India is a vast, vibrant and ancient country that has long perfected its quintessential dishes, each uniquely shaped by the region it emerged from. Yet the myriad of cuisines and flavours available haven’t quite yet made it to the UK; we all know our madras from our masalas, but do you know your roti from your naan?
Many people are reluctant to try Indian food because they feel it will be too spicy or too oily, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Finding fresh, authentic Indian dining can be difficult in the UK, but once you try the delightful taste of genuine Indian cuisine we cannot promise that you won’t want to swap Birmingham with Bombay. Here are the threebiggest misconceptions about Indian cuisine:
It’s always spicy
While Indian food is somewhat hotter than some European cuisine, most dishes can be made with varying levels of spice. Indian cooking is usually very precise when it comes to balancing spice blends,and while the likes of the vindaloo may make your eyes water, there are many more recipes available than the typical ones we all know.
Indian food can be spicy, but it can also be sweet, sour and all manners of flavours in between. In fact, regional dishes from Gujarat and Kashmir tend to be much sweeter than they are spicy. If in doubt, ask your waiter; if cooking at home, simply omit some spices or include yoghurt to tone down the spicier flavours.
It’s only for vegetarians
The historical and theological development of the nation may have led to a high number of vegetarians (500 million in fact) but Indian food is also known for its delicious meat and fresh fish dishes. Cows are considered sacred to many Hindus, but the consumption of beef is not outlawed in all regions and many Indian cooks are happy to prepare food regardless of their religious beliefs.
Equally, Indian food is a wonderful chance to try some exciting vegetarian food. Vegetarian dishes are just as succulent and flavoursome as their meaty counterparts, and are created around the premise of health and well-being – making India a good culinary destination for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
It’s always unhealthy
Much of Indian food is actually very healthy, but like any cuisine it features guilty pleasures and treats. Healthy eating is a fundamental part of Indian culture due to the region’s common religions; for example, the Ayurveda is an ancient scripture-come-life-science that explores the balance between mind and body, with an emphasis on healthy eating and an active lifestyle. This theology permeates Indian food, and is interwoven into many recipes and ingredients.
However, as Indian cooking assimilated into western culture, cooking styles began to vary greatly, which is why some modern Indian food can be oily or calorific.
Choosing where you dine carefully can counteract these misconceptions. Delve a little deeper and you’ll find dishes that arehealthier and more varied than the standard meals at your local take-away. Visit London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants to step out of your curry comfort zone anddiscoverthe range of food available.