Fruit and flowers for dinner? The Interesting World of Indian CuisineBy Oxygen's Staff Blog|Oxygen Staff|2012-06-21 | Comments: 0Tara Kher - Fact Checker
Namaste everyone! I'm writing to you from the vivacious, colorful, and currently sweltering city of New Delhi, India. This summer, I took a sabbatical from my job as Oxygen's fact checker to pursue an amazing volunteer opportunity in South East Asia. I'm headed to Thailand and Cambodia and beyond, where I'll be working with various NGOs (and soaking in the culture of course). This is the trip of my dreams and I can’t begin to describe how excited I am!
I made this pit stop in India, my home country, to prepare myself for my big trip, i.e. get spoiled by my family before I head out into the woods. Aside from the weather (40+ degrees every day), my stay here has been great so far, but the one thing that has stood out for me the most so far? The food! Although I have spent a lot of time in India throughout my life, never before have I paid such close attention to the culinary fare. With fruit and vegetable stalls, spice markets, street food vendors, and outdoor eateries (called dhabas) at every corner, you can't go anywhere in this country without encountering food in some form or the other.
Although there is no single cuisine or method of food preparation between the many regions of India, one cardinal rule seems to pervade throughout the country: all food must be as fresh and natural as possible. Every day, families go to great lengths to make sure that each and every morsel of food served in their households is carefully selected and freshly prepared. The kitchen is generally the busiest room in every home, where dough for bread is kneaded every day and homemade yogurt is set every night. And between the numerous relatives and friends that are always at your house, not a crumb goes to waste!
Another food revelation I’ve experienced this trip? I can’t help but notice how clean Indian food can be. Of course we do like our oil, sugar and butter (who doesn’t!?), but the majority of home-cooked meals in India are well-suited to the Oxygen lifestyle. A typical North Indian meal will comprise a selection of assorted seasonal vegetables, yogurt, beans and/or lentils, and a chicken or fish dish (in the South, most families follow a vegetarian diet). Although whole-wheat options haven’t quite taken off in terms of bread and rice, brown rice and whole wheat flour is readily available. My family already eats pretty clean as it is, but so far I have managed to convince everyone to swap white basmati rice for brown rice, skip the bread basket and ditch meat in favor of a vegetarian diet (I converted to a veggie lifestyle at the beginning of 2012). Fingers crossed, everyone seems to be pretty happy with their new way of eating!
India offers an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some of which I am encountering for the first time. I’ve always heard that elephants loved to eat something called jackfruit, but I never knew that this ‘fruit’ could be eaten as dinner. Known as kathal, the jackfruit’s juicy, meaty texture has earned it the nickname ‘vegetarian meat’ in some states. Kathal can be prepared in pulaos (pilafs) and curries, but at home we make it with tomatoes, ginger, garlic and spices. Rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium and iron, jackfruit is a wonderful source of energy, something that is badly needed in this brutal heat! To top it off, it’s low in calories and free of unhealthy fats and cholesterol, making it a waist-friendly option. Jackfruit aside, who would have thought that lotus flower could be edible? Kamal Kakri is prepared by cutting the stems of the lotus root diagonally and cooking it with garlic, canola oil, chili powder, sea salt and whole-wheat flour. Also low in calories, lotus root is packed with vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals, including iron, copper and zinc. With such an interesting texture and delicious flavor, this is one of my favorites. Last but not least, I’m sure you are all familiar with chutneys in Indian cuisine. My absolute favorite chutney is a coriander-based variety, one that I literally mix into every part of my dinner, even my yogurt! (just a warning, this is a bit of an acquired taste). This chutney is made by combining fresh coriander (or cilantro), mint leaves, ginger, garlic, onion, green mango (or lemon juice, if you can’t find any mango). Toss all of this in the blender until it reaches a smooth consistency, and you have yourself a nutritious savory sauce!
I love learning about new foods and my travels will hopefully provide me with many opportunities to discover more. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on what I find! In the mean time, care to share any of your favorite unconventional dishes? Or perhaps any food recommendations for me to try while in South East Asia! Can’t wait to hear!
Follow Oxygen editors as they share the insider information about Oxygen and what makes it the leader in women's fitness! You'll get even more of your favorite training, nutrition, fat loss and health tips and a daily dose of motivation! Join us!