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Indian food = Spicy?

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

First, I would like to thank our customers and readers for supporting the first post. The encouragement you gave inspired me to continue to educate our audience by sharing our experiences and knowledge about Indian culture and food.

I came to the US 13 years ago. Throughout my journey in the US, one question that keeps cropping up is "How do you eat such spicy food?"!

My answer is/has always been " I am not really eating spicy food. I eat food that balances six tastes."

So, I would like to break the myth: " Indian food is not just spicy " in this post.

If you think spicy is all there is to Indian food, think again!

According to food theory, all Indian food is made up of six primary tastes or "Rasas":

  • madhura : sweet

  • lavana : salty

  • amala : sour

  • katu : pungent

  • tikta : bitter

  • kasya : astringent

These are the six tastes of "Ayurveda (Indian medicine)" that have remained relevant to our lives as sources of healing. The basic principle is simple - balance the six tastes and you are guaranteed to experience satisfaction while eating.

There is a metaphysical explanation for this, which starts with acknowledging that there are five elements that make up all matter in the universe, including our bodies - Air, Earth, Water, Fire, and Ether.

Each of the six tastes is a composition of two of these five elements. So, when you consume some of each taste in a meal, your body gets an equal balance of the five elements needed to be healthy. Once your body is healthy, your mind is healthy too.

Indian cooking is all about balancing these six tastes.

We start with our main ingredient. Are we cooking squash or grains? Well, that is very sweet.

The recipe is the culmination of the question: " What will you add to balance the sweetness with other tastes?"

For example:

Garlic or ginger will add pungency.

Turmeric or cumin will add bitterness.

The flavor of lemon for sour taste.

The flavor of greens for astringency.

Salt for salt flavor and we have a balanced meal.

This is exactly how I refine my recipes or cook food at home. Most of the Indian recipes have at least 6 ingredients: ginger/garlic, turmeric, cumin, lemon, salt, cilantro/mint.

Next time when you are enjoying Indian cuisine, be assured you are not just having spicy food - It is "grandeur of six tastes - the balance of five elements of matter".

Happy Sunday Paradisers!

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