Mom-Tested Tips for Cooking Indian Food From Scratch

August 15, 2009 at 4:17 am 5 comments

The magic of fresh beans

The magic of fresh beans

Greetings from New Jersey! In honor of India Day — and in light of the fact that I’ve been very busy gorging myself on my mom’s cooking — I thought I’d share some mom-tested tips on Indian home-cooking.

Here are a few gems from my mom that I swear by. And believe me — if you tasted her cooking, you would too.

1.) If you decide to try out an Indian recipe, make sure you always cook your spices. Have you ever had Indian food and thought that the spices tasted a little funny? Well, chances are, they were undercooked. They usually need a good five minutes to cook in oil or butter before you start playing chef.

2.) Going along with #1, a foolproof starter for making any Indian dish is olive oil (2 tbsp), cumin (1 tbsp), turmeric (1 tsp), chili powder (1/2 tsp), onions (1 medium), and garlic (3 cloves) — in that order, for about 4 cups/1 lb of meat or veggies. Bonus! Turmeric has added health benefits and acts as a natural preservative, which is why American companies tried to patent it recently.

3.) Speaking of making food last longer, Indian food actually tastes better the next day, once the spices have had a chance to work their magic. If you make enough for leftovers (which I highly recommend), you might be surprised by how flavorful your food is come day two or three.

4.) You don’t need cream. If you’ve been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably tried malai sauce in all its creamy, rich goodness. But that’s not really home-cooking. You can create a rich-tasting gravy by slow cooking a lot of onions (and I mean A LOT —  about 4) with 8 tomatoes and the spice mixture detailed in #2.

5.) Pressure cookers are your friend. You can’t have Indian food without lentils, chickpeas, and beans. If you plan ahead by soaking your beans overnight, you can have them edible in 15 minute with the help of a pressure cooker.

Remember — Indian food is always best enjoyed with basmati rice. Visit your local South Asian grocery store to find a wide variety of rices (including brown basmati) and save a little money.

Happy cooking, and please chime in with tips of your own — mom tested or otherwise!


Entry filed under: Equipment, Indian Food, Preparation. Tags: , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gabi  |  August 20, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I’m so using your mom’s tips for my wacky cooking experiment! Spices are going to be the key to my foodless diet not being depressing. I’ll be toasting up some Turmeric right quick!

    • 2. shiwanis  |  August 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

      We should totally talk spices. They’re like magic, and a lot of them have health beneifts/medicinal properties that people are now only beginning to understand. How are you on yogurt?

  • 3. Phelps  |  August 20, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips from your Mom! There’s nothing like home-tested cooking tips!

  • 4. yumyumsommom  |  February 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Great advice! I’ve searching all over my local asian food places for whole spices. Now that I’ve found the last ingredient (brown mustard seeds) I will make a grand lamb curry. Of all people, Martha Stewart has a faboulous recipe I am absolutely dying to try! So now, next on my list is a spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind the toasted whole spices up for awesome flavor. I love cooking indian-style dishes.

    Keep up the great advice!

  • 5. gimme1swadisht2eats  |  October 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

    wow this advice is reall great! thanks!


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