Making Indian food can be, quite frankly, terrifying. With hundreds of cuisines, each having hundreds of dishes and each dish having hundreds of variations, it can be dizzying to comprehend. Here is a guide of basic ingredients to help you overcome your fears, live your best chef life, and make delicious, fragrant Indian food that’s high in flavor and nutrition.
Seven Essential Ingredients For The Indian Kitchen
- Cilantro Also known as coriander, this bright, flavorful herb is a must-have garnish. Some people think it tastes soapy- some people need to mind their own business, retrain their taste buds, and rethink some life choices. Stir it into rice to jazz up a plain dinner, add it to stews to brighten the taste, and add it on top to make your dal-chawal Instagram ready.
- Onion Grate it for a warm flavor. Dice it for texture. Slice it for volume. Tell it all of your problems. Onion is always here for you. I could no more think of cooking without onion than I could cook without salt!
Ginger is one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen. I personally believe that there is nothing better for a cough and cold than ginger! My mom used to grate it into tea and sweeten the drink with honey when I was sick. Think of it as Indian chicken soup. Apart from its medicinal properties, it lends a warm, spicy flavor to any dish, and smells amazing.
Ginger is one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen.
- Garlic Ah, garlic. I use ahead of it in every dish that I make, regardless of if I’m cooking for two or eight. It’s pungent, spicy, and oh so good. I add it to whatever I’m making. Some people like to sizzle it with onion and garlic before adding the main ingredients of a dish, to infuse the dish with garlic flavor, but I like to add it right at the end, so it doesn’t lose its’ bite. Just keep some breath mints on hand!
A necessity in every dish, I like to add tomatoes to dals, biryanis, and fresh salads. The tomato doesn’t need to be the star of the dish: rather, it adds some moisture and tart, fresh flavor to any dish. Additionally, I also like to serve a small plate of raw red onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes on the side to give a cold, refreshing palate cleanser from all the hot flavors.
Need I say more? Whether it’s a canvas on which to fling dal and kadhi, the carb-y heart of biryani, or mixed with dahi for an upset stomach, rice is as ubiquitous in Indian kitchens as a spice rack.
Speaking of which, you cannot make Indian food without an array of spices. Now, we don’t have time to unpack all of that here, but luckily we have a handy dandy guide to the hundreds (literally, hundreds) of spices here!
So there you have it! Everything you need to go forth and conquer Indian cuisine, and it can all be found at your local supermarket. Check back soon for more Indian cooking tips and tricks.