Indian food is known for it’s spicy use of heat and exotic spices like turmeric and cardamom. These flavors are in all the usual dishes like curries, samosas, chutneys and even desserts. When you go into an Indian restaurant you will often get the traditional form of these dishes with little to no changes.
Though these are great, they can still be expanded upon if you are willing to experiment. Talk of traditional dishes only is as boring as shopping for car insurance and about as much fun. Instead, branch out and put some new twists on classic Indian dishes.
1. Gourmet Samosas
Samosas are often thought of as street food. The fried flour dough is easy to carry and eat on the go and is often filled with vegetarian or inexpensive ingredients to keep the cost down, making them perfect street food. Samosas are delicious and it would be a shame to keep them as only vegetarian or street food. Instead, try these ideas:
- Stuff the samosas with luxury ingredients such as lobster or crab. Lobster with some butter sauce or crab with cheese are two ways to make them gourmet.
- Stuff them with duck. Duck is a delicious poultry that has a luxurious taste. It is also very fatty, meaning that it will not dry out when deep fried, so it will hold up well to the frying process.
2. Italian Biryani
Named after the city of Hyderabad, Hyderabadi Biryani is a classic Indian dish usually made with basmati rice. A protein such as goat or ocassionally chicken are also a part of the dish. Give it a fusion multi-ethnic twist with these easy changes:
- Instead of rice, make the sauce and add cooked pasta to it. Bowtie or penne pasta work really well because they can soak up the sauce.
- Add a large diced tomato or a can of stewed tomatoes to the mix. This not only gives it moisture but also a nice Italian sauce twist as well.
- If you really love the rice, instead of replacing it completely with pasta, replace half the rice in your recipe with pasta and add the tomatoes for a dish that still has rice but also the Italian touch.
3. Vegan or Vegetarian Sheera
Sheera is a sweet dessert that is often served for special occasions such as poojas. It is given as an offering to the deities, then some is eaten by the group after the ceremony is over. Most sheera recipes call for ghee (clarified butter) and milk. To give it a vegetarian twist consider the following changes:
- Replace the dairy milk and butter with a non-dairy milk. This could mean soy, rice or hemp milk. For a sweet taste, try almond or coconut milk instead. Some of these come sweetened with vanilla, which would also be a nice change.
- If you absolutely can’t do without the buttery taste, try only replacing the milk with a non-dairy milk and not the ghee. This would still make it vegetarian, just not vegan.
4. Citrus Curry
Curries are generally thick sauces that take all day to stew and make. They don’t usually contain any kind of citrus. There are already enough bold flavors and traditionalists would argue that citrus would interfere. There is also the chance that the citrus could make the sauce separate or curdle, making it unsightly. But you can use citrus in curry with these ideas:
- Use lime zest and only a tablespoon of actual juice in a curry recipe. This cuts down on the chance of sauce separation while still brightening up the dish with citrus.
- Use lime zest in curries that are coconut milk-based. This helps cut down on separation or curdling, plus the lime tastes delicious with coconut.
5. Blueberry Indian Dessert
A common complaint about Indian desserts is that they are too sweet. There are ways to cut down on the sweetness and add other flavors for a bold new twist that will make your taste buds sing:
- Try using less sugar in your recipe. Even reducing by a quarter of a cup can make a huge difference in how sweet it is.
- Instead of pudding, try making an Italian panna cotta with Indian spices such as cardamom topped with pistachios. The taste of panna cotta is much less sweet than puddings and pairs well with cardamom.
- Top a pudding or panna cotta with blueberry sauce. Simply make a simple syrup using fresh or frozen blueberries then add cardamom to it. Pour this over the pudding, you will be amazed how well it matches. You can also strain to take the blueberry skins out or leave them in for an interesting texture.
Of course, any of these suggested twists can be further enhanced with your imagination. When it comes to Indian food, traditional is delicious but there are many opportunities to change things up so that the food takes on a new flavor or meaning.
Don’t stop at just changing vegetarian to vegan or meat to vegan. Get bold and really try new things. You may not get a great dish with your first attempt at change, but if you keep trying, you will eventually get something that tastes delicious and will impress your friends and family with it’s audacity.
Author Bio: Asha is a freelance writer who on her free times enjoys experimenting with Indian cuisine. She enjoys visiting local markets in search of the freshest ingredients.