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Suvir Saran

Herbs in Indian Cooking

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I love the use of Basil in Thai cooking. Even though Tulsi is very Indian and used in tea and other concoctions I am not familiar of its use in any main dishes. Does anyone know Indian reciepes with Tulsi. Thanks

bhasin

I have a related, perhaps off-topic, question. Besides cilantro, curry leaves, and methi (which seems anyway to be used more as a vegetable), which other herbs are commonly used in Indian cookery? I realize that the definition of herb may be somewhat vague, but I am referring here to the use of leaves and/or stems of plants for flavoring or aromatic purposes.

Also, why, despite the huge number of spices in wide usage in both North and South, are herbs not widely used as well? Is their some justification from Ayurvedic teachings?

skchai had posted this in the Tulsi (basil) thread. It is a wonderful question. I hope we can all rattle our brains and come up with a comprehensive list of herbs we use in Indian cooking.

What does Ayurveda say about herbs??? Anyone know? I am far from an expert on Ayurveda. All I know is what I have heard from Panditji, my grandma and aunts in the passing. I have never studied it myself.:shock:

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I have never really though of Indian as a very "herby" cuisine, because of no access to curry leaves and methi, I have only used cilantro. I am very curious to hear about others................


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Thanks, Suvir and Prasad, for your help!

One herb I forgot - mint!

I love mint in Indian cooking.

In Raitas, in chutneys, in drinks and in marinades. :smile:

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Thanks, Suvir and Prasad, for your help!

One herb I forgot - mint!

Well well well,......... Just like Suvir I like them in all of the above (Raitas, chutneys, drinks amd marinades) and in addition I like to use them in Rice and specially in Biriyanis.


Edited by prasad2 (log)

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Thanks, Suvir and Prasad, for your help!

One herb I forgot - mint!

Well well well,......... Just like Suvir I like them in all of the above (Raitas, chutneys, drinks amd marinades) and in addition I like to use them in Rice and specially in Biriyanis.

The Hyderabadis make amazing Mint and Chicken Biryaani.

Prasad are you from Andhra Pradesh? :rolleyes:

And yes the mint and chicken curry is also their specialty.

Are these what you are speaking of?

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In the Konkan coast, mint is used in generous amount in even the simples of potato preparation. I have always found that mint cuts the heat in their foods. Maybe that is only my palate thinking that way, but when eating some of the fiery chile hot Konkan preparations, the mint in some of the dishes relieves my palate.

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Not sure if Hyssop is used in Indian cuisine but I love it's flavor with lamb stews and fruit.I've also used it'd flowers in lentil salads.

Also Kaffir Lime leaves add a nice citrus note to some curries.


Turnip Greens are Better than Nothing. Ask the people who have tried both.

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Not sure if Hyssop is used in Indian cuisine but I love it's flavor with lamb stews and fruit.I've also used it'd flowers in lentil salads.

Also Kaffir Lime leaves add a nice citrus note to some curries.

I have not used Hyssop yet. Maybe it is used and has another name.

It is nice to see you in this forum after some time Brad. You have been missed. :smile:

I like Kaffir lime leaves a lot.

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When I was a teen, we went back to India. When we got colds or fevers, etc. my Nani would make us tea with tulsi leaves in it. Herself, she always grabbed a couple of leaves of the tree before her morning walk and ate them as she walked.

Tulsi is a sacred Indian plant for a reason. It has amazing medicinal qualities.

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Suvir,

Hyssop is in the "Labiatae family" Mint.

It has been used for many medicinal purposes and was once used to purify temples.


Turnip Greens are Better than Nothing. Ask the people who have tried both.

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Suvir,

Hyssop is in the "Labiatae family" Mint.

It has been used for many medicinal purposes and was once used to purify temples.

Thanks for sharing this information Brad.

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When I was a teen, we went back to India. When we got colds or fevers, etc. my Nani would make us tea with tulsi leaves in it. Herself, she always grabbed a couple of leaves of the tree before her morning walk and ate them as she walked.

Tulsi is a sacred Indian plant for a reason. It has amazing medicinal qualities.

Similarly with my Nani (maternal grandma) and Dadi (paternal grandma).

In my cookbook I share the recipe for Tulsi Ki Chai.

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Interesting question. I think it depends on how you are defining herbs. What's the dividing line between a spice and a herb? Is it that herbs come from leaves and shoots rather than berries or bark or roots? But there are lots of leaves and shoots used in Indian cooking, many of them not well known, not just abroad, but not even in India outside their regional areas.

Tamil cooking, for example, has a whole range of 'keerais' or leaves like mullukeerai, araikeerai and kuppukeerai which, according to Achaya, are members of the amaranth family - he refers to them as amaranth pot herbs. Bengali cooking has shukto, a dish made from bitter leaves which could be from the neem tree or several other plants. A friend with a husband from Karnataka tells me that their traditional cooking uses lots of leaves not known outside the state. I think the more you go into rural areas, tribal cultures, the more such leaves you'll find. When are all these considered herbs and when are they considered indegenous vegetables?

If you stick to the herbs acknowledged by Western cooking then a simple reason for many not being used is that they aren't local and probably don't grow. Fresh sage, rosemary and thyme has only recently started coming into the Bombay market from specialty farms near the hills. Of those which are used, others have already mentioned cilantro, mint, methi (fenugreek greens), basil, curry leaves, and don't forget dill. Under the name suva or sooa bhaji its quite widely available in local markets and not just with the sellers who stock fancy vegetables.

Fresh dill is the essential ingredient in Sindhi sai-bhaji, a dish best described as vegetable mush and not one that is ever going to win any prizes for great looking dishes. But its one of those low key delicious dishes, not with any hit you in the face flavour but quietly sustaining. Its also very cheap and simple to make, one of those dishes you can make over the weekend and then keep in the fridge to eat over the week. Its particularly good to eat then when you come back home late and tired because of the way it tastes, real comfort cooking.

For extra health, here's an oil free recipe from Karen Anand's Lean Cuisine Cooking:

Ingredients:

3 bunches (half kilo) spinach, washed and chopped

3 onions, chopped

2" piece ginger, chopped + 6 cloves garlic chopped (or cheat and use a couple of teaspoons of readymade ginger-garlic paste)

3 tomatoes, blanched in hot water, skinned and chopped

1 cup red pumpkin

1 medium aubergine chopped

1 potato, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

Half cup channe ka dhal (split chickpeas) soaked for at least 2-3 hours

2 tablespoons chopped dill

4-6 green chillies

Salt

Put all the ingredients except the spinach and salt into a vessel, along with half a cup water and cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally. Cook till the veggies become soft and pulpy (you can also pressure cook it for a couple of whistles). Add the spinach and keep cooking, stirring fairly frequently. As you stir, mash the vegetables, till in the end you get a well cooked mush. Add salt to taste.

Vikram

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Vikram

very informative post!

that dish sounds great, I am going to give it a try.

What is red pumpkin?

can something like kabocha (Japanese hard squash) be substituted?


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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What is red pumpkin?

can something like kabocha (Japanese hard squash) be substituted?

Don't know, its just the standard red-yellow coloured pumpkin one gets here, usually fairly large so its sold to you in slices. I'd guess that any fairly firm fleshed squash or pumpkin could do. Sai bhaji is pretty much an empty-out-your-vegetable-bin sort of dish so most things can go in. I warn you, it does not look appetising, but the taste is good,

Vikram

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I have not found Kaddue (red pumpkin in the US yet), has anyone?

I use butternut squash and find the results to be decent.

What do the other overseas Indian members use in place of Kaddu??

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Interesting question. I think it depends on how you are defining herbs. What's the dividing line between a spice and a herb? Is it that herbs come from leaves and shoots rather than berries or bark or roots? But there are lots of leaves and shoots used in Indian cooking, many of them not well known, not just abroad, but not even in India outside their regional areas.

. . .

If you stick to the herbs acknowledged by Western cooking then a simple reason for many not being used is that they aren't local and probably don't grow. Fresh sage, rosemary and thyme has only recently started coming into the Bombay market from specialty farms near the hills. Of those which are used, others have already mentioned cilantro, mint, methi (fenugreek greens), basil, curry leaves, and don't forget dill. Under the name suva or sooa bhaji its quite widely available in local markets and not just with the sellers who stock fancy vegetables.

I want to second the thanks to Vikram for his informative post. You sure know a lot!

You make an interesting point about cooked leafy greens - there are probably a lot more in regular use in Indian cookery than in most Western countries. In my question, however, I was specifically referring the use of stems and leaves for flavoring and/or aromatic purposes, and not as the bulk ingredient of a dish (e.g. saag).

While it is true that most Western herbs are non-local, this raises the question of why more have not been indigenized over the years given Indian cookery's great sensitivity to varieties of flavor and aroma. Rosemary and sage thrive in most warm climates, and presumably would grow quite well throughout much of India. As has been mentioned, basil (tulsi) is indeed already widely grown, but it is not commonly used as an herb.

Nor can it be said that the use of herbs is confined to Western cookery, as a large number are used in various Southeast Asian cuisines. Lemon grass, basil, mint, cilantro, and curry leaves, naturally, but also lime leaves, pandanus, polygonum, turmeric leaf, etc. They form the basis for many of the wet spice pastes (rempah, bumbu, krung) that are at the heart of many dishes.

This is why I was puzzled. . .


Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Stems are used. There are recipes in which cilantro stems are added instead of leaves. For flavor and also to reduce coloring in the dish.

In fact stems of vegetables also find their way into dishes for flavor and texture.

And I also give my thanks to Vikram for so many informative and wonderful posts.

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