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Odors of Indian Food


Jason Perlow
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One of the things that I think dissuades us from cooking Indian food at least on a semi-regular basis is that the odors produced from all the spices combined with stuff like Ghee and other fats can result in some pretty pungent, semi-permament odors.

What do you guys do to keep it out of your kitchens -- and the rest of your house?

I don't cook much, but my parents do nothing to get rid of the delicious aromas of Indian spices, and I love those aromas, too!

I don't think too many Italians try very hard to get rid of the wonderful aroma of garlic frying in extra-virgin olive oil. Much Indian food is based on aromatic substances frying, too. I say, embrace it!

But if not, good luck.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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all food--that is all food worth eating--is aromatic during preparation; however, it isn't a stretch to say that most indian cuisines (certainly the more heavily spiced variants) raise aromas that langurously linger longer (try saying that three times fast) than say the aroma of recently cooked tomato-basil-garlic sauce. furthermore, on the second day the stale version of this aroma is not as pleasant as the first day's version.

on the other hand, i have to say that i have never noticed this in my parents' home. the house smells good while my mother is cooking but almost no trace of it when she's done. cooking smells have always hung out longer in all the apartments and houses i've lived in in the u.s than they do in our flat in delhi. maybe it has something to do with the fact that most indian homes have stone/granite floors; maybe it is the fact that my mother's kitchen has a window right by the door with a strong exhaust fan in it. perhaps indian kitchens have design elements that automatically solve this to some extent? and perhaps in poorer homes with charcoal/wood stoves etc. aromas are naturally quenched--i don't know. but no matter how powerfully something may smell/stink while you're cooking it very little can withstand opening some cross-ventilation and a slight breeze.

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Bad cooking odors:

Oil from deep frying

Asafoetida

Anything that hangs around too long (such as overnight)

Good cooking odors:

Everything else

I have spoken.

clearly a woman who has never cooked shutki (bombay duck), dried squid or this other korean fish dish that threatens to end our marriage every time the wife prepares it.

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I've never had any trouble with lingering aromas, and I'm an effete urbanite living in a studio apartment with no ventilation. I like coming home to them the next day, makes for a pleasant welcome.

The only time when it is an issue is when I'm pan-frying oily fish like salmon or something. Now that scent is not pleasant the next day. I scrub down my entire kitchen after that, because it's the only way to prevent the smell from lingering into rancidity.

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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The real estate comment above has been raised by my real estate agent (with respect to cooking "odors" of a few ethic groups, not just Indian households) in a few discussions. What I find interesting is that many new home builders do not vent the stove exhaust to the outside of the house. Instead, the exhaust is channeled through "filters" in the vent and circulated back into the kitchen.

We actually paid extra to vent to the outside when our house was built. Our neighborhood is probably 75% Indian and Chinese and most did not order external kitchen exhaust (we know from the construction manager). Maybe its just not an issue for their households.

edit typo

Edited by bbq4meanytime (log)
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I worked at one farmers market near a laundr-o-mat. A fragrance came out that hit me over the head and sent me on a nostalgic trip. Many Mexicans prefer heavily scented laundry soap and the combination of the soap and the dryer sent this little piece of heaven out into the air. It felt like I was travelling.

My 3 year old son has "play dates" with a friend and his parents come from Mexico. When I kiss his head I can smell corn oil after he comes home. I have this incredibly urge to find some salsa and pour it all over his head.

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My 3 year old son has "play dates" with a friend and his parents come from Mexico. When I kiss his head I can smell corn oil after he comes home. I have this incredibly urge to find some salsa and pour it all over his head.

:biggrin: LMAO! :biggrin:

=R=

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clearly a woman who has never cooked shutki (bombay duck)

Yes yes yes!

Odors from shutki being cooked has to be the worst smell I have ever smelled.

Ever.

In Kolkata were I grew up, my neighbors (these are separate houses) used to cook shutki once in a while. I cannot forget the smell. Never.

Strangely, once cooked, and if you have survived the cooking phase, shutki actually tastes quite good.

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I love the way the house smells the day after I cook something - well, except for when the smell is predominalty oil- but it reminds me of the fun I had cooking the day before and gets me in a mood to try to cook something good today.

Yeah- turmeric can be have a bit of an acrid smell but so does the soil in red Arizona after a rain. Inhale, embrace, enjoy.

And as for the suggestion that onion smell isn't heavenly- well, that's Just Wrong. :raz:

Edited by Llantha (log)

"Adkins" is the Hunter-Gatherer diet.

"Low Fat" is the early agrarian diet.

I live civilized: I want it ALL!

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Any delicious aroma can, over time, degrade into a bad odor or even a stench.

I'd guess you would have to keep cooking something aromatic, to cover up the odor of what has been cooked before....

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Could we move this thread from bad Indian food odours, to good ones - which are the Indian food aromas we totally trip on? Alphonsos go without saying of course, but here, off the top of my head, are three more:

1) Roasting coriander seed - completely unexpected burnt orange smell, I adore it, does anyone make a scent with it?

2) Frying chillies - the essence of a warm, savoury smell. I was frying some reshampattis and Madras chillies for Kerala beef yesterday, and the smell made the whole house feel good.

3) Goa sausages - a penetrating, vinegary, meaty smell. I often cook them quickly in the pressure cooker and at least part of the reason is that intense aroma that suddenly jets out when the cooker starts letting off steam.

Vikram

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When I was first introduced to Indian food about 7 years ago, it was something that certainly took some getting used to (visually mostly). Especially with my primarily Midwestern, somewhat bland food upbringing.

Over the years, I've cooked many more Indian foods than any other and I've found that just being very thorough in kitchen cleanup does a pretty good job of making the smell of spices disappear. That also includes the filter located at the bottom of my microwave and any other small crevices that might be overlooked. I also open a window when cooking, sometimes I stick a fan in the window to suck the air out.

I have now grown to love the smell of the spices, going to the Indian grocer brings back memories of lovely meals and good times with friends and families. I think that after a while you just become accustomed to it. I know of many Indians who find the smell of roasting meat horrible, haha. To each our own.

I think the smell becomes worse if you leave cleanup for the following day as opposed to cleaning as you go or right after having dinner. Then the stale smell of the onions, oil and spices does make me think of armpits, lol. I would also be sure not to leave any clothing or outdoor wear lying near the kitchen.

I remember the first time I smelled fish sauce as though it were yesterday, lol, talk about having to take a step back ;).

--Jenn

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fresh curry leaves can scent a house like nothing else. someone should consider bottling it as a fragrance. italians may want to experiment with curry leaf risottos. i made a nadan fish curry out of my kerala cookbook yesterday and the combined aroma of just popped mustard seeds and lightly fried fresh curry leaves was so excellent i went around shutting windows instead of opening them.

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i made a nadan fish curry out of my kerala cookbook yesterday and the combined aroma of just popped mustard seeds and lightly fried fresh curry leaves was so excellent i went around shutting windows instead of opening them.

You sure it wasn't to keep the snow from blowing in the windows?

Could you please elaborate on the nadan fish curry?

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is it kosher to post recipes from other people's cookbooks on the forum?

in the meantime, "nadan" just means "country" or "rural" i think--malayali recipes that have the word "nadan" in their names seem to be simpler country style dishes--usually without coconut milk and usually pretty spicy. ammini or vikram can corroborate or tell me i'm full of it.

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is it kosher to post recipes from other people's cookbooks on the forum?

in the meantime, "nadan" just means "country" or "rural" i think--malayali recipes that have the word "nadan" in their names seem to be simpler country style dishes--usually without coconut milk and usually pretty spicy. ammini or vikram can corroborate or tell me i'm full of it.

You can post one recipe as long as you provide the copyright information..

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Years ago when I was living in Boston, I ran into an Indian woman who mentioned that her parents were having trouble selling their house because after cooking Indian food in it for 20 years, the smells had permanently infused the walls. She didn't notice it until she came home after spending three months studying abroad. Her parents had the house painted twice to try and cover the aroma, but it didn't fully work.

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Could we move this thread from bad Indian food odours, to good ones - which are the Indian food aromas we totally trip on?

Did I already mention that I love the smell I get when I enter a good Indian spice store? The combined fragrance of cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinammon, cloves, etc., etc. MMMMMMM!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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