Not one homogenous food landscape

May 21, 2007

Indian cuisine is SUCH a misnomer!

For a country that has arid deserts on the one hand, lush reclaimed watery deltas on the other, an alpine north and coconut groves in the south, the range of ingredients available is enough to make you pray for several re-in carnations.No wonder then, that Indian Cuisine is a convenient single blanket used to cover a multitude of tastes and flavors, cooking styles, spice quotients and disparate eating styles that could qualify as entire cuisines in their own right.And neophytes to the subcontinent assume that the blanket oozes spice, hot spice, and that nothing is Indian unless you are rendered lachrymose while consuming it.NOT SO,AS WE KNOW!  It is virtually impossible, from my personal experience, of achieving an optimal level of spiciness when you serve Indian cuisine. It all depends on what your guests have experienced in their initiation into Indian food. Some diners are looking to having their tongues singed, and some shrivel at the mere sight of a peppercorn. Somewhere along the way, one finds that Golden Mean, believe me.  I have learned to always have a small glass bowl of chopped or whole green chillies on the table for insatiable hot and spicy lovers. In Los Angeles, for the first time I saw ground Cayenne pepper at an Indian grocery in grades of hot, hotter hottest. And, I said to myself, Bah! Humbug. This must be for Americans, not for us Indians. And I took the hottest bottle home, to my detriment, of course. I ruined a couple of roghanjosh attempts before I realized the labels were serious. Just a pinch of cayenne pepper was enough where a tablespoon of the regular variety was required. But something was lost in the translation. The roghanjosh was hot without personality and we have all met enough people like that to know that that is not what we want. So, next time I went back to buy a venerable cayenne pepper that added taste as well as heat. I am traveling now but shall start sharing recipes with you ASAP.

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