Recently I got a chance to have a crash course in Indian cooking. I learned so much! For example, I learned how to make that fantastic delicious kind of faintly threatening looking red oil that appears on thai food, some chinese food, and some indian food. Also, I learned how to gauge whether a dish was fully cooked based on how much water the onions have released. Finally, I learned that oregano type seeds simmered in oil can help a colicky baby!
In the past when I have attempted Indian food it always came out tasting somewhat…dusty. I think this is attributed to using too much spice. I fell into the error of thinking since the food had to be spicy, I would use a lot of spice. By being a little more reserved you can really taste the flavors. I was also confused since nearly all dishes use identical spices and ingredients how they could taste so different. Thankfully I was clued in to the Indian Spice Color Wheel. These are the five colors of spices:
1. Yellow. Turmeric. This has cancer fighting properties (which I think) is why I always used to much of it haha. Can’t cure cancer if it is too gross to eat. I was repeatedly reminded that the color of the dish is important so sometimes turmeric may be used to enhance color.
2. White. Salt. Even for a huge dish the most used was 2 teaspoons.
3. Red Chili Powder. For heat, but also for color.
4. Light Brown. Cumin/Coriander. One of my favorite flavors, I have definitely been too heavy handed at times.
5. Dark brown. Garam Masala. “Hot/heat spices.” This mixture of spices includes cloves, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and peppercorns. It is not actually very spicy. The name rather refers to the intensity of the flavor. From what I have heard it does not store well. Also, apparently it is important not to add garam masala until the very end of cooking as overcooking it produces a bitter flavor.
I think this is just the coolest way to get the base ingredients down since any combination of the above is likely to produce a classic flavor. I am excited to start experimenting!