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The Washington Post published a very interesting article about why people around the world love Indian food so much. It’s more than just the subtle comingling of unique spices and blends of spices. In an analysis of more than 2,000 popular Indian recipes, scientists think they know the answer. It’s how different food types interact with each other at the molecular level.

Chefs in the West make dishes with ingredients that have similar tastes and overlapping flavors, while many Asian dishes use ingredients that don’t overlap in flavor. Indian food, in particular prefers ingredients without overlapping flavors in many of their recipes, especially spicy ones.

The breakdown of ingredients on a molecular level doesn’t mean testing recipes through trial and error and taste tests. Food chemists have the capability to study an ingredient’s molecular parts and break down ingredients into precise chemical compounds. When recipes use ingredients with similar chemical compounds, the results give off a distinct taste.

Studying the compounds that make up ingredients can get pretty scientific. In the Washington Post article they explained that one of the simpler compounds found in food ingredients is acetal. This compound is found in whiskey, apple juice, orange juice and raw beets. On average, there are over 50 flavor compounds in each food ingredient.

The takeaway from the article is that:

  • The more overlap two ingredients have in flavor, the less likely they are to appear in the same Indian dish.
  • Recipes with spices usually produce dishes with flavors with no chemical intersection.
  • Indian food is so tasty because of the way different spices interact with each other.

It makes you wonder. How did Indian recipes develop? They were created before the ability to break down and study foods by their molecular traits. How did the Indian culture get it so right without the scientific knowledge behind the ingredients and how did they know which ingredients overlapped? If you have any ideas, please write in and give us your thoughts.

For a complete list of Indian recipes from A to Z, check out the website, Tarladalal. If you really want to learn how to cook Indian food, Tarla Dalal has hundreds and hundreds of online recipes.

Sometimes, you can learn much more by watching someone cook rather than by reading a recipe. If that’s your preferred learning method, you should try Tarla Dalal’s large library of online videos, here. They’re broken down into lots of different categories, like cooking method, cuisine type, health, for children, and more.