Indian cuisine is one of the most diverse and flavorful in the world. From rich curries to spicy street food, Indian food has captured the hearts (and stomachs) of people all over the globe. But for those who want to explore beyond their local Indian restaurants, picking up a cookbook is the best place to start. Here, we’ll delve into the rich history, regional variations, and key ingredients that make up Indian cuisine. We’ll also recommend the top cookbooks for beginners, vegetarians, and those interested in exploring Indian street food and snacks.
Understanding the Richness of Indian Cuisine
Before we dive into the cookbooks, it’s important to understand just how diverse Indian cuisine is. With 29 states and seven union territories, India is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Each region has its own specialty dishes, cooking techniques, and flavor profiles. From the creamy, nutty curries of the north to the fiery, coconut-based curries of the south, every region has something unique to offer.
The History of Indian Cooking
Indian cuisine has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that Indians were using spices like black pepper and ginger as early as 3000 BCE. As trade routes opened up, Indian spices became highly sought-after commodities, with many foreign rulers trying to lay claim to them. Indian cuisine also saw significant influences from Persia, Greece, Turkey, and Mongolia, with each invasion bringing in new ingredients and cooking styles to the Indian kitchen.
Indian cooking techniques have also evolved over time. One of the most distinctive techniques is tandoori cooking, where meats and vegetables are cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor. This method of cooking gives dishes a unique smoky flavor that is hard to replicate using other methods.
Regional Variations in Indian Cuisine
As mentioned earlier, Indian cuisine is characterized by its regional variations. In the north, dishes tend to be richer and heavier, with a focus on flatbreads like naan and roti. Popular dishes in the north include butter chicken, paneer tikka, and chole bhature. In the south, rice is a staple, and dishes are often spicier and coconut-based. Some popular dishes from the south include dosa, idli, and sambar. In the west, seafood takes center stage, with dishes like fish curry and shrimp masala being popular. The east is known for its sweets and desserts, with dishes like rasgulla and sandesh being famous throughout India.
Key Ingredients and Spices in Indian Dishes
Indian cuisine relies heavily on spices and herbs to create its signature flavor. Some of the most common spices used in Indian cooking include cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, and curry leaves also play an important role. Other key ingredients include lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, and a variety of vegetables and fruits like eggplant, okra, and mangoes.
One of the most important ingredients in Indian cuisine is ghee, a type of clarified butter that is used in many dishes. Ghee is made by heating butter until the milk solids separate from the fat, which is then strained off. The resulting golden liquid has a nutty flavor and is a staple in many Indian households.
Another popular ingredient in Indian cooking is paneer, a type of fresh cheese that is similar to cottage cheese. Paneer is often used in vegetarian dishes and is a great source of protein. It is made by curdling milk with an acidic agent like lemon juice or vinegar, then straining off the liquid and pressing the curds into a block.
Overall, Indian cuisine is a complex and diverse culinary tradition that is rich in history and flavor. Whether you’re a fan of spicy curries or sweet desserts, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Indian cooking.
Top Indian Cookbooks for Beginners
If you’re new to Indian cooking, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. The good news is that there are many fantastic cookbooks out there that can help guide you on your culinary journey. Here are three cookbooks that are great for beginners:
“Indian Cooking Unfolded” by Raghavan Iyer
This cookbook is a great introduction to Indian cooking. It provides step-by-step instructions for classic Indian dishes like butter chicken and chana masala. The book is especially helpful for beginners because it includes detailed illustrations that show you exactly what to do at each step of the cooking process. In addition to the recipes, the book also includes helpful tips on ingredient substitutions and cooking techniques. Whether you’re a total novice or an experienced cook looking to expand your repertoire, “Indian Cooking Unfolded” is a great choice.
“Made in India” by Meera Sodha
If you’re interested in exploring vegetarian Indian cooking, “Made in India” is a fantastic cookbook to check out. The book features over 130 recipes that showcase the versatility and flavor of Indian vegetarian cuisine. From hearty lentil stews to crispy vegetable fritters, there’s something for everyone in this book. In addition to the recipes, “Made in India” also includes helpful sections on cooking techniques and ingredient substitutions. Whether you’re a committed vegetarian or simply looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet, this cookbook is sure to inspire you in the kitchen.
“The Indian Cookery Course” by Monisha Bharadwaj
If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to Indian cooking, “The Indian Cookery Course” is an excellent choice. This cookbook covers everything from basic techniques to advanced recipes, making it a great resource for both beginners and more experienced cooks. In addition to the recipes, the book also includes helpful sections on culinary history, ingredient profiles, and cooking tips and tricks. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the regional cuisines of India or simply looking to expand your cooking skills, “The Indian Cookery Course” is an invaluable resource.
Overall, these three cookbooks are fantastic resources for anyone looking to explore the world of Indian cooking. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cook, there’s something for everyone in these pages. So why not pick up a copy today and start cooking?
Best Indian Cookbooks for Vegetarians and Vegans
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, Indian cooking is a great option. Many Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian or can be adapted to be vegan-friendly. Here are three cookbooks that cater to the vegetarian and vegan crowd:
“Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen” by Richa Hingle
This cookbook features over 150 vegan Indian recipes that are both flavorful and easy to make. The book includes sections on spice blends, chutneys, and sauces, as well as helpful tips for stocking your pantry.
One of the standout recipes in this cookbook is the vegan butter chicken. Made with soy curls instead of chicken, this dish is just as rich and flavorful as the original. The cookbook also includes a recipe for vegan naan bread, which pairs perfectly with the butter chicken.
In addition to the recipes, “Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen” also includes beautiful photographs of the dishes, which will make your mouth water and inspire you to get cooking.
“The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook” by Pushpesh Pant
This cookbook is a great resource for vegetarian Indian cooking. It features over 200 recipes that range from simple starters to complex mains. The book also includes sections on basic techniques, ingredient profiles, and garnishing and presentation tips.
One of the standout recipes in this cookbook is the paneer tikka masala. Paneer, a type of Indian cheese, is marinated in a spiced yogurt mixture and then grilled until charred and smoky. The paneer is then simmered in a creamy tomato-based sauce until it’s tender and flavorful.
In addition to the recipes, “The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook” also includes a glossary of Indian ingredients and spices, which will help you navigate the world of Indian cooking with ease.
“Prashad at Home” by Kaushy Patel
This cookbook is inspired by the author’s own vegetarian restaurant in the UK. It features over 100 vegetarian Indian recipes that are both delicious and easy to make. The book also includes helpful sections on basic techniques and ingredient substitutions.
One of the standout recipes in this cookbook is the aloo gobi, a classic Indian dish made with potatoes and cauliflower. The dish is flavored with a blend of spices and herbs, including cumin, coriander, and turmeric. The result is a fragrant and comforting dish that’s perfect for a cozy night in.
In addition to the recipes, “Prashad at Home” also includes stories and anecdotes from the author’s restaurant, which will give you a glimpse into the world of running a successful vegetarian restaurant.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner in the kitchen, these three cookbooks will inspire you to try new flavors and techniques in your cooking. With their easy-to-follow recipes and helpful tips, you’ll be whipping up delicious vegetarian and vegan Indian dishes in no time.
Exploring Indian Street Food and Snacks
Indian street food and snacks are a vibrant and flavorful part of Indian cuisine. The bustling streets of India are lined with vendors selling a variety of snacks and street foods that are popular among locals and tourists alike. These foods are not only delicious, but also provide a glimpse into the rich culinary culture of India. If you’re looking to explore the exciting world of Indian street food and snacks, here are three cookbooks that you should definitely check out:
“Chai, Chaat & Chutney” by Chetna Makan
This cookbook is a treasure trove of over 100 street food recipes from all over India. From the crispy and savory samosas to the tangy and spicy chaat, this book has it all. The recipes are easy to follow and the book also includes sections on spices, chutneys, and drinks that are commonly used in Indian street food.
If you’re new to Indian cuisine, the book provides a great introduction to the various flavors and ingredients that are used in Indian cooking. The author, Chetna Makan, is a former contestant on The Great British Bake Off and her passion for cooking and love for Indian street food is evident in this cookbook.
You can find this book here.
“Indian Street Food” by Raghavan Iyer
This cookbook is a comprehensive guide to Indian street food and features over 140 recipes that showcase the diversity and flavor of Indian street food. The book includes recipes for popular street foods like vada pav, pav bhaji, and kathi rolls, as well as lesser-known dishes like bhel puri, dabeli, and khandvi.
Each recipe is accompanied by a brief background on the dish and tips for sourcing ingredients. The book also includes a glossary of commonly used ingredients and techniques, making it a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about Indian cuisine.
“The Art of Indian Snacks” by Smita Chandra
If you’re a fan of snacking, then this cookbook is a must-have. Dedicated entirely to Indian snacks, this book features over 150 recipes that range from savory to sweet. The book includes recipes for popular snacks like samosas, pakoras, and kachoris, as well as lesser-known snacks like mathri, khakhra, and namak pare.
The book also includes sections on basic techniques, ingredient substitutions, and presentation tips for hosting your own Indian snack party. The author, Smita Chandra, is a renowned chef and food writer who has a deep understanding of Indian cuisine and culture.
Overall, these three cookbooks are a great way to explore the exciting world of Indian street food and snacks. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, these books provide a great introduction to the rich and diverse culinary culture of India.
Indian cuisine is a world of flavor and spice waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cook, there’s a cookbook out there for you. From classic curries to vegetarian delights to street food snacks, there’s something for everyone. So pick up a cookbook, head to the kitchen, and discover the deliciousness of Indian home-cooked meals.
What are the staples of Indian cuisine?
Some of the most commonly used ingredients in India are Garam masala, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, tamarind, bay leaves, and chili powder.
Is it better to cook Indian or get Indian takeout?
If you’re looking for healthy meals, cooking yourself will always be healthier than eating out. If you’re on a diet or suffering from food intolerances it’s harder to understand what you’re ingesting if you don’t make the food. Takeaway restaurants often use huge amounts of sugar, fat, or processed sauces.
What are the most popular Indian meals?
Samosa, masala, biryani, naan bread, tandoori chicken or fish, dal soup, and aloo gobi are all popular meals from India.