Frying spices in oil brings out entirely different flavors than dry-roasting them. In this second part in our series on working with Indian spices, we look at how and why cooking spices in oil can have a major impact on the final dish.
Many of my friends, new to Indian food, think that it's all spice and fire. But that's not true. Sure, there are spices, but it's not all chili. It's cumin, cinnamon, cardamom; fragrant spices, robust ones, peppery ones. And they're used carefully and thoughtfully. Each has its own aroma and adds its own character to a dish. Today we're going to go through the basics of dry-roasting to help get the most out of those spices.
Clams are a great way to get into seafood stews and curries if you aren't quite ready to take the plunge into fish, and this stew, made with chilies, ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, and coconut, is a particularly good way to enjoy them.
This salad of crisp cabbage, carrots, and coconut is one of those Indian dishes that takes minimal effort, doesn't involve a whole range of spices, and is ready in minutes. Dressed in an infused oil, it's the perfect side dish for a meal of rice and chicken.
The delicate, sweet crab meat is a perfect contrast to the punch of the spices. Scoop out the delicious gravy with bread or mix it with some steamed rice for a wholesome dinner.
Chaas is an easy drink to prepare and makes you instantly forget the heaviness of a big meal. Black salt gives it a unique taste and, according to many, also packs in a host of health benefits.
The aroma of a good biryani is intoxicating as it cooks away slowly. Meat, spices, and the fragrant Basmati rice make it a hearty, robust, all-in-one meal.
A mix of fennel seeds, cinnamon, and dry bay leaf perfumes this basmati rice pilaf, releasing a comforting, delicious aroma that lingers long after the dish is done. And even though the recipe itself is simple and quick, its elegance and complex flavor profile impresses my guests without fail.
This particular dish is Anglo-Indian in origin. It envelops the tender braised meat (your choice of goat or lamb chops) in fresh breadcrumbs that turn crisp and crunchy as soon as they touch the sizzling hot pan.
Sorpotel, a dish originally brought to India during Portuguese colonization, is a deliciously spicy and tangy stew of pork, liver, spices, and vinegar that only gets better with time.
Nadan Khozi is an aromatic chicken dish from Kerala, in southern India. Lightly roasted spices are blended together and gently simmered in coconut milk to give this dish a delicate smoky flavor.
Where there's a curry, there's usually a rice or roti preparation that's used to soak in or scoop up the flavorful sauce; in India's rice belt, bread made out of rice flour is common. Because it's unleavened, it can be made in just a matter of minutes—a few ingredients kneaded together, a little heat, and it's done. Bhakri, or rice bread, is rustic food at its best.
Easy to make and easier to eat, this flattened rice snack is an Indian pantry staple. It's light and packed with flavor, making it a great, wholesome substitute for chips and dips.
This hot and fragrant masala is easy to make and a wonderfully unique preparation of squid.
Mild from the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and aromatic from the whole spices used, the Moilee is a delicate introduction to the distinctive flavors of the coastal Indian state of Kerala.
Lime rice is one of those quick recipes that turns a boring leftover into a delicious dinner with minimal effort. You can have this dish by itself or served with poppadums. It's light, hearty, and has a wonderful mix of tangy and crunchy elements.
Idlis are soft rice and lentil cakes that are a favorite nutritious breakfast dish in most parts of India. They're mild in flavor and can be had with a variety of accompaniments.
Tart tamarind and mild, tender fish are a classic pairing in Indian cuisine. Here, the fruit provides a welcome contrast to a spice blend of coriander, chili powder, cumin, fennel seeds, and turmeric. Though the amount of tamarind might initially seem excessive, the sourness actually mellows as the curry simmers, the sauce greedily absorbed by a finishing addition of fluffy white rice.
Chutneys come in various forms in India. This green sandwich chutney is mildly spiced and slightly piquant, the perfect spread for a quick vegetable or chicken sandwich.
Hearty and full of flavor, chole—Indian chickpeas in a spiced gravy—is a delicious meal by itself. Each region has its own unique version of this dish and the Punjabis arguably make one of the finest dishes out of this humble legume.
Poppadoms are an Indian staple made from little more than flour, water, and spices. Roasted, toasted, fried, or sun-dried, the thin, flavorful crisps make for a quick, healthy snack or side.
If, like me, you love rice and have a soft spot for seafood, you're bound to find this dish irresistible. It uses a host of whole spices that create a wonderfully heady aroma. Kolambi Bhaat literally translates to shrimp pilaf; it's an especially popular meal along India's west coast, where there's an abundant supply of fresh seafood.
There's nothing quite like a glass of chilled Panha to lift your spirits on a hot, muggy day. This raw mango concentrate can be stored for up to a month in the refrigerator and made on demand by simply diluting it with water. Sweet, sour, and instantly refreshing, it's a delicious use for mangoes before they fully ripen.
Thick and creamy mango-flavored yogurt, seasoned with a pinch of saffron.
Not many things can get me out of bed on a Sunday. This masala omelet, though, seems to have a strange magnetic pull for me come breakfast time. I love how a few simple ingredients become such a fulfilling meal. Vegetables are incorporated into the eggs while whisking, with some spices thrown in for good measure. After a few minutes on a hot pan, you have a delicious omelet that packs quite a punch.
The aroma of a good biryani is intoxicating as it cooks away slowly. Meat, spices and the fragrant Basmati rice make it a hearty, robust, all-in-one meal.
If you like pork and offal, there's no looking back from this dish. Pork Sorpotel is a tangy, spicy preparation that tastes even better the next day.
Chicken Ghee Roast has nothing to do with an oven, but 'roast' is a term that is used quite loosely in the south of India to describe a dry dish which uses more of a braising technique. The ghee adds huge amounts of flavor to this dish which is simply finger-licking awesome.
If you're wondering what to do with leftover rice, the answer is Fodni Bhaat. It's a no fuss, few ingredient boost to last night's dinner. Many homes in India have it for breakfast, but you can just as easily make it for lunch or dinner.
[Photographs: Donna Currie] You can use this shaping method with the bread of your choice, but it can't be too wet—it needs to hold its shape. And you don't want something that will have a massive amount of oven spring...
The potato gets a good workout in Indian cuisine. Our kitchens will always have a steady supply of them. It's part of the grocery list: milk, bread, and a kilo of potatoes. There are tons of dishes we make out of the humble spud; this is one of my favorite potato sides.
I've shared my opinion on pizza toppings here already but the real question is, what does resident tasting expert and Serious Eats Puppy-At-Large Hambone like on his pies?
Basic Indian fried fish is very simple to make and totally delicious. There are variations from region to region, but one I personally enjoy is this simple Bangda (mackerel) Fry. It employs just five ingredients and gives great results each time. Even if you don't have to haggle with the fishmonger.
Yes, it's the moment you've all been waiting for: PUPPY TIME. Please welcome three-month-old, shar-pei/pug mix (shar-pug!) Hambone Nugget Mondongo Altez to the Serious Eats family. If you ever sense a lack of attention being paid to the site, it's probably because Hambone is distracting us with his soft rolls of fuzzly skin and nonstop-wagging tail and meltingly warm eyes. Some other stuff happened...maybe...[stares at Hambone]...wait, what?...yeah.
If you've only ever known mayonnaise in the form of the quivering jellyish stuff that comes in the jars with the blue lid, you're doing yourself a disservice. Like switching from briefs to boxers or walking to Mordor, trying homemade mayonnaise is the kind of thing that will forever change your life (or at the very least, your sandwiches). Today, we do it in 2 minutes or less, with a 100% success rate.
If Indian food is just chicken tikka and biryani to you, then please keep reading. In India, food varies from region to region, home to home, and religion to religion. And it's not all spicy and complicated. Most Indian food is surprisingly simple to make and very, very rewarding to eat. In this new Indian cooking column, I'd like to introduce you to the real food we cook and eat at home. For starters, khichdi, a sort of one-pot comfort meal of rice, lentils and vegetables.