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Modern cooking methods are making Indian cuisine healthier and more cutting-edge. Here the opinions of chefs Kapoor and Islam
Some of the world’s most progressive Indian chefs are using modern cooking methods to create cutting-edge food without compromising on authenticity. But their experiments with technology are also helping them discover ways of making Indian cuisine healthier than ever.
«In the olden days, when there were no refrigerators, the food had to be cooked in a certain manner so that it could be preserved,» says celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor. «Generous amounts of oil and ghee were used to ensure that food did not spoil. For the modern palate, we cut down on the oil and use non-stick ware. Recently I made a traditional vegetable upma with olive oil. Here I kept the soul of the dish intact, and just switched to a healthier option.»
Aktar Islam of Lasan in Birmingham uses all the gadgets you’d expect to find in any modern European kitchen. His work with the University of Warwick Medical School and the NHS in Britain has led to a number of healthy innovations. In cooking lal maas, a traditional Rajasthani lamb dish, Islam has discovered a way to dramatically cut down on fat while retaining all the authentic flavours.
«It would traditionally be in a heavy confit of ghee to soften the meat,» says Islam. «But instead, we’d do something similar to the sous vide method. We’ll wrap it, pack it, lock the spices in. And instead of cooking it in fat, we’ll do it in stock. This allows the natural fat and marbling in the meat to render down because it cooks so slowly. We’re just cooking it really slowly at a particular temperature, which is a very modern European style of cooking.»
For chefs like Islam, it’s all part of changing people’s perceptions about the true nature of Indian food. «We all like curry,» he says. «We feel it’s probably one of the worst meals we can have, health wise. But what we proved is that it can be good and healthy. It’s just the commercialized version that we know can be bad.»
Photo courtesy Aktar Islam