Oil is the medium of cooking all Indian dishes and the flavor of Indian food is enhanced by using the right oil for the right dish. Each region of India has its own culinary heredity and the diversity in cooking styles decides the oil used. Here is a glimpse of traditional oils that have been used across the country.
Mustard Oil (Sarson ka tel)
Mustard oil represents Indian culture in a sense. It is obtained by pressing seeds of mustard plants and has a strong flavor and a nutty taste. This oil is most commonly used for cooking in India especially in the Northern states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Assam. The oil is usually heated till smoke point to reduce its strong smell and taste. Mustard oil has medicinal properties and is used in Ayurveda (Indian medicine) for the treatment of joint ailments and for massages. It is believed to improve skin texture and also acts as a mosquito repellent. Besides these uses, mustard oil is used during Diwali (Indian festival of lights) to light lamps. It occupies a prominent position in Punjabi wedding ceremonies too.
Ghee is an universal ingredient used for all Indian dishes. Clarified butter or ghee is made in Indian homes by melting unsalted butter and removing milk solids. However due to its high fat content and cost, ghee is now used sparingly in cooking. Ghee improves the taste of all Indian food and is always used for making Indian sweet dishes.
Coconut oil is obtained from copra (dried kernel) or fresh shredded kernel and is a favorite in South Indian cuisine. This oil also has cosmetic properties and is used to boost hair growth.
Sesame Oil (gingelly or til oil)
Sesame oil is again a specialty of southern states, especially Tamil Nadu and is used for deep frying, stir frying and seasoning dishes. Though the sesame plant from which the oil is obtained is a native of Africa, this plant has been grown in India for several centuries. Sesame oil is also used as a spice and condiment, for lighting lamps and for body massages.
Peanut oil is made from pressed, steam cooked peanuts and has a bland flavor. It is mostly used in Northern states of India, chiefly for frying.
Sunflower oil has gained much attention of late due to its low cost and health benefits. Interestingly olive oil is sparingly used in Indian cuisine as it does not blend well with Indian dishes.
Like to try out a few dishes with mustard oil? Here's a link to buy some.
Dabur Mustard Oil- 16.9Oz
How about cooking with ghee? You can buy some here.
Nanak Pure Desi Ghee, Clarified Butter, 28-Ounce Jar