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News: How much chilli? - 4th April, 2015
I heard from a reader today; "the ingredients only contain a 1/4 tsp of chilli powder which will not add a lot. I think the ingredients and instructions are wrong”. I have heard this so many times before here in UK; "this can’t be Indian, it has hardly any ‘heat’ in it" or words to that effect!
It is surprising that even after so many genuine Indian restaurants opening up in UK in recent years, people still think that good Indian food is same as a typical curry house food or the food they buy ready made from supermarkets in UK! It is true that many Indian dishes require a lot of spices, but not all. It is also true that people from all regions of India do not eat very hot food.
My take on the Indian cooking is to get the best ingredients you can afford and use the most suitable, fresh spices to cook it. It is a myth that spices cover ‘bad’ meat or other ingredients. If you use fresh spices, you don’t have to use huge amounts or drown your dish in a lot of chillies.
Jhal, Vindaloo and Phal like dishes are not even heard of in most of India.
My mother, who was a great vegetarian cook in her days and had many parties at our home, didn't often add any chillies at all to a dish and still produced superb, aromatic food. Whenever she had a new cook, she taught them to cook food simply and with care not covered in HOT spices.
My mother in-law on the other hand, another great vegetarian cook, specialised in very hot and equally delicious food. She didn't eat garlic and onions, but still managed to cook superb food, often even better than my mother.
So another myth that all Indian 'curries' start with onion, ginger, garlic and tomatoes is also not true.
Remember that there are many fragrant spices other than chillies and black pepper, heat is not everything.
When your main ingredients are fresh, you must not drown their natural flavours and taste in spices. If you need a mild dish to be hot, add more chillies or garam masala than the recipe suggests by all means, but don’t drown everything in HEAT!
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