So I’m a really picky eater. I’m ashamed of this, but it’s the truth. I’m really cautious around new food that looks unfamiliar to me. If I wasn’t Indian, I probably would be hesitant to try Indian food. This being said, it’s a really good thing I’m Indian, because if I wasn’t, my pickiness would be holding me back from some serious deliciousness.
For those who are in the cautious-boat, I’m going to try to help you out. I’ve put together a small collection of popular favorite eats of where I’m from, and broken them down into what they’re actually made of; what gives them their color, the textures, etc. Hopefully this’ll help lessen the intimidation factor, and you can get off the cautious-boat and into the….better boat…where people…eat things. Trust me, it’s better, okay? It’s definitly the better boat.
Matar-peas. Paneer-cheese. Matar+Paneer=land of intense yum.
I tried to pick the picture that looked most home made. The more awkwarly-perfect squares the paneer is cut into, the less authentic the dish. For some reason, the combination of peas and fried cheese is quite possibly one of the most pallete-pleasing combinations on the planet. The foundation for most Indian dishes is tomatoes, onion, and garlic. That’s what the mushy stuff between the Matar and Paneer is. If you really want to go all out, add a dash of heavy cream to the mixture and prepare to be in bliss. The leafy looking things on top of the meal is probably basil or something like that. The reddish orange color is from the tomatoes, but also from a dye that is often put into Indian food: haldi. Or in English, Tumeric. It doesn’t really have a taste, but it adds color. Tumeric is also supposed to reduce your risk for cancer and a bunch of other amazing things. You really can’t lose.
Okay. Gulab Jamun. This is basically deep-fried dough that’s been soaked in this sugary syrup. They’re warm and soft and had the people in my surrounding area drooling as I was looking up a picture of them. The girl to my right was Indian, so I wasn’t suprised that she was familiar with them. The guy to my right, though, (who has a cool blog right here) is Egyptian. And he to is familiar with the deliciousness of gulab jamun. He said that for a while he didn’t like them to much because they were too sweet for him, but then he had some that were perfectly prepared and he loved them. Too sweet is pretty common among Indian desserts. If you ever encounter a sugar-loaded desi morsel, don’t give up on whatever it is you’re eating! Just hold out until you can find one that isn’t too sweet for you, and then send out your save-the-dates. Because you will have just fallen in love with the one.
Dosas: Dosas. Oh dosas. Dosas are thin, softish-crispyish bread. They are totally south-indian, but are so delicious that they’ve become popular all over India. My grandma is an expert in dosa-making, and she’s as Punjabi as it gets. Dosas are made out of rice batter, which is something that I don’t actually know what it is. But what I do know is that you take the batter and lightly pour it onto your pan and it acts like no other dough. It doesn’t fluff up but forms tiny air bubbles all over its surface. It’s pretty tricky to make a good dosa. The batter is tempermental, and you have to keep them thin. But once you’ve got it down, be prepared–crepes!! Sorry, I just remembered that that’s what a dosa is like: a crepe. Incase that helps you imagine it. So back to what I was saying.
Be prepared for a meal that will warm you straight down to your toes. You can have dosas sada (plain) or masala (with potatoes wrapped in the dosa0. Or like a hundred other ways if you go to a restaurant. But anyway you have it, I suggest eating it with sambar. Sambar is a soup-y sort of dip with chunky vegetables in it. I love sambar. Even just hearing the word puts me in this happy, calm mindset.
Sambar looks something like this:
So I’ve talked about three foods…I was kind of thinking I’d be talking about more…but we’re at 700+ words so it’s probably time to wrap this up. Also my stomach is going to start making people think a lion escaped from the local zoo. But I think three is good for now; not overwhelming to those who are in the cautious boat. If you are super-picky, I’d probably recommend out of all of these that you try a dosa first. They’re pretty clean and crisp and mild to the wary pallete.
Please don’t be afraid to try Indian food, because you’re missing out so much. I should probably take that advice with other foods. So we’re in this together. I’ll start trying to eat new foods, and maybe you can explore some of this stuff. Have fun, and good luck to us both!