10 Tips For Healthy Indian Cooking
So you are a glutton for Indian curries but abhor the grease left in the pots and pans? A look at the butter, ghee (clarified butter), and cream used in most recipes may make one wonder if healthy Indian cooking is possible. Fret not, for a few changes in the cooking method and ingredients can help you prepare healthy Indian food in no time. The trick is to follow the traditional techniques and not give into popular recipes, which are customized to suit the “fast food” palate and cater to those looking out for easy Indian cooking. Read on for more tips for preparing nutritious Indian food…
1. Stay away from ready to use precooked curry/stew mixes
Precooked curry and stew mixes come handy when you are in a hurry or new to cooking Indian food. They have the right blend of spices and need very little additions to prepare a complete meal. However, the flip side of these mixes is that they come with loads of additives, flavoring agents, and most importantly unhealthy hydrogenated fat. A better option is to prepare the curry base and freeze, can, or dehydrate it for future use.
2. Prefer low fat yogurt over full cream
Full cream is commonly used in most Indian recipes to add creaminess and body to the dish. This, however, makes the dish heavy and calorie rich. Instead one can directly substitute the cream with lightly whipped low fat yogurt. The yogurt will not only reduce the calorie value of the dish but also enrich it with much needed probiotic bacteria. Moreover, the dish will taste equally creamy and rich.
3. Use Olive oil instead of butter and ghee (clarified butter)
It is a misconception that olive oil doesn’t gel with Indian flavors. Olive oil is known for its health benefits and excellent fatty acid composition. When compared with butter and ghee – the most common fats used in popular Indian recipes, olive oil is rich in its nutrition value. Moreover unlike other fats it has high smoking point (i.e. more resistant to heat), which makes it ideal for deep frying and tandoori cooking.
4. Opt for low fat paneer, homemade cottage cheese, or tofu over full fat paneer
Paneer is frequently used cheese in North Indian cuisine. The commonly available readymade paneer is prepared using full fat buffalo milk and hence high in dairy fat. You can easily cut the calorie index of your dish by replacing the full fat paneer with tofu or low fat paneer. In case a substitute is not readily available, then try preparing some homemade cottage cheese by curdling skim milk with vinegar and draining out the whey.
5. Choose whole grain flours over refined white flours
Traditionally most Indian dishes are prepared using whole grain flour, the use of refined flours is a recent invention. Directly substitute refined flour in the recipe with whole wheat flours. In recipes where direct substitution is not possible, you can fortify the dish by adding some wheat bran.
6. Restrict the use of refined sugars
Several popular Indian recipes call for addition of sugar, which is not the case with authentic recipes. Traditional recipes rely on use of fresh ingredients and addition of dried fruits, condiments, and fruit juices or extracts for sweetness. Moreover, Indian dishes are not sweet by nature; hence avoiding the sweetener totally will not affect the taste of the dish.
7. Substitute frying with baking
Deep fried entrees are a major source of fat in an Indian meal. Look out for a recipe that uses baking instead of deep frying. Baked samosas, chakalis, and pakoras taste much better than the deep fried variety. You can also use a hot air popcorn popper to prepare papads, farsan, sev, etc.
8. Prefer Tandoor cooking to prepare entrees
Tandoori cooking refers to baking chunks of food at very high temperatures using very little sauce and oil. The high temperatures lightly char the crust while keep the insides soft and tender. At the same time the short cooking time helps retain the nutrients and original flavors of the food.
Dumpukht is an ancient form of cooking that has been used in the Sub continent for centuries. It involves slow cooking the food in a tightly sealed thick bottom pot. Since the pot is tightly sealed, the food cooks within its own juices and the steam emanating thereof. This not only enhances the flavors and texture of the dish, but also preserves the nutrients in the food.
10.Save salt for the very end
Indian food relies more on the aroma of its spices and herbs for its flavor and salt play just a supporting role. Heating reducing the saltiness of salt that results in you using more salt in the dish. You will find that you use much less salt in the food if it is added just before serving the food rather than adding it at the beginning.
Follow these tips and use a variety of fresh ingredients and you sure will amaze your family and guests with healthy yet delectable Indian food.
Image credits: indianetzone.com