How to Get Started Cooking Indian Food

A Beginner's Guide

A selection of Indian dishes

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Diverse, delicious and not as difficult to cook as you might think, Indian food is among the leading cuisines of the world. With every state, city, and even every home having its own recipes for thousands of dishes, you can imagine how the diversity is absolutely mind-boggling.

Healthy and Diverse

Contrary to popular belief, Indian food is not just about curry, chilies, and oil. There is probably no other cuisine in the world that includes as many healthy and diverse vegetables and spices. If the worldwide popularity of butter chicken, rogan josh, vindaloo, and fish Amritsari is anything to go by, Indians know a thing or two about pleasing all palates.

An Art Form

In India, cooking is considered an art. Mothers usually begin to teach their daughters fairly early on, passing down coveted family recipes and cooking secrets by show-and-tell. As a matter of fact, food is a very serious business in India, even today when most women work. Menus almost always include several dishes, including rice and chapatis, and of course, dessert, like traditional shahi falooda.

Over the course of history, various invaders passing through India and left their mark on Indian cuisine. Aryan, Persian, Arab, British, and Portuguese influences can still be found in many popular dishes that are still served today.

Discovering Indian Cuisine

India is a large country; its population is second only to China; its languages are numerous and every state (28 total, and seven Union territories) is unique in its traditions and very importantly, its food. In fact, food from region to region differs. There are distinct cuisines for NorthSouthEast and West India.

Demystifying Indian Cuisine 

With all its diversity, when the world thinks of Indian food, the one word that comes to mind is curry. This is perhaps the greatest misunderstanding, since curry does not begin to sum up the amazing variety available in Indian cuisine. Other misconceptions include that all Indian food is spicy, fatty, rich, or hard to cook.

Curry powder is actually a British invention trying to imitate some of the flavors found in Indian food. In India, cooks use a mix of spices known as garam masala. Blends vary from region to region and even household to household!

Cooking Terms

With so many languages and each region having its own food specialties, the list of terms used can be exhaustive. They can also be confusing for a novice to Indian cooking. From achaar from a biryani or chai from an idli, you will need to do some studying of Indian cookbooks to get a sense of the different dishes, ingredients, and cooking techniques.

Cookware to Get Started

You will be surprised at how little you actually need, in terms of dishes and utensils, to cook Indian food. You will probably have most of the tools and pans. A wok, a set of heavy-bottomed pans, a pressure cooker, and a steamer will be enough to cook most dishes.