For the Cooking 101 series, I thought I'd start with some basic cooking methods or techniques that are essential to Indian cooking. I will cover each technique's definition, the science behind it and the best practices, particularly for Indian food. So next time you read a technique I use, you will know how to best use it!
Today's technique is frying.
Frying is essentially cooking food in a fatty medium. There are many fats that can be used for frying like oils, animal fats etc. Indian cooking primarily uses vegetable oils such as peanut oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil and olive oil.
There are two kinds of frying that we use to make our food: deep frying and shallow frying,
In deep frying, the item to be cooked is completely submerged in the oil or fat for cooking. So you need a large, deep vessel and lots of oil for deep frying. Samosas, pooris, wadas, pakoras/ bhajiyas all are our eternal favourite fried foods.
Tips for Deep Frying:
Testing the Heated Oil
You need to make sure the oil is hot enough. A traditional way to test this (while deep frying) is to put a bit of the batter or snack being fried into the oil. If it rises from the bottom to the top of the oil in less 2-3 seconds, it's hot enough!
Putting the Items In
Put in the items to be fried from a distance using a long slotted spoon. This will prevent hot oil splattering on you which happens when water comes in contact with hot oil. The hot oil will try to throw the water out. Hence you need to be extra careful when frying stuff with water in the batter or wet stuff.
Frying in Batches:
When you have a large number of items to deep fry, they're best done in small batches. So if I have 10 wadas to fry, I will do in batches of 3 or 4 to the max. This allows them to cook evenly. It also uses lesser oil because less is needed to submerge lesser food items. Allow time between batches for the oil to heat again.
Recipes for Trying Out Deep Frying:
1. Wada pav
2. Shallow Frying
Shallow frying is when the food is only partially in contact with the oil. It is usually done on a a flat surface like a tawa (flat iron griddle). It's considered the healthier version of cooking dishes by frying as it needs much less oil for cooking and the food absorbs lesser oil too. Patties, parathas and cutlets are best served by shallow frying till they become crispy. In our home we also shallow fry marinated fish coated in rice flour (recipe of marination here).
Tips for Shallow Frying:
Testing Heated Oil
The oil should be decently hot for shallow frying. There should be a loud sizzling noise when you put the shallow frying item on it to cook. If there isn't, give it some more time to heat.
Shallow fried items mean crispy crusts. To get the best crispy crusts, heat oil well, lower the flame to medium high and cook one side till done. When you flip over, add some more oil and put the flame on high to heat oil well. You'll get a beautiful golden-brown crust!
Recipes for Trying Out Shallow Frying: