Does Indian cooking have to be complicated, too time-consuming or overly spicy?

A lot of people are deterred from learning to cook Indian food due to the notion that it’s too difficult and best eaten in a restaurant.  A lot of my friends are the same way! This is simply a misconception.  Here are some common myths onto which I will try to shed some light.

Myth #1: Indian Cooking Is Very Time Consuming

  • It doesn’t have to be!  There are ways to simplify it.  It doesn’t have to take any more time than making spaghetti/pasta sauce.
  • A well written and easy to follow recipe can reduce preparation time significantly.

Myth #2: All Indian Food Is Curry Based

This is such a common myth and requires detailed clarification.

  • “Curry powder” is a blend of spices that is sometimes used in Indian cooking.  However, it’s composition can vary a great deal depending on the brand you buy.  I prefer to use “garam masala” which is a milder and more refined version of curry powder.  It is also made up of a number of ground spices such as cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamon, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg.
  • Curry leaves come from a tree and are sometimes used green for flavouring a dish.  Dried curry leaves are not palatable and are rarely ever listed as an ingredient in packaged curry powders.
  • Not all Indian dishes use curry powder as defined above and, therefore, are not curry based.
  • The word “curry” has evolved into a generic term that describes a rich, saucy/gravy type of Indian dish.
  • There are many Indian dishes that do not have a gravy and, therefore, are not a “curry”.

Myth #3: Is Too Spicy

  • Indian food doesn’t have to be spicy!  The dish will only be as spicy as you want to make it.
  • Use of hot “chilli powder” or “cayenne” is what determines the level of spice or “heat”.  It is up to you how much of this spice to use.  You can simply substitute mild paprika which will give you the nice red colour but without the heat.

Myth #4:  Indian Cooking Requires Too Many Ingredients

  • The “too many ingredients” generally refers to the spices.  A lot of Indian recipes require far too many individual spices that need to be ground into a powder.
  • The number of ingredients can be greatly reduced by keeping these 4 spices on hand (whole cumin, turmeric powder, cayenne, garam masala).

Myth #5:  Indian Recipes Are Way Too Complicated

  • It is true that some Indian recipes are very hard to follow.  For a novice, the long list of unfamiliar spices and complicated preparation method can be overwhelming.  However, it doesn’t have to be!  If the recipe is written with the novice in mind and not for someone that already knows how to make Indian food, then the cooking experience will not be any more complicated than following a recipe for any type of food.  One of my ambitions through Global Vegetarian is to demystify Indian cooking!