The Truth about Indian Cuisine

Only 23-37% of Indian people are vegetarian, an immense percentage compared to other countries; however, the rest of the population consumes meat regularly.

Franco Salzillo

Indian cuisine is one of the most widespread worldwide, but it’s still underrepresented — the world hasn’t seen a fraction of what the country brings to the table regarding flavor and complexity. 

Interestingly, as more people familiarize themselves with Indian food, myths and half-truths surrounding the category become more prevalent. Indian food is extraordinary, but it might not be what you think in terms of spiciness, health and variety. Let’s discuss five common topics about Indian cuisine and set things straight. 

1. Indian Food is Not As Vegetarian as You Think

There’s no doubt Indian food has one of the largest collections of plant- and legume-based dishes in the world. We can’t say Indian food is not heaven for vegetarians looking for flavorful and hearty meals because it is. However, there’s a common misconception; people think that most Indian food is vegetarian, and that’s not the case. 

Only 23-37% of Indian people are vegetarian, an immense percentage compared to other countries; however, the rest of the population consumes meat regularly. Indian cuisine is not synonymous with vegetarian food; it caters to vegetarians and meat enthusiasts alike. 

2. Spicy Is Not Always That Spicy

Undoubtedly, Indian food relies heavily on spices; the country produces 70% of the world’s spices, consuming more condiments than any other country. However, there’s an interesting mistranslation regarding the word spicy, especially in English-speaking countries. 

Spices are not always hot, as chili peppers are hot, so you shouldn’t avoid Indian food if you don’t like that kind of spiciness. Mexican food, for example, is often spicy as in hot, and it’s because of the country’s extensive use of chili peppers; however, although many dishes in India use hot peppers, mainly in southern regions, most of its curries and sauces are not that kind of spicy; they’re just handsomely seasoned. 

3. Indian Food Is Healthy, But Not Always

Ayurveda is India’s ancient medicine system and has much to do with its food. Many ingredients, such as cumin, turmeric and cardamom, have health benefits if consumed often and might prevent severe illnesses and conditions, from chronic inflammation to hypertension. However, Indian food, like all other foods, is healthy as long as it’s consumed in moderation and is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Consuming vegetables and unprocessed food and avoiding high amounts of red meat, simple sugars and saturated fats are as essential in a healthy diet as the ingredients in the food. Balance is everything. 

4. Indian Food Is More Than You Think It Is

Indian food is incredibly varied, the country has well-defined regional cuisines, and each has its staple ingredients and cooking methods. However, although Indian food is gaining popularity worldwide, most people have only scratched the surface of what the country has to offer.

Northern Indian food prevails in international markets, and you can tell it apart from its Mughal influence, extensive use of ghee, and its paneer and samosas, popular items in most Indian restaurants. On the other hand, Indian food from further south changes significantly, with more extensive use of coconut milk, rice, seafood and lentils. 

5. Not All Flat Bread Is The Same 

There are at least twelve popular flatbread styles around India, and they’re all different. Naan might be ubiquitous, but other styles are highly localized, such as the northern chapati and the southern rice-based appam, the roti and the crispy deep-fired bhatoora. And then you have the dosa, made with rice and lentils — an entire meal. If you think you know Indian flatbread, think again. 

Indian Food is Not What It Seems; It’s Much More!

There’s no doubt that Indian food is still misunderstood in international markets, but people of all backgrounds are getting to know it better, increasing the category’s popularity. Indian food is not one cuisine but many, and it’s this diversity that makes it so exciting. 

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