You can take an Indian out of India but not India out of an Indian, to what extent is this cliché true I do not know. What I do know is that you definitely cannot take the love of Indian food out of an Indian. The sheer variety of food that we Indians savour on is enough to beat our cuisine over any other. It is no wonder than that food joints like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut had to fairly ‘indianize’ their menus to woo the Indian market.

The USP of our cuisine is definitely the use of spices. Spices bring alive such unique tastes in our food, that we find most international cuisines quite bland. The use of spices does more than just adding flavour to our recipes; there are two other reasons for the use of spices. One, to enhance the health benefits of the dish. Two, spices are also used to counter any side effects of other ingredients in the dish. Take for instance ginger, a slice of ginger added to tea while giving an irresistible flavour and aroma; also makes the tea a medicine for common cold. Ever wondered, why ginger is a staple ingredient for all non-vegetarian dishes, it is due to the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and it aids digestion. What makes Indian cuisine so incredible is the choice of spices, in a way that balances each ingredient’s flavour as well as its health benefits to create a recipe.

However, unfortunately, authentic Indian dishes are getting lost in today’s kitchens and restaurants. Once, while travelling in Shimla we asked our driver where we could get some good authentic ‘pahadi’ food. He said “At my home. These other restaurants make the same old garlic-ginger paste gravies. To that if you add paneer it becomes Paneer Masala and if you add chicken it is Chicken Masala”. Right-on, I am sure you would agree! Food available in most urban restaurants is increasingly getting monotonous. It is practically the same menu and tastes everywhere. It is time we dig into our own kitchen to experience some of the delicacies, which we seem to have either forgotten or never tried to explore. Take for example a simple goan dish called Bendi. Made from black-eyed peas (chawli) with a paste of tamarind, dry red chillies, garlic added with some jaggery. Dry red chillies and garlic together bring out a unique flavour to this simple dish. Tamarind and jaggery give the dish a delicious sweet and sour taste. This dish is a perfect example of the sweet, sour, and spicy tastes that are distinctive of many Indian recipes. In addition, like most Indian recipes, even in this one the spice is not only for flavour, the use of garlic is to avoid the bloated feeling caused by black-eyed peas.

Therefore, can we say that this sweet, sour, spicy trilogy is India’s answer to the Chinese ying and yang! We will have to wait and watch…

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