June 23, 2018
Spinach chickpea curry

Best and Worst Indian Foods

by Andy Bellatti  

It is an understatement to say that the term “Indian food” is all-encompassing. The country’s rich cultural diversity means that there are over 30 different types of regional cuisine. Northern Indian cuisine tends to dominate in the United States, bringing us naan bread, samosas, and aloo gobi (one of our recommended dishes!). But you can also find the bean and legume-centric dishes native to Southern India on the menu at many Indian restaurants.

Indian cuisine—with its liberal use of healthful and flavorful spices and herbs like ginger, cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric—is full of antioxidants, regardless of its geographic origin. The presence of lentils, garbanzo beans, and herbs in many dishes also makes Indian food a high-fiber and vegetarian/vegan-friendly option. Many popular—and healthy—Indian dishes in the United States are cooked in a tandoor, a vertical oven housed in a bell-shaped clay pot that reaches temperatures of up to 900°F.

Although Indian menus always have something to please healthful eaters, watch out for dishes bathed in cream-based sauces or ghee (clarified butter) as well as deep-fried, starchy appetizers. A small portion of your favorite creamy curry is fine, but don’t overdo it.

Five worst Indian dishes:

1. Pakoras: This appetizer usually starts out by taking a vegetable like cauliflower, eggplant, or potato, then battering and deep-frying it.

2. Samosas: The fragrant, curried vegetables inside a samosa aren't the problem. It's the packaging—a deep-fried pastry shell that delivers a wollop of refined carbohydrates and oil—that places this popular item firmly in the “worst” category.

3. Chicken korma: Chicken is coated with various spices, seared, and then cooked in a cream-based sauce, creating what's essentially the Fettuccini Alfredo of Indian cuisine.

4. Naan: This large, puffy bread is brushed in oil and void of fiber. You're better off accompanying your meal with steamed rice, which leaves the added oil out of the equation. For an even healthier option, asked for steamed brown rice, which provides fiber.

5. Saag paneer: Yes, this dish contains spinach, but it is cooked in cream and also offers plentiful amounts of cubed cheese (“paneer”).

Five best Indian dishes:

1. Dal-based dishes: “Dal” is the name for split lentils, split peas, or other legumes, as well as for Indian dishes that feature those beans cooked in an array of spices. All you really need to know is that it's code for a protein, fiber, and mineral-rich meal.

2. Tandoori: This method of cooking basically consists of grilling marinated proteins inside an extremely hot clay pit. When you see this in a dish's name, you won't be getting anything that is deep fried, or even pan fried.

3. Aloo gobi: Cauliflower and potatoes may not sound exciting, but it's a different story when they are cooked in fragrant and healthful turmeric, ginger, cumin, garlic, and paprika.

4. Rajma: This kidney bean curry bathes the fiber and protein-rich beans in a combination of chilis, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and coriander.

5. Chana masala: Chickpeas—an excellent source of folate, iron, and manganese—are cooked with tomatoes, onions, and various healthful spices.

See also:

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