Types of oils in Indian cooking you really need to know about
Indian food is well known for its diversity, and the way a dish is cooked depends primarily on the region and its cooking style. And when it comes to cooking, choosing the right kind of oil is important as it not only makes a huge impact on the nutritional value, but also the taste and aroma of the dish. In India, since time immemorial, the oil we use in cooking is largely dependent on where we live. Different cultures in India have different cuisines and the type of oil fits organically into the food landscape of that region. Here are five of the most commonly used oils in Indian cuisines:
Ghee is commonly referred to as clarified butter. Although ghee is not considered an oil in the traditional sense, it is a traditional dietary source of fat which is used in Indian cooking for ages. Traditionally, ghee has been used as cooking oil, as well as an ingredient in numerous Indian dishes. It is considered to be better than butter as it is great for digestion, improving the functioning of the brain and also in weight loss when accompanied by a healthy and active lifestyle. Ghee is also said to improve memory, and aids in building up bone strength and the general energy levels of a person.
Groundnut oil or peanut oil has been used in Indian cooking since ages. It is largely used for its slightly nutty flavour and taste and it is a very stable cooking medium compared to other oils which is why it is use in deep frying sauteing and also to make dressings. Groundnut oil is extremely high in mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which helps in lowering cholesterol. It's also a good source of vitamin E, acting as an antioxidant by protecting the skin.
Sesame oil is commonly used for tempering, as a flavour enhancer, lubricant and preservative in south Indian cuisines. Sesame oil is almost tasteless and odorless, which is why it is used in the manufacture of pickles. The light sesame oil is suitable for deep frying whereas the dark sesame oil is suitable for stir frying.
Coconut oil is widely used in coastal parts of southern India for cooking. Coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil, is rich and flavorful giving the dish and extra added flavour. Coconut oil is a better option for frying or cooking at higher temperatures and there are some dishes that could only be prepared using coconut oil as using any other oil will just not give you the taste.
Mustard oil has a pungent flavour and aroma and is used for frying, as a flavouring and, because of its preservative qualities, in preserves such as chutneys and pickles. Mustard oil is a popular cooking medium for traditional cooking options as it is often used also as a stimulant to help digestion and circulation as well. Due to its antibacterial properties, it helps protect the skin and also fights germs and virus, to prevent cold, coughs and skin issues.
In southern parts of India like Kerala, it is coconut oil that is used while in Tamilnadu, Andhra and Rajasthan, people swear by the sesame oil. In the east and northern India, mustard oil is used and in central India and Gujarat, groundnut oil is used, giving each cuisine its distinct flavour.