Ever since I first started cooking in a typical Indian kitchen, I wondered why are tadkas so important in cooking. It turns out that every style of traditional cooking has its own basis like Italian cooking has sauces, most of Asian countries have curries and we Indians have tadkas. We love them so much that even our salads have a dash tadka on them, everything is incomplete without a tadka.
Adding simmering hot oil to a dish of raw vegies reduces its microbial count without cooking it so that they can be enjoyed with their fibre and all the nutrient content.
Basic ingredients in tadka
• Mustard seeds – packed with vitamins minerals and fibre great for digestive health. Mustard oil is known to have less cholesterol and good for cardiovascular problems. They have selenium which is good for bones, gums, hair and nail health. It is also good for skin and delays aging process.
• Cumin seeds – great for digestive health, rich source of iron and contains antioxidants.
• Chilli powder – although it is said that too much of chilli is not good for health in moderation spicy food increases your metabolic rate which means more calories are burnt by your body. This spice also contains vitamin C and surprisingly enough it is an anti-inflammatory agent.
• Turmeric – vey well known for all its health benefits it is a spice strong enough which caused a lawsuit between an American company and India for its discovery.
• Asafoetida(Hing) – very useful for improvement of digestive health, it is a well-known laxative.
How to make tadka
It is also called as tempering of spices where the spices are heated in hot oil to give its best flavour into our dish. Traditionally the oil is heated at medium heat and then mustard seeds are added now wait for them to make splitting sounds (very satisfying to hear) after it stops making that sound add cumin seeds. At this point if you are making your tadka in a small vessel turn of the heat to stop it from burning as shown in the video and then add other ingredients. Do not let it burn or else it gives a very bad burnt taste in your dish. Now add Hing(asafoetida), turmeric and lastly chilli powder add this tasty concoction to your salads, dal, lentils or anything you wish to. Garlic, onions and tomatoes are added to improve the taste as well. We can also make this tadka in big pot and then add our veggies to it and let it sauté in the same pot for the flavours to get incorporated.
The ingredients mentioned here are very basic as the ingredients differ, based on the recipe that we are cooking. We can also add fennel seeds, cloves, pepper, curry leaves , urad dal, fenugreek seeds, anything which your imagination allows.
As a rule of thumb, the order of ingredients added in tadka is decided on which ingredient requires more cooking time, they are added first and ones which requires less time are added later. Mustard seeds are almost always added first.
About the nutrients lost
Now we know that along with adding flavour to our food tadka provides nutrients, but aren’t they lost while cooking in oil? Well because they are cooked in oil which is a fat it increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A,D,E and K but decreases the absorption of water-soluble vitamin like vitamin C. As we only use one or two tablespoons of oil for a big pot of dal, lentils and vegetables only a healthy moderate amount of oil consumed.
Oils like coconut oil, clarified butter(ghee) can be used to make the food healthier. Olive oil at high temperatures breaks down to give unpleasant taste so its not ideal for a good tadka.
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