered a special pleasure. In addition to cow's milk, buffalo, goat, sheep and camel milk is also widespread, depending on the region. Since fresh milk does not last long in the warm parts of the country, it is mainly processed into yoghurt. The sour milk product is a component of both sweet and savory dishes and is eaten both cold and warm. Mixed with water and ice cubes to make lassi, yogurt is also a popular drink. For frying, the Indians use either oil or, more often, ghee, which is a clarified butter in which the water is evaporated. Ghee can easily be replaced by clarified butter.

If you try our recipes on the inside of the poster, you shouldn't miss the pleasure of eating with your hands. The rice is squeezed a little and dipped in sauces and raitas. You can bring larger pieces of vegetables to your mouth with the help of chapatis.

ISSAR, S .; KOPECKY, M .: Indian cooking vegetarian. Hädecke, Weil der Stadt 1980
SAHNI, J .: The great vegetarian Indian cookbook. Heyne, Munich 1993

Source: Böttner, B .: UGB-Forum 6/98, pp. 329-332

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