3 things you should know about Indian cuisine

Food has a hip, fast-evolving language. One minute, we're talking about Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, and the next, we're learning about cooking your good old pulled pork in a completely different way. And up to now, we still can't just quite pin down what exactly makes us come back to an age-old cuisine.

Take, for example, Indian food. Aside from roti, samosa, and Biryani, what do you know about these centuries-old dishes? Do you still think that all Indian food is just spicy?

Komal Khanchandani, owner of Swagat Indian Cuisine, the best-kept-secret in the slowly rising food district in Legaspi Village for 12 years, invited us to dinner one night to talk about the few things that make Indian food what it is, outside the hype and misconception.

1. It's not hot, it's just spicy

"A lot of people think that Indian food is spicy or maanghang," begins Komal, who can put natives to shame with her fluency in Filipino. "Yes, Indian cuisine is spicy in that we use a lot of spices in one dish. But it is not hot."

2. The Top Five

Komal mentioned that there are five different spices that are present in most Indian dishes and these are turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and cardamom."[All of these] we try to use in any form from powder to the seeds. It depends on your [chosen combination] of the five spices what taste you want to bring out," explains Komal. Cardamom, for example, can be used in their beef and chicken dishes, but are also used for their desserts.

3. Have some patience

Komal notes that in comparison with Filipino dishes, Indian food takes a little more time as they cook each ingredient one by one. "It's not like with sinigang where you can put everything in one pot and let them all boil together. [With Indian food,] you have to take time because you have to make sure each spice is cooked." She further tells us that in cooking each spice before adding the next one, you assure that its flavor is released into the dish and is ready to be mixed with the other spices. "That's why you can't tell sometimes [if a dish is] sweet, salty, or sour."

Swagat Indian Cuisine. 119 FCC Building, Rada St., Legaspi Village, Makati. (02) 757-5699.

Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, visit their website.