When you think of Indian food, you probably envisage lot of mouthwatering spices and dishes such as butter chicken with sides of raita and chapatti bread.
But contrary to popular belief, many of the dishes we automatically think of as traditional Indian are, in fact, a western interpretation.
India is a vast country, almost as big as Europe, with a huge diversity of sub-cultures, languages, climate, and religion.
Therefore, it is difficult for many of us indigenous to Kiwi-land to be knowledgeable about what really constitutes traditional Indian cuisine.
Indeed, most of our Indian neighbours probably only practice the cooking of their region of origin. True traditional fare varies widely according to region.
North Indian cooking (often called Mughlai) has Central Asian influences and features sauces, butter-based curries, chapatti bread and roti.
South Indian cooking is usually vegetarian, uses a lot of coconut, and rice will usually form the basis of the meal.
What all styles of Indian cookery have in common however, is the use of aromatic spices, which give the food the exotic flavours that we find tantalising.
Fresh, seasonal produce is the rule. Although the spices are an identifying characteristic, they are also used sparingly.
While we tend to think of Indian food as complicated, it can actually be prepared quickly. Many dishes can be cooked in a crock pot or electric pan, and most dishes can be prepared within half an hour. Traditional cooking works with taste rather than recipe.
One of the most misunderstood benefits of this type of cuisine (in New Zealand anyway) is the positive impact it can have on our wellbeing.
This food has actually been shaped by the science of Ayurveda, the ancient form of holistic medicine and wellness that runs through the core of India.
Traditionally, Indian cooks were chosen from the ranks of priests in the belief that good energy would go into the food.
Home cooking was favoured as it was believed that food prepared with love would have a better energy than that coming from a restaurant.
As many Indians are vegetarians, the fare is particularly beneficial.
One of the problems with vegetarianism is the importance of ingesting complete proteins; it can be difficult to get it right.
But the staples of many Indian meals (lentils and beans combined with rice) provide the entire eight amino acids for complete protein requirements.
Here is a list of ingredients used in Indian Cuisine. All of these ingredients offer huge health and nutritional benefits.
Pullman Hotel Auckland is the Sponsor of the Business Excellence in Restaurant Trade Category of the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2011.
Jeera Whole (Cumin)
Good for digestion, energy and metabolism. It is also thought to be an anti-carcinogenic
Black Jeera Shahi (Caraway Seed)
Good for digestion, colic, flatulence, anxiety and menstrual cramps. It can also help to decrease bruising
Good for the skin and increases longevity; It also aids digestion and increases appetite
Calms stomach cramps, stimulates digestion, reduces gas and flatulence.
Good for the blood
Saunf (Fennel Seeds )
Good for digestion and hence often chewed after a rich meal. Also a good breath freshener
Helps with dental hygiene, joint inflammation, digestive tract cancers and may be a protectant against environmental pollution
Helps with digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia* and may help protect against cancer
Fenugreek Fresh & Dry
Helps to balance blood sugar in diabetics; may also have beneficial effects on triglycerides, high cholesterol and helps with constipation
Especially good at clearing out the toxins and impacted waste that can result from a heavy meat or junk food diet. Also helps with flatulence
Great for digestion and for the skin; especially good for eczema sufferers. Also helps prevent diarrhea. Can also help reduce sensitive reactions in infants with food allergies
Helps with flatulence, jaundice, menstrual problems, toothache, bruises, chest pain and colic. Also thought to be beneficial in cases of cancer, cystic fibrosis and with bowel problems
Dyspepsia is a pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the upper middle part of your stomach. The pain might come and go, but the problem persists most of the time.