Venturing into Indian Cuisine

By Madison Service, 2019 Bastyr University Dietetic Intern

 

Curries, tandoori, tikka masala, oh my!
Packed full of flavor and chock-full of nutrients, Indian food is gaining popularity in the western world. Many people seek out this colorful cuisine that offers a wide spectrum of flavors. Adventuring out of one’s comfort zone and stepping into a new food culture is exciting, but may create unease with those who avoid gluten. Fortunately, the majority of Indian food is naturally gluten-free (GF) due to its heavy reliance on rice, veggies, meats, lentils and other beans. However, it is important to know hidden sources of gluten and overt gluten-containing foods while expanding your palate. Whether eating out or experimenting with this new cuisine in your own kitchen, this guide will help you navigate this varied and delicious cuisine.

India is the seventh largest country in the world and is home to an array of cultures, languages, religions, and traditions so it comes as no surprise that food vastly changes from region to region. Restaurants in the United States generally emphasize either northern Indian or southern Indian cooking, with a majority leaning towards the northern region influence. While this list hardly scratches the surface of the intricacies of Indian cuisine, it gives you an idea of the variance.

Northern cuisine

Southern cuisine

 

Indian cuisine basics
Indian cuisine often fosters a sense of community due to its family-style meal ritual. Many restaurants encourage ordering a variety of dishes and sharing with those around the table. If you decide to sample multiple dishes, make sure everything at the table is GF. Enjoying your own entree is fine as well.

Indian meals are generally crafted of a few basic components:

These are common Indian food options that you may see at a restaurant or recipes you may decide to make at home:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian restaurant and GF eating
Some Indian restaurants may have their own specific gluten-free menus or items labeled gluten-free on their regular menu. However, do not assume there are no gluten-free options if you don’t see anything specifically labeled. As mentioned earlier, many dishes are inherently gluten-free. Remember to ask about possible cross-contamination risks and preparation of your dish. Check out this education bulletin located on GIG’s website for more information on questions to ask while eating out (archive.gluten.org/resources/lifestyle/restaurant-dining-seven-tips-for-staying-gluten-free/).

 

Hidden gluten in Indian food
Watch out for these gluten-containing ingredients that may sneak their way onto an Indian restaurant menu:

 

That’s it! Most of the remaining menu items should be fair game, but remember to always inform your server of your dietary needs.

Bring Indian cuisine home
Try Indian cuisine in your own kitchen! Good news – you do not need to make everything from scratch. There are pre-made spice mixes and sauces that will allow you to take some shortcuts. Explore the web for Indian dishes! There is an abundance of delightful GF Indian cuisine recipes online, but here is one to get you started: www.watchwhatueat.com/easy-chicken-biryani/

Congratulations on discovering a whole new world of gluten-free cuisine!