Indian cuisine often has the reputation of being greasy or unhealthy but this is very far from the truth. All regional cuisines are based on seasonal, healthy ingredients for the most part and if you cook heirloom recipes – recipes that your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents used – you’ll be much better off. Because they had limited or no access to junk food or food with preservatives, and thus, their cooking was much more pure. Also, it is essential to remember that we have indigenous medicine systems in India, such as Ayurveda, or Unani, which are ancient and full of wisdom, so heirloom recipes are often reflective of those wellness principles.
That said, please do not subscribe to food myths that are based on superstition. If you are unsure, check with a doctor or a nutritionist.
For Indian food, we tend to heat the oil for a tadka, so homemade or organic ghee is your safest cooking medium. A good ghee is full of nutrients and you don’t need to use too much of it, because it heats fast and is full of flavor. Do not use tablespoons of ghee in the tadka, or to drizzle on the food, because too much use of even a good fat is not recommended. A teaspoon or less is more than sufficient.
The most common cooking oils in Indian cuisine are mustard, sesame, peanut and coconut. These days, you can get cold-pressed, organic versions of all these oils, and I always recommend you purchase those. They are not more expensive, and you need to use very little, so they actually last you longer.
Olive oil is not a good option for cooking Indian food, but you can use a cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings, or to drizzle on pasta.
If you are making an Asian meal, sesame or peanut oils are your best bets. To cook sauce for pasta, use a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
Fat is not bad for you at all. A good fat has several benefits and the body needs it to stay healthy. In my household, we believe in this principle wholeheartedly. I use a healthy ghee, and a cold-pressed organic oil to prepare our daily meals in.
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