The things British people get wrong about Indian food

Indian cuisine is delicious, but it’s also highly misunderstood


So it’s a Friday night and you’re ordering takeaway – a new Indian has just opened and you’re keen to pig out on the decadent, spicy goodness.

But be honest. What are the first things that come to your mind when you think of Indian food? Spicy, oily, fatty, bad for you, difficult and time-consuming to cook, lots of curry powder.

The thing is, most of this just isn’t true – so here are the top myths surrounding Indian food and the actual realities behind them.

All Indian food contains enough spices and chilies to make you sweat

As much as Indian restaurants try to reproduce authentic flavours of India by dumping in a load of spices and chilies, not everything needs to be like that.

It’s all a matter of preference: when I cook Indian food for myself, I do put in loads of chilies because I like the heat, but when I’m cooking for the rest of my family, I know not to put too much in because my sisters don’t like it.

The dishes can be just as rich without the chilies.

There’s nothing more to it than chicken tikka

Indian cuisine reflects a 5,000-year-old history of different cultures and ethnic groups interacting with the subcontinent, the result being a diverse blend of flavours to create a number of dishes that mirrors the diversity of India.

While some believe that the Indian food that is available from restaurants and takeaways is the extent of the cuisine, there’s actually a whole avenue of other dishes that don’t really get the recognition they deserve.

Indian food is unhealthy and fattening

This, again, is a matter of how you make it. It’s all about choices, so you can add as much or a little oil and butter as you like. In fact, some dishes don’t need them at all.

Some of the healthiest food I eat is Indian food. Dishes like daal are mainly just lentils, which are a really good source of protein. Spices like turmeric, ginger and garlic also have medicinal properties and if Indian food isn’t the best way to eat your medicine then I don’t know what is.

Ingredients can be cooked in a number of different ways: boiling, grilling, steaming… people always seem to be amazed at the number of different ways vegetables can be cooked.

This being said, Indian cuisine has its fair share of unhealthy food (and everybody likes to indulge from time to time).

Curry powder is the main ingredient

Contrary to popular belief, not a lot of the dishes need curry powder. Most tend to like to make their own concoction of spices and in place of curry powder, which is a westernised creation, Indians use garam masala.

This is a fresh mixture of spices that depends on the person making the dish. Curry powder is perfectly acceptable to use (I like to use it from time to time) but masala always makes the dish taste more authentic and it reminds me of home.

It’s hard to cook for yourself at home

Not true. Mattar Paneer, tandoori chicken and samosas are some of the easiest dishes that you can cook. You don’t need all the spices in the world and once you start, you’ll soon be cooking like a pro.

If Nigella can do it, so can you.

But despite the misconceptions, it can’t be denied that Brits are good with Indian food.

After all, a British restaurant holds the record for the world’s tallest stack of poppadoms: it measured 1.57m and contained 1,075 of the crunchy snacks, and was created by Nahim Aslam of Manchester’s Indian Ocean restaurant.

If that doesn’t show how British culture has adapted to the emergence of Indian cuisine and embraced the food for what it is, nothing does.