How to Cook Indian Food

You love Indian food but there’s a problem. You have no idea how to cook it. Maybe you don’t know how to cook, period. How in the world can you cook food as exotic and difficult as Indian food when you’re just a beginner? So, you resort to eating out but let’s face it; it’s hard on the wallet.

Here’s the good news. Indian cooking can be easy! It’s really not hard at all but you have to practice. Practice easy recipes first and you’ll start to find things get easier no matter what Indian dish you cook.

Here are some common things I hear all the time from beginning cooks:

1. I don’t know where to start.

Maybe you’re not Indian and have no idea where to start. Maybe you are Indian but your parents never taught you how to cook. It really doesn’t matter. The key here is to just practice. As you practice, you’ll not only gain confidence but you’ll start noticing a pattern to the cooking. Sure, each recipe is different but there are some common themes, tips, and techniques that apply repeatedly to different recipes which will help you move your way up the difficulty ladder.

2. Eyeballing Ingredients

Ever try learning how to cook from an experienced cook? Perhaps you tried learning from your Mom? They tend to eyeball everything and hate measuring. This makes even the simplest recipes frustrating for beginners because they have no idea where to start.

Eyeballing is something experienced cooks do all the time. Measurement is time consuming and most cooks already have an intuitive feel for how much of a certain ingredient to use, but how does a beginner develop this intuition?

As a beginner, you absolutely need the measurements. They’ll give you a reference point to start with. Use them to guide you but don’t overly obsess about them either. Once you’re comfortable with the dish, start trusting your instincts. The key here is to view cooking as more of an art than an exact science. Feel free to express yourself! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. That’s how you’ll develop this intuition. Just keep practicing!

3. What’s that spice called?

It’s no secret that certain spices are essential to Indian cooking. One of the biggest problems I had personally with learning how to cook Indian food was learning the names of the spices. Sure, I had them down cold in Hindi thanks to my mom but she had no idea what they were called in English. This mini-guide will make it easier for those you finding yourselves lost in translation.

Hindi Name: English Name
Haldi: Turmeric Powder
Dhania:Coriander Powder
Lal Mirch: Red Chili Powder
Jeera/Zeera: Cumin Seeds
Aamchoor: Sour Dried Mango Powder
Ajwain: Carom Seeds
Elaichi: Cardamom
Imli: Tamarind
Hari Mirch: Green Chili

I hope you found that helpful. Remember, the key really is practice. It’s okay if things don’t work out perfectly the first time. Get the ball rolling with easy recipes and move up the ladder to the more advanced dishes. You’ll get the hang of it as long as you keep cooking.