Just like in every culture, food in a large quantity or made with high calorie ingredients can be fattening.  It is up to each person to control what goes into his/her mouth.

 

Too much oil or butter makes all food fattening.

Too much oil or butter makes all food fattening.

I do believe the Indian food that is served in most restaurants is more fattening than that prepared at home. They have adapted the original recipes their mothers cooked at home so they will be pleasing to American tastes; they have adjusted the amount of oil, fat and other ingredients. Indian restaurants do not have a monopoly on this ‘benefit;’ all restaurants want consumers to love what they serve so they will earn repeat business.

 

At home, I feel free to modify recipes to suit my dietary needs. I cut oil, cream, butter and cheese, and increase the amount of vegetables and spice all the time. I use reduced fat milk or yogurt instead of cream. I do this with every recipe I make independent of origin.

 

Since so many Indian recipes are vegetarian, they are made with healthy lentils and vegetables that are not fattening. The non-veg (those with meat) recipes use less meat per serving than in the U.S. since meat is expensive in India and meat dishes are just one of many served at a meal.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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Most Indians are vegetarians but many also eat meat. Of the non-vegetarians, Hindus don’t eat beef since cows are sacred to them but Muslim and Christian Indians do eat beef. There are so many delicious Indian recipes for chicken, seafood, lamb and beef that you don’t have to repeat meal for months.


Even a meat eater can enjoy Indian vegetarian dishes. Remember the food pyramid or the new Obama nutritional plate that says half of your dietary intake should be fruits and vegetables, your protein should include beans and your meat portions should be lean and small. This is a perfect match for an Indian food diet. 

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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Unlike when I started cooking Indian food more than 25 years ago, Indian spices and most ingredients are available in most large grocery stores, Indian grocery stores can be found in most cities across the country for unique vegetables, and online stores provide immediate access to spices and cooking equipment.

 

The best-kept secret about Indian recipes is that they are flexible and substitutions are okay. Recipes like Thorans, Ericherrys, Kichadis, etc., come in many different flavors by changing out the main ingredient. Follow my motto when cooking Indian recipes: make substitutions and be creative.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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When I first started cooking Indian food, I had to learn the techniques over time by myself. It did seem intimidating at first because of all of the preparatory chopping, grinding and roasting. After a while I learned to see patterns in recipes that allowed me to consolidate activities across several recipes like chopping all of the onions and garlic at once or grinding all of the spices at once. There is an underlying set of rules as to when spices are added to recipes and how they are prepared.

 

After some time I learned that cooking Indian food recipe is no more complicated than a French, Italian or American recipe. If you prepare some of the recipes in my Indian cookbook, Kachi’s Kitchen, the recipes have been written in such a way that they are easier to follow for a Western cook.

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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Indian food has become very popular in the U.S. with more and more restaurants, prepared food products, cooking classes and grocery stores popping up everywhere. Mystique still surrounds its preparation. Misconceptions still abound as to its flavor, healthiness and complexity.

 

I recently conducted an informal survey of the first response people had when asked about Indian food; the responses were enlightening. They concentrated in two camps: the group of people who loves the exotic flavors, and the group that has not tried or is uncertain about Indian food. I found the responses of the latter group absolutely fascinating so I immediately decided to put them together into one list and try to clear up any misconceptions.

 

The only way to change these misconceptions is to immerse yourself in tasting and cooking Indian food. Over the next 10 days, I will share with you what I have learned and my thoughts on the topics.

Misconception #1 about Indian Cooking: Indian food is hot.

 

Indian red chile powder and green chiles.

Indian red chile powder and green chiles.


I always laugh when I hear this. Yes, some Indian food is not only hot but very hot – an example is the North Indian Pork Vindaloo dish.
Some dishes are hot but, in my opinion, as you cook them at home or order them in a restaurant, the heat can easily be adjusted or omitted to satisfy every palate. In fact, many Indian recipes are not hot at all and these tend to be my favorites.
 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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Food truck dining is the new trend in DFW and around the country. Dallas already has over 50 trucks cruising the city; Fort Worth’s trucks are expected to triple this year from the current 160 (plus). They don’t serve the cheap food of yesterday but serve top quality, international gourmet cuisine.

 

Many trucks drive from location to location stopping for a few hours to serve their dedicated followers, however, special food truck parks are being built so the trucks can stay in one place and build loyal followings. Dallas offers two parks, in the Arts District and in Heritage Village, where trucks can park for extended hours; Cowtown Chow Down has recently opened in Fort Worth. I expect to hear of many more locations in the near future.

 

The surprising part is the diversity of food. It is not just hot dogs, sandwiches and tacos any more. Each truck specializes in a unique cuisine, from Cuban food to designer cupcakes.

 

I have heard about this phenomenon in the news over the last year but have not really paid much attention until I was in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago.

 

Now I will get to the topic of this post…

 

Last week in Austin, I drove by a food truck called “Naan Stop.” I was amused by the cute name (and colorfully painted truck) but I was awed by the fact that it served Indian food! Of course that shouldn’t be surprising since Austin is a college town with many international students. Open for just one year, it seems to have become popular with the locals.

Naan Stop food truck in Austin, TX serves up Indian specialties.

Naan Stop food truck in Austin, TX serves up Indian specialties.

 

Unfortunately Naan Stop was closed when I drove by. I was able to pull off the road and snap a photo of the truck. If you are in Austin, please check out the food and let me know what you think! (I will have to make a return visit to check this out.) The menu is posted on their website. The website needs more work but the menu contains popular dishes like Samosas, Chicken and Paneer Tikka Masala and Channa Masala. Some of the appetizers are intriguing: Potato Chip Chaat and Chhat Bitat (with French Fries).

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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During a recent trip to the wine region in the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg, I had the opportunity to visit two wineries.
 

Becker Vineyards sign at front gate

Becker Vineyards sign at front gate

 

The first vineyard we visited was Becker Vineyards. It is situated right off the highway on a beautiful piece of land on which grapes and lavender are grown. We were welcomed in the tasting room by Henri de Lobbe, a French speaking tasting room sales representative originally from Morocco, who shared his knowledge and love of Becker wines as well as stories of his life as he poured tastes into lovely monogrammed glasses. I have to admit that I was happily surprised by the quality of the wines included in the tasting. The last time I tasted Becker wines was in 1997 and I thought they were average and lacked the dimensionality that one gets with a French or California wine. In the last ten years Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, has been very good to Becker Vineyards whose wines are largely made from grapes grown in Texas.

 

Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, TX, offers well priced wine for Indian food.

Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, TX, offers well priced wine for Indian food.

 

I was quite impressed with the consistently good taste of the wine list. Becker offers two Napa quality cabernets sauvignons but boasts an impressive array of varietals and some of my favorite Becker wines would pair well with Indian food. Usually I find only one or two white wines at a winery that I like. We started our tasting with the 2011 Pinot Grigio. Since this is such a light wine (and I tend to prefer reds) I thought about skipping it at first. I’m glad I tried it since I think it would be delightful with shellfish such as my Shrimp Avinasi recipe.

 

When we moved on to try the reds, I continued to be impressed. Not a bad wine in the bunch! I tasted the 2010 Culinaria, made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes, which I believe would be wonderful with game.

 

My favorites included the ‘09 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Canada Family Vineyard and the ‘10 Raven, which is a blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes.

 

I have saved the best news for last: these wines are priced for everyday enjoyment between $15 and $20 per bottle. 

Grapes for wine making.

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

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As I was passing through London on my way to Barcelona for spring break, I happened to pick up a copy of the Sunday Mirror to read during the flight. I was intrigued when I turned to page 23 and read “VINDALOH!” This title was extremely effective at grabbing my attention to read the following article.

British Home Minister Loves Indian Food

British Home Minister Loves Indian Food

It was an article about the Home Secretary, Theresa May (born in Sussex to a clergyman in the Church of England and his wife) who loves Indian food so much that she opened her own “curry house.” I find it amusing that British people are so addicted to Indian food that they open their own restaurants to get it. Since one of her hobbies is cooking, I suppose it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine her opening a restaurant.

Does this mean that there might be a “Kachi’s Kitchen Restaurant” opening in north Texas in the not too distant future?

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Thali meals are very popular in North India and Tamil Nadu but not in Kerala. The word thali has two meanings. The first is a flat stainless steel plate that is about 18 inches in diameter. The second is the meal is served on this plate that contains about 10 khaturis. Khaturis are small stainless steel bowls that are about 2 inches in diameter. They arranged in a semicircle along one edge of a thali plate. The items, which are all vegetarian, served in the khaturis includes Sambar, Kootu Curry, Poriyal, Dal, Rasam, Yogurt, Pickle, Paysam, a sweet and Vathal (fry-ems). Some restaurants offer a large thali meal which includes a larger number of items.

 

Waiters in restaurants serve the thali plates with the khaturis filled with the traditional South Indian specialties. For two people they bring them one in each hand but if there are many people, they may stack them on top of each other. This is an impressive sight! Sometimes they wheel them out of the kitchen on a cart so nothing is spilled or dropped. In contrast, very casual restaurants, like Saravana Bhavan in Chennai, serve thali on trays made of melamine that remind me of the ones the cafeteria used when I was in school.

 
 

Thali meal served at a casual restaurant in Chennai.

Thali meal served at a casual restaurant in Chennai.


 

After the plates are set on the table, you set all of the khaturis just outside the thali plate. This makes room for the waiter to serve the rice, Chapatis or Puris depending on what was ordered. This is an all-you-can-eat meal in that the waiters refill any empty khaturis until you have finished eating.

 

The cost for one of these meals in a good restaurant in India is about 60 rupees or more. A feature of fine dining that has been forgotten in the U.S. is the use of finger bowls with a slice of lemon. All restaurants offer them before and after the meal.

 

While in Chennai, we had a driver take us to all of the sites and shops. With the crazy traffic (see my post from 10/24/11), it was safer and more expedient to leave the driving to someone who knew the streets. For lunch, Kumar ordered the large thali meal every day he was with us. 

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I eat Indian food several times every week. I cook Indian food every week. With my love of and addiction to Indian food I never thought I would say, “thank goodness for Dominos.” But this summer I came to the conclusion that I love the variety that we eat in the U.S. Let me tell you how I reached this point.

 

While my family and I traveled extensively around India last summer, we visited many fabulous 5-star restaurants and gorged ourselves with the specialties of the house. Of course, the food was out of this world. We also ate at inexpensive everyday restaurants. There, we ate more than our share as well since we didn’t have to worry about our trip budget. We ordered more than we needed so we could taste the chef’s specialties and get ideas for new recipes. Not to be out done, Kachi had spent weeks planning delicious meals in anticipation of our arrival. Consequently, we ate a lot of Indian food.

 

At the end of our trip, my son, the beefeater, reached his limit of Eggplant Curry, Fish Molee and Sambar. In all honesty, I was reaching my limit too.

 

My son was in luck. Just down the street from Kachi’s apartment at the intersection with the main road, a Domino’s Pizza store had been built since my last visit, just a 5-minute walk from home. Adapting to local culture the menu had a large selection of vegetarian pizzas but it had some with chicken – no pepperoni or sausage in sight. After we called in our order, the pizzas were delivered promptly. The pizza came with small packets of crushed red pepper and oregano but no Parmesan. Still, I was impressed with the taste and quality of the pizzas; it was just like we would get at home. Everyone seemed to gorge on the taste of home and the pizzas disappeared within minutes. They tasted like ambrosia.

 

All I could say that evening was “thank goodness for Dominos.”  

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