Indian Cooking 101

UPDATE April, 2007 – This series was picked up as a monthly food column, Indian Cooking 101, published in the food section Nosh, of The Mississauga News.

Before I begin with the many delicious Indian food recipes, I thought I’d dedicate a page or two on the basics of Indian cooking, my way – the easy way!

There’s a lot of difference between the way Mom and I come up with our creations. The taste might be very similar, but the way its made is not. Mom likes to use the traditional way, even if it means spending the whole morning to make lunch. And don’t get me started on when we have one of those lavish dinner parties!

I, on the other hand, love to find the shortest and easiest routes to get to my destination! I try to make my life so much simpler by having a food processor in close proximity, instead of pounding the life out of my mortar and pestle. There are many time-savers, that when put together, makes cooking a breeze. And if you’re a believer of the old and traditional ways of cooking, I’ll encourage you to try out my recipes my way, and you’ll see that they are loaded with the same flavours.

Recipe for Alu Palak (Sauteed Spinach with Potatoes) taken from Visit site for detailed recipe.

Of the few complaints I get on Indian cooking, the one that stands most prominent is the myth that Indian cooking is just too hard. Yes, you heard me right, a myth! Now before you roll your eyes at me and say, yea sure, easy for you, you’re Indian!… just hear me out. True, I was born Indian in an Indian household with a Mom who cooks the most delicious Indian food I know. But truth be told, and as much as I would like to believe, I wasn’t born with Indian culinary instincts in me. Yes, like any of you not familiar with the South-Asian cuisine, I too started off without much knowledge.

Try as I might, somehow, I can’t convince people enough on just how simple and quick and not to mention, healthy, Indian food can be. So here is where my mind got to work. I thought why not start a cooking class, and Indian food 101, if you will, introducing people to the simple basics of cooking Indian. A beginners course for all the eager enthusiasts willing to start from the top.

This series, Indian Cooking 101, is where I discuss how to make basic Indian food. We will begin with the essentials and slowly move up to a point where you will be confident enough to throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that. Hopefully, through this series, you will see that once you know the bare minimum, the rest from then on is smooth sailing. And then maybe, just maybe, I will finally be able to dismiss the myth that Indian cooking is just too hard. Yes, you heard it right again, a myth!

Coming back to the basics of Indian cooking, I’d like to give you an insight into what I have in my kitchen that makes Indian cooking seem like an easy task. Believe me when I say this is almost all that you will need to cook all these wonderful delights that I share with you.

Let’s start with the basic spices. Most of these spices are now easily available at regular grocery stores. In fact, it is very rare that I have to drop in on an Indian speciality store to get the ingredients I need.

Must-haves in every Indian pantry:

Indian Spices

Hindi Translations

  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Coriander Powder
  • Turmeric Powder
  • Cumin Powder
  • Garam Masala
  • Chaat Masala
  • Dried Mango Powder
  • Dried Fenugreek Leaves
  • Whole Cumin Seeds
  • Fennel Seeds/Aniseeds
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Curry Leaves
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Green Cardamom
  • Bay Leaves
  • Lal Mirch Powder
  • Dhania Powder
  • Haldi Powder
  • Jeera Powder
  • Garam Masala
  • Chaat Masala
  • Amchur Powder
  • Kasoori Methi
  • Sabut Jeera
  • Saunf
  • Rai
  • Kadi Patta
  • Sabut Kali Mirch
  • Laung
  • Sabut Dalchini
  • Hari Elaichi
  • Tej Patta

Must-haves in every Indian Fridge:

  • Plain Yogurt
  • Ginger-Garlic paste
  • Fresh Coriander Leaves

Must-haves for every Indian Stove:

  • Non-Stick Frying Pan
  • Deep Saute Pan
  • Deep Soup Pot
  • Non-Stick Wok (called kadhai in Hindi)

Have all of these and you’re all set to go on a culinary adventure with the exotic foods of the Indian sub-continent. Have all of these, and Indian cooking is child’s play!



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