If you're a fan of making Indian food at home but find that it is never quite as good as the Indian food you tried when you were on holiday in India, consider the following hacks to make your chana masala or Baingan ka Bharta taste like they've come from the kitchen of a top restaurant in Mumbai.
Don't drown your dishes with cream and oil
Many dishes served in Indian restaurants in Australia come out almost drowning in huge quantities of cream or oil, or sometimes both. This is not necessary, and it is certainly not authentic. If Indian people want a buttery or oily flavour or texture, they will often use a little ghee (clarified butter) instead, and this is added at the end of cooking once the dish is complete. Ghee can be easily found in Indian markets.
If you're making curry, try to avoid using cream at all. Cream will give the dish a grainy texture, which isn't particularly pleasant. Plain yoghurt or even coconut milk will give your curry a lovely, creamy texture but without the graininess. Just be sure to add yoghurt towards the end of cooking so that it doesn't curdle.
Fry your spices first
Indian cooks tend to fry their spices in a little oil before they start sauteing anything else, meaning the end dish tastes more intense due to the flavours being distributed in the fat. If you, for example, add spices at the same time as onions and tomatoes, the juices from the other ingredients release into the fat, which in turns lowers its temperature and prevents the spices from frying properly.
To fry your spices, use a high heat. If they start to burn or pop, simply splash in a little water to cool down the fat a little.
Use fresh herbs and spices
People in India tend to buy their herbs and spices fresh and just in the qualities that they need them. Fresh herbs and spices naturally have a more intense flavour and will give your dish a more authentic taste. If you can, buy your spices whole and then grind them yourself at home. This is the best way to get the maximum flavour out of your spices and can be easily done with a mortar and pestle. And, be generous with your herbs and spices—whether it be garam masala, cumin, or black mustard seeds, spices are the backbone to Indian cooking and are exactly what are used to give it its intense complexity.