Part 1 – Five Lessons I Learnt About Indian Food
If you imagine Indian colourful curries & masalas and Japanese set meal in the box – Bento or Teishoku, you notice that these are completely different cuisines. Indian food uses many spices/masalas, whereas Japanese food flavour is based on soy sauce, broth and sake based dressing materials. For me, it took quite a while to understand the different tastes. And I would like to spread our learnings to our friends to better organize your Indian & Japanese friends coming over.
1 – Sauces
Let’s think about how to entertain Indian family at this time. The first and the most important element is sauce. They love to dip any snacks & appetizer in sauces. Typical dips would be ketchup, curd (yogurt), chutney & mint sauce. The food without sauce or moisture is considered as dry. People even dip their cookies in chai before eating them. Most of the Indian main courses are also curries made of mashed vegetables, cooked with water. So, for all three courses, not being “dry” is critical.
2 – Meats
The second key is the way to serve meat dish. I notice that even my non vegetarian family members don’t prefer to eat a big chunk of meat like filet or steak. They enjoy minced meat dish like Kabob, or diced pieces such as Tandori Chicken. If you want to serve fish, please check with your guests about fish/seafood allergy beforehand. Fish is not usual ingredient for many Indian people. Due to most of India being inland, people didn’t have chance to savour fish in some parts of India. Thus many people haven’t developed taste of fish and seafood.
3 – Side Dishes
After planning the main course, it’s time to think about side dishes. Japanese people love to eat fresh ingredients with minimum cooking process; we eat ingredients as fresh as possible (such as Sashimi). On the other hand, Indian people cannot eat undercooked food, and actually I’ve never seen (raw or salad-like) green leafy fresh lettuce served at our family’s places and Indian restaurants. So we must make sure everything is cooked & heated well.
4 – Spice
Japanese people believe that Indian people love hot red chilli spiciness like Korean food, however it’s a myth. They love many kinds of mixed spices, but not just a spice. You probably saw boxes of masalas on supermarket shelves such as chaat masalas, chicken masalas, and garam masalas. Those are mixture of turmeric, coriander, thyme, and cumin, not only single spice but variety of grinded masalas mixed. Hence the food you offer doesn’t have to be kick ass spicy.
5 – Dessert
Finally deserts, Indian people have a very sweet tooth. Back in Japan, I see many less sweet confectionaries, and some Japanese gentlemen cannot take any sweet stuff. If you have tried Gulab Jamun – round donuts dipped in syrup, you understand how much sweet stuff people can enjoy. So if you serve any deserts, make sure you put extra sugar in them.
When we plan a meal for Indian family, we try to serve something similar to Indian food. We believe that if the food is completely different from what people get used to, it’s hard to enjoy. Teriyaki Tandoori chicken, Vegetarian Japanese curry, Eggless cookie similar to Nan khatai, Vegetarian Happousai, and Hot Kinpira, those are small number of creations everyone enjoyed.
Those are some of the tips we’ve discovered, if you have any other perspectives of Indian food from the outside, please do share them in the comments below! Together, we can keep innovating on “Indian-ized” food we can all enjoy together!