Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Healthy Indian Food at Restaurants and at Home


We are having dinner with good friends tomorrow night. As we made plans, my friend said, “you pick the place, we’ll do anything except Indian.” In no way did I have my heart set on Indian but in a city where even toddlers eat sushi and Thai, I find my friend’s Indian avoidance is way too common. Plus it’s probably my very favorite cuisine. While some people are coming around to Indian food, many remain unfamiliar.  Clients are often flummoxed when they’re headed to Indian either because they’ve never been or perhaps they feel it’s an unhealthy cuisine. Time to clear up the confusion.

Here are some simple suggestions for healthy Indian restaurant food:
  • Indian is mainly a carb challenge with the most delicious delicious breads and rice. If you’re having a carb at Indian choose between roti, sort of like whole-wheat naan, and rice but not both. 
  • Select items cooked in the tandoor oven. Tandoori salmon, shrimp and chicken are smart selections. These will be flavorful but less caloric as there’s no sauce (less sauce, less carbs to soak up sauce). 
  • In terms of vegetables cauliflower, okra and spinach are good choices.  
  • For appetizers, soups are your best bet. Mulligatawny is a nice lentil soup. 
  • Indian is usually shared so watch your portions; remember the one-plate rule.
Of course, the best way to sure healthy Indian is to take matters into your own hands.
So while we’re likely going to a seafood restaurant tomorrow, I was thrilled to be was sent a copy of “Vegan Indian Cooking” by Anupy Singla. This chef’s “Indian Slow Cooker” book made our ski weekends much more delicious last winter and both the chicken curry and chicken tikka masala were favorites.

I have enjoyed this book just as much. The book starts out with basic recipes such as one for cashew cream to replace dairy in recipes. There are fantastic ways to use grains from dosas (which my family loves from Hampton Chutney in New York) to my new favorite Chickpea Flour Crepes. My kids have been loving the Spiced Stovetop Popcorn. There are also handy recipes for beans and lentils to be cooked in the slow cooker.  And for you Brussels sprout people how about Masala Brussels sprouts? Some of the recipes can be found on Anupy’s blog Indian AS Apple Pie. I can see this book being the go-to resource for healthy Indian home cooking.

I don't usually read the forward in cookbooks but I did in this case. There's a great section in the opening pages entitled Indian Food Myths. Indian food doesn’t have to be spicy, heavy or unhealthy. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. Naan isn’t served in most Indian homes and finally the slow cooker is Indian (you’ll have to get the book to figure that one out, interesting). I may send these myths over to my friend to see if I can convert her.

In honor of my 500th blog post (not really, just realized that as I started writing), Anupy is giving two hungry readers a copy of Vegan Indian Cooking. To be eligible, comment and tell us where you are on a scale of 1-10 in terms of Indian food love. What are your favorite Indian foods? Or, you can tweet about our Indian Cookbook giveaway @Foodtrainers on twitter. 
You have until Friday 9/14 to enter. Congratulations to the Olove winner Ameena.

I decided to refresh my spices before doing any recipe testing.
Spices and Tease NYC, the tease is that the tins of spices are impossible to open (see below)
All fun and games until a turmeric explosion
On the breadbin, not so bad but white (now yellow) countertops? Oy.



29 comments:

  1. Congrats, Lauren! Very cool. Love the picture of the spices, that place is great.

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  2. Yum! I love Indian food so much! But I had to train my husband to like it. Admittedly, I probably choose less healthy options, but I try to be better by choosing veggies instead of meats. I've never cooked Indian at home beyond simmer sauces, so I'll be sure to seek out these cook books. Thanks!

    And many many congrats on reaching 500 posts! You are such an impressive person who helps so many with your thoughtful advice. So excited for you!

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  3. What a great giveaway! I love the sound of that cookbook.
    I am definitely on a 10 with Indian food! I love it, but it is more recent. I am still learning a lot about the dishes and what goes into them.
    I am all for crockpot this winter so I will have to pick up that other book you suggested as well! :)

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  4. I had a feeling Kristen, your Indian recipes always tempt me. What are the Indian food options like in Nevada?

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  5. So nice Marie. Never been called "thoughtful" so that made my day. I love the interaction in the comments section, something I didn't anticipate when starting the blog.

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  6. thank you for telling me about the spice store, wish photo didn't have the glare.

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  7. I'm a 10 for Indian food. I have had homemade and Des Moines has quite a few Indian restaurants. I don't eat it often enough to consider worrying about the calories, though. That way I just get what I want. I try to get new things, which is something I did for years back when I first got into Chinese food. I like to order something different every time.

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  8. Great post, as usual--I am a budding lover of Indian food. I'd say a 7-8, mostly because I am unfamiliar with all the choices there are out there, and I'm scared to admit most of my experiences have come from frozen Trader Joe's entrees.... so clearly, I need this book. :)
    Also, Lauren you mentioned a post on probiotics and weight a few posts ago... still planning on doing that? It piqued my curiosity.

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  9. I about an 8 for Indian food. I love it, but definitely as a once in a while thing, not an every week thing. I'd love to learn how to cook it!!

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  10. Interesting the 8 with not wanting it all the time. These lightened up recipes you may want more.

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  11. def need to move beyond frozen foods for experimentation. Yes flora and weight post coming (not 100% sure when).

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  12. love that it's new and delicious so you give yourself the freedom. Watch all the good breads though...we know how they taste already.

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  13. Indian rates an 11 for me. I love most cuisines, but Indian holds a special place in my heart. I'm perplexed about why it would be regarded as unhealthy, though. All those spices, all that garlic and ginger-and with many vegetarian religious sects, lots of veggies.

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  14. I should add that my family's absolute favorite meal is dal, which is the first sub-contintental dish I learned to make. It doesn't get healthier than red lentils with spices and garlic.

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  15. it's our restaurant Indian not the cuisine that can be unhealthy.

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  16. Count me in as another 10 for Indian food (although it's probably a tie with Thai :-). This cookbook looks gorgeous! You should lie on my street Lauren...our good friends who live across the street and 1 house over are Indian. They cook a little, but when their parents come visit them, there's a lot of delicious Indian food to eat. Spicy cilantro mint sauce has to be one of my all time favorites, along with the chutneys and different dals. So many yummy Indian dishes!

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  17. I would say that I am on a 8 with Indian food. Tandoori chicken is high on that list

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  18. I would say that I am on a 8 with Indian food. Tandoori chicken is high on that list

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  19. I'm totally at a perfect 10 in love with Indian food!! My favorite is Butter Chicken with Garlic Naan and Tabouleh Salad! sooooo delicious!

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  20. Andrea@WellnessNotesSeptember 14, 2012 at 6:26 AM

    I love Indian food, but my husband not so much, so we never go out to Indian food. I like your tips to watch those carbs though... The cookbook sounds great; it would be great to experiment at home with some dishes he may enjoy!

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  21. i absolutely love all of these ideas...sometimes you have to switch it up in the kitchen to keep things interesting & to make eating healthy more exciting. I'm going to check out Spices and Tease sometime soon.

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  22. being indian, i do love indian! i have tried a couple of Anupy's recipes...and they're soooo easy!! :)

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  23. I love Indian food- I'm probably at 9 on the scale. Tandoori Chicken, lamb or Tandoori anything, anything with eggplant and other veggies, too. I have not cooked any in my home yet but love to find a good restaurant- mostly in Madison WI- the Maharajah- excellent!

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  24. I love, love, love Indian food, at least a 10. Since I started cooking a few years ago I try to make at least one Indian meal each week if not two. The variety of spices, flavours and ingredients keep each meal fresh and different although we do have favourites. Currently, we are working our way through curries.

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  25. 10++ - Indian is my favorite! I'm looking forward to getting better at making it myself. ☺


    Thanks!!

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  26. Definitely a 10! I love tandoori curries and pappadums!

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