Just as any other type of cuisine may involve a science as well as an art to the cooking process, so does Indian cooking. However, in this case, the fundamentals of great cooking date back thousands of years. In fact, many of the basics of Indian cooking can be traced to the holistic teachings of Ayurveda which suggests that the use of fresh and natural ingredients are needed to keep the body heathy and are also a given to heal any ailments.
Many of these fundamentals lie in the correct blending of Indian spices without making the dish too hot or letting one flavor completely overwhelm the others. Instead, the element of heat and amalgam of different tastes is fused together in such a way that the resulting dish becomes an appetizing masterpiece. Also, contrary to popular belief, not all Indian dishes are swimming in sauce but some of the most favorite concoctions are dry curries with very little or no gravy.
For many people the number of spices going into an Indian dish can be confounding but there is indeed a method behind the madness when it comes to blending spices and giving each particular dish its unique flavor profile. Just as other cuisines, say Italian for instance, demand that basics like oregano, basil and rosemary are always on hand, Indian cuisine does the same, only with its own particular spices.
And while there is an array of Indian spices, herbs and condiments to choose from narrowing it down to these few basics can make the seemingly dauntless task of Indian cooking fairly simple and realistic for most people. Having these few key ingredients at hand can get you started on preparing authentic Indian dishes at home:
Aromatics: Just as taste is integral to Indian cuisine, so is the aroma. Therefore, consider mainstay ingredients like ginger root, garlic, onions, fresh mint and coriander a must for all of your Indian cooking needs. Not only do the first three aromatics kick start the cooking process but the final two need to be on hand to outfit your dish with a final garnish.
Ground spices: While garam masala is the undisputed king of all Indian spices, certain others need to be accessible separately so that the right flavor can be enhanced and modified where needed. Chief among these include cumin, coriander, paprika, black pepper, turmeric and red chilli powder. And although salt and sugar are not essentially spices, they will need to be readily available when you embark upon the adventures of Indian cooking.
Whole spices: The five most common whole spices needed to season your dish include green cardamom, cloves, and mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds.
Others: These ingredients are already likely to be present in any kitchen and include cooking basics like tomatoes, lemon/ lime, green chillies, vinegar and yogurt.
Learning to mix and correctly blend these ingredients is a matter of time and some practice. It is important to remember that using the correct proportion of spices is relevant as it will impact the final flavor of the dish, making it either too strong or too bland.
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