Do you love Indian cooking? Join the club!
Ranked fifth in Taste Atlas’s World’s Best Cuisines 2022 list, Indian food is often lauded for its delicious curries, intricate spices, and complex flavor pairings.
That said, do you know why Indian food tastes so good? It’s science.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology discovered that an average Indian dish includes at least seven ingredients, most of which do not share flavors. Each component of Indian cuisine, whether it’s garam masala, cilantro, or green bell pepper, brings its unique character to the final meal.
This contrasts with Western cooking, where ingredients are usually paired for similar flavor profiles.
But let’s shelve the chemistry. We’re here to talk home cooking.
Recreating authentic Indian recipes at home can be intimidating. For a cuisine that uses 200 out of the estimated 381 known ingredients in the world, it can be hard to figure out what goes where.
That’s where Indian cooking pastes enter the scene.
How to Create the Best Indian Dishes with Readymade Cooking Pastes
Indian cooking pastes have made cooking Indian food at home much easier. Products like biryani paste, tandoori paste, or curry paste can help simplify the cooking process and create authentic cooking flavors.
Intrigued? We’ve got answers! Here’s a quick rundown on cooking traditional Indian recipes with Indian cooking pastes.
Understanding Indian Cooking Pastes
The French have their sauces, hollandaise, béchamel, espagnole, tomato, and velouté, each with their flavor and consistency. The Indians have their spices and aromatics.
Prep is a big part of Indian cuisine. You have to jump through multiple hoops before you can finally turn on the stove. This includes grating, mincing, pounding, the whole nine yards. It’s a labor of love, but labor nonetheless. Plus, you may not find some ingredients at your local Indian grocer, that’s if you’ve even got one.
Cooking pastes are an easy solution to this problem. They come pre-made with everything you’ll need for your dish, thereby cutting your prep time by half. And you won’t have to buy twenty different spices you’ll likely never use again!
Now, the common misconception is that authentic Indian food consists of a single homogeneous masala or curry. To that, we say, NO! In a country where the flavor profile changes every hundred yards, there’s no single version of masala or curry.
Still, here are a few must-have Indian cooking pastes you should store in your pantry.
- Tikka masala paste
- Butter masala paste
- Vindaloo paste
- Ginger garlic paste
- Cashew paste
- Coconut paste
- Biryani masala paste
- Tamarind pulp
- Red chili paste
- Tandoori paste
Cooking with Indian spices takes skill and precision. So, if you’re worried about adding too much of a spice blend or sauce to your curries, Indian cooking pastes are the way to go.
That’s not all!
- Since cooking pastes don’t include any meats, you can pair them with multiple proteins or veggies. Mekhala’s organic cooking pastes are 100% vegan too!
- You can create home-cooked meals in minutes
- They can also act as the perfect condiment for a quick stir-fry
Tips for Using Indian Cooking Pastes
Because there are tons of Indian cooking pastes available, it’s crucial to choose the right kind for the right dish. There are some staples you just cannot mix up, like using butter chicken paste for biryani! The trick is to read the label before adding the paste to your cart, so you get the most authentic flavor.
For most curry pastes, all you need to do is add it to your skillet, followed by the protein or veggies, then a liquid like stock, yogurt, or milk. Simmer the mixture till the sauce is thick and fragrant.
You can also use certain cooking pastes to marinate animal proteins.
Now for the million-dollar question, how much cooking paste should you use? That depends on how many portions you’re cooking. Most Indian cooking pastes recommend a ratio you can alter based on your requirements.
Tips for Cooking with Indian Cooking Paste
Have you heard of “mise en place”? It’s French for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, and grated before you start cooking. Although Indian cooking pastes are a huge time-saver, there are a few other things you can do to elevate your Indian dishes without spending entire afternoons in the kitchen.
- Always toast your nuts, rice, and lentils first to get a bigger flavor boost.
- Freeze your dry fruits an hour before cutting. The same goes for processed meat.
- When adding yogurt to gravies or biryani, beat it well and bring it to room temperature.
- Soak chickpeas in boiled water if you forget to soak them overnight.
- Fry grated coconut with curry leaves for a more intense aroma. Make it in bulk and store some in the fridge.
Ingredients aside, Indian cuisine is known for its varied techniques. A few of the most common Indian cooking styles include:
- Tempering (tadka): adding spices to hot oil or ghee
- Grilling and roasting: also known as tandoori, traditionally done in a clay oven or tandoor
- Dum cooking: the classic Indian slow cooking technique that involves sealing the dish in a vessel and cooking it over a low flame.
- Pressure cooking: a popular cooking technique for lentils, beans, and stews.
Indian cooking is known for its delicate balance of seasonings, so you must get the ratios right. For example, adding honey or sugar can counteract heat or bitterness. Likewise, acidity works wonders in adding life and zest to Indian dishes.
Striking the right balance between different spices can be difficult if you’re using powders or sauces for the first time. Indian cooking pastes combine the best of both worlds and have the right amount of each ingredient to give your dish that perfect umami flavor.
The Bottom Line
There you have it, a complete rundown on Indian cooking pastes and how to use them. Remember, these rules aren’t set in stone. In fact, we encourage you to get as innovative as you can with our cooking pastes. However, if you’re new to the kitchen, we hope these tips help you cook delicious and authentic Indian dishes without breaking a sweat!