And not like me, born in America to Indian parents...
I'm talking about food, obviously! What else do I ever talk about?
Something that's been eating at me lately (pun definitely intended!) is the fact that Indian food in a restaurant is so different than the Indian food in India, and even the Indian food that I grew up eating! I'm not saying that it isn't delicious- it absolutely is- but there's a reason I'm not at the Indian restaurant buffet every day, or even every week!
It's the creamy gravies full of ghee, butter, oil, and cream... the overuse of salt- hello sodium! Why use so much salt when the spices themselves have enough flavor? The ever-present paneer (cheese)... growing up I had paneer once in a blue moon- it was a real treat! And the naan...ohh buttery thick bread that sings to my heart- why must you pack (at least!) 200 calories per piece?
Indian food in restaurants is just so heavy... and it doesn't have to be that way! Yes, the fried samosas and sugary milky desserts are the same in the restaurant and in the home, but those are also treats and not something eaten with every meal. You can have Indian food every day and it can be as equally delicious as restaurant food. I grew up eating healthy Indian food just about every day and I loved it, never got tired of it, and never got that too-full feeling that never fails me after a trip to the Indian restaurant buffet.
You know what I'm talking about, right?
In short, the Indian food in American restaurants is being prepared in a way that caters to "American" tastes. I know that all of you reading today don't eat the diet of an average American, but the added fat, sodium, and sugar is what you'll find in almost every restaurant in this country.
I think most ethnic foods in America are translated versions of what they used to be. Sabrina tells me that Italian food in America is not at all like the food found in Italy. She says it is heavier, and covered with tomato sauce and cheese. She even said that chicken parmesan was created in the US! Chinese-American cuisine was also created to cater to Western tastes. General Tso's Chicken was invented here, and the Chinese food in America uses vegetables as a garnish instead of as the focus of dishes as they are in China (Source). Again, Chinese-American cuisine is heavy with oil and salt. I am sure that Latin and Mexican foods in America have been translated it similar ways as well.
I don't want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth over all of this (pun indented again). You can make delicious Indian food so easily at home!
Rather than the chana masala swimming in oil from a restaurant,
Why not try it my way?
Channa Masala (serves 4)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp dana jeera powder (this is basically coriander powder)
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, grated
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2-1 TBSP EVOO
In a medium or large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the spices and sauté for another few minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook everything together for an additional 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh tomato slices, raw onion, or cilantro if you want- I love mine with minced raw onion on top!
**If you want more of a "gravy" for your chickpeas, blend the onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic in the food processor or blender before you add it to the skillet.
And why don't you save the palak paneer for a special treat?
Try my palak aloo (spinach & potato) instead!
Palak Aloo (serves 4)
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of hing (asafoetida powder)- can be omitted
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/4 cup minced white onion
1 medium sized russet potato (I leave the skin on, but you can also peel it) cut into large pieces
frozen spinach (you can use fresh also)
Earth Balance/Olive Oil/any margarine or butter (I use an olive oil based margarine)
Salt to taste
Heat 1-2 TBSP margarine in a large skillet, and add the spices. When the mustard starts to pop and sputter, add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the chopped potatoes (I like large chunks, but if you want the dish to cook faster, use smaller pieces) and mix them with the spice mixture- make sure they're coated. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add spinach (I just covered the entire skillet with spinach- probably about 2-3 cups worth). Add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes then check to see if the potatoes are done. I like mine to be practically falling apart :) When the potatoes are done, your dish is ready! Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, if necessary
**If you really want the texture of paneer, why not try using extra firm tofu in this recipe? Just press it and bake it for dryness or cook it in the skillet for longer!
I even made my own whole wheat roti using this recipe.
I made dough (can you believe it is just flour and water?)
Cover it an let it rest for 30 minutes, then roll into small balls and coat with extra flour:
Roll it out,
put it on a medium-high skillet
It will start to puff up...
flatten it down with a spatula, and cook on both sides until you get a few brown spots.
I spread on a small amount of olive oil spread to keep them from becoming too dry- these are great with both of the dishes I showed you above! If you don't want to make these, brown rice is also tasty with the veggie curries.
I have also made baingan bartha (eggplant curry) in the past (post here) and that recipe is just amazing- you won't miss the heavy restaurant version at all! This is truly decadent.
I did use ghee that particular day, but olive oil or any other oil works just as well!
So there you have it... healthy and delicious Indian food! Let me know if you try any of these recipes; I hope you enjoy them! That said, I do still enjoy my Indian buffet- just not too often!
What do you think of Americanized ethnic cuisine?
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