Guest Author - Preena Deepak
Indian food is a careful and calculated blend of spices, herbs and curry powders with raw ingredients. Spices and herbs have been deliberately added in recipes to enhance the taste and also increase the nutritional value of dishes prepared.
Herbs have been used to season Indian food over several years. It is unthinkable to prepare Indian dishes without a dash of herbs and spices. Fresh herbs greatly add to the flavor of food. But it may not always be possible to find fresh herbs. In such cases dried herbs are used. There is certainly a striking difference in taste based on the freshness of herbs used.
It is common to clean, chop and add herbs at the end of dishes prepared. Some herbs are used to flavor rice and in such cases, grinding or pounding herbs becomes essential. At times herbs are used to season dishes and can be added right at the start too.
The four herbs listed below are extensively used in Indian cooking.
Curry leaves are used mostly in South Indian Cuisine. Fresh curry leaves are used to season chutneys, gravies, curries and while grinding dry masala powders. Curry leaves come with a host of healthy attributes. They aid digestion, are good for the eyes and help in weight reduction as well. Fresh curry leaves can be preserved in the fridge for a week in air tight covers or boxes. Removing leaves from the stem reduces the flavor and freshness and so it is best to store curry leaves with their stems.
Mint leaves commonly referred to as ‘pudhina’ are used to make tea, soups, juices, flavored rice, chutneys and salads. The exotic Indian dish biriyani gets its flavor from a right combination of mint and coriander leaves. Mint is refreshing and loaded with useful health attributes. It refreshes breath, soothes the digestive tract, removes toxins in the body and is proven to reduce skin irritations.
Coriander leaves or Cilantro is by far the most extensively used Indian herb. Several dishes are garnished with coriander leaves which add color and flavor to food. Though often added at the end, coriander leaves are also ground to make chutneys and used to make flavored rice dishes. Coriander leaves are rich in Vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, phosphorus, calcium, iron and several other minerals.
Fenugreek leaves are cooked and consumed in the same manner as spinach. These leaves are also used to flavor vegetable and meat dishes. Power packed with potassium, calcium, protein, iron and dietary fiber, these leaves are a health addition to any dish. Called ‘methi’, fenugreek leaves are blended with flour to make Indian breads as well.
Picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons
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