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Indian cuisines are as old as this ancient culture's existence. Every region has a specific ingredient which defines its unique taste and most of the spices used are locally grown. Indian food is highly influenced by its historical interactions with the world. The Mughals, traders from Central Asia and even the Spanish and English colonizers, all added to the country's gastronomical character & flavors. Religion has also played a very strong role in defining the way we eat.
However, there are certain foods which have become very important to our lives because of their medicinal and health attributes. These have been handed down generations to be used in unique ways to create delicious flavors. Every household has these basic foods and spices, and it is not uncommon to see many of them being used as home remedies for ailments too. Ayurveda finds its basis in the curative and preventive characteristics of these foods, many of which are now being recognized by the West too.
Turmeric, one spice you will find in every Indian home, is used both internally and externally for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is used as a powder or in its fresh raw root form. Haldiwala doodh is a favorite bed time drink, especially in winters to stave away cold, cough, aches and pains. It is used extensively in post-operative, cancer treatment and post-delivery phases for better healing and recovery. These properties of Haldi are probably why it is so extensively used in curries, dals and vegetable preparations across the country.
No South Indian kitchen is complete without Tamarind or Kokum in it. Both are used to make cooling drinks for the grueling summers and are very rich in Iron and Vitamin C.
Psyllium is a miracle food which benefits an upset tummy as well as diabetics, besides being heart friendly. It is an essential whole ingredient used by people of Indian origin across the world. Curry leaves or sweet neem also find their roots in Indian Heritage.
Tulsi, attributed with magical immunity booster properties, is a herb found growing in many Hindu homes. Tulsi leaves added to tea (with ginger and honey) are the best bet for a sore throat and cold.
Which kitchen in India is complete without the aroma of Basmati Rice wafting out of it? It is India's gift to the world and as old as Heer Ranjha themselves.The beautiful long grains make a great pulao or biryani and are a great accompaniment to Indian curries.
Talking of aroma and taste, clarified butter or Pure Cow Ghee is another ingredient which is a must in Indian cooking. Recent studies have shown it to be heart protective inspite of high saturated fats. But it needs to be consumed in moderation. However, no Indian festival is complete without preparations made with Cow Ghee, isn't it?
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