8 Popular Myths About Indian Food In The USA, Busted
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In recent decades, Indian food has increasingly become immensely popular across the USA for a number of reasons. The South Asian and Indian diaspora in the USA has been steadily increasing since the 1980s, and so has the popularity of Indian restaurants, eateries and takeout places across the USA. From Indian-Americans missing the taste of home to adventurous Americans on the lookout for new flavours, the Indian food scene in the USA has improved substantially mostly thanks to foodies and chefs coming together to celebrate global cuisine like never before. 

To say that international reality food shows like Top Chef, Chopped, MasterChef and even Kitchen Nightmares haven’t played a role would be a mistaken assumption. These shows, with their Indian-origin judges and participants, like Padma Lakshmi, Maneet Chauhan and Vikas Khanna, have given the American audience a closer look at Indian food like never before. And yet, despite all this progress, there are plenty of commonly held, popular myths about Indian food in the USA that are still doing the rounds and hindering the truest exchange of culinary ideas and flavours. 

Curious about what these common and popular myths about Indian food in the USA are? Here are 8 popular myths about Indian food in the USA that should be busted immediately so you can enjoy more diverse flavours of the South Asian nation. 

1. All Indian Food Is Spicy 

Indian food in the USA gets a very bad reputation for being too spicy, so spicy in fact that eating it always causes digestive issues and diarrhea. This idea is bolstered by the fact that the most popular Indian dishes are reddish or deep brown in colour, which suggests heat and spice. But the fact is, Indian food is usually spicy in terms of having a choice of spices in the recipes instead of unlimited amounts of chillies. So, most Indian dishes are not spicy but have a balanced blend of spices. Further, any amount of chillies, dry red chillies and red chilli powder can be tailored as per your taste instead of being compulsory. 

2. All Indian Food Is Curry 

For most people in the USA, Curry is the generic term used for all dishes that come with a side of rice, roti or more. But in fact, Indian cuisine has a wide variety of dishes that can get clubbed under one category—curries—because of language differences across the subcontinent, which can be difficult for non-locals to understand. Every region of India actually has innumerable dishes that are made with a unique combination of vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, seafood, spices, herbs and many other ingredients. In India, only gravy-based dishes which do not have specific regional names are called curry. So, no, all Indian food is not curry. 

3. Indian Food Is Unhealthy 

Indian food in the USA has mostly been popular as takeout and on many occasions, the dishes can tend to be a bit oily, rich and high in calories. This, plus the assumed spice levels of Indian food can indeed make you think that all Indian food is unhealthy. But the fact is that most Indian staple foods like Dal, Roti, vegetable-loaded lentil dishes like Sambar and most vegetables are actually very healthy. In fact, sattvik, vegetarian and vegan dishes from across India are some of the healthiest in the world thanks to the inclusion of seasonal, fresh and nutrient-dense ingredients. In fact, even the spices used in Indian cuisine have their health benefits. 

4. Rice And Naan Are The Only Indian Sides 

In the USA, the most popular Indian staples served alongside main course dishes like Butter Chicken and Palak Paneer are white basmati rice and naan. This has led to the popular but mistaken myth about Indian food in the USA that rice and naan are the only Indian sides that go with these main dishes. And yet, the fact is that the variety of flatbreads made across India, from rotis and bhakris to puris and appams can take your breath away with the variety available. The same goes for rice varieties across India, which include black rice, brown rice and red Matta rice. So, the next time you are eating out, experiment with Indian sides too.  

5. Indian Food Is Always And Only Vegetarian 

When people in the USA think of Indian food, the popular myth is that it is all vegetarian. But the truth is, the idea of vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism varies from country to country. In the USA, a person who is vegetarian is mostly someone who has opted out of eating meat and seafood out of concern for health or the environment. However, in India, there is a whole spectrum of vegetarianism ranging from Jain vegetarianism to flexitarianism. In fact, most non-vegetarians in India eat more amount and variety of vegetables, leafy greens and fruit-based dishes as a part of regular meals compared to vegetarians in the USA because of how Indian traditional meals are structured and cooked.  

6. All Indian Food Is Cooked With The Same “Curry Powder” 

For most people in the USA, the commonly held belief is that the secret ingredient behind Indian food lies in a generic “curry powder” that is made with a generic blend of spices. However, this is a popular myth that needs to be busted because it is simply untrue. Every region and cuisine of India has a variety of spice blends, ranging from Garam Masala to Chettinad Masala to even Sambar Masala. That apart, different whole spices are also used as tempering for most Indian dishes. For example, Panch Phoron is a popular tempering spice blend in eastern Indian states, while mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida are a common tempering blend in South Indian states. 

7. Indian Food Cannot Be Made At Home 

The common myth about Indian food in the USA is that while it can be easily eaten out or ordered as takeaway, it can be very difficult to make at home. The simple truth is that like all global cuisines, Indian food can be easily made at home if you have the basics right and the ingredients you need at hand. Another commonly held idea is that Indian food is very time-consuming to make. This is another myth about Indian food that should be busted because there are plenty of Indian dishes that can be easily prepared in very short period of time, like a 15-minute Sadam rice dish or snack like Dahi Puri Chaat. 

8. Indian Food Is Monotonous 

Most people in the USA mistakenly believe that Indian food is monotonous, lacks variety and is made of the same old “curry-rice” combination. And yet, India is a vast and diverse nation with a huge variety in ingredients, spices, flavours and dishes based on the region, local crops, seasons, religion and more. In fact, regional Indian cuisines are now slowly making their way to the USA, leading to the slow and steady busting of this common myth. So, instead of being monotonous, Indian food can offer you with new and exciting flavours to try every single day. All you need to do is some basic research about regional Indian food.