Olive oil and Indian Cooking

Indian cooking and olive oil…No, I wouldnt have thought about it till a few years ago. Growing up in Tamilnadu, I had this strong feeling that sesame oil( Gingerly Oil or Nallennai), Butter, Ghee, Sunflower oil or coconut oil are the ones to be used for cooking. Olive oil is something for western cooking was the idea I had.

Gingerly oil(Nall yennai- Good oil) is what we would use for stir frying vegetables, adding tadka to sambars or kootus. Gingerly oil is also used to mix with rice and eaten with podis(powders) or thugayals.

Here is the info about gingerly oil I got from wikipedia.

Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil as well as one of the earliest condiments. In fact, the word ‘ennai’ that means oil in Tamil language has its roots in the Tamil words eL(எள்ளு) and nei(னெய்), which mean sesame and fat. In the Tamil language of India, Sesame Oil is called “Nalla Ennai”(நல்லெண்ணெய்), which literal translation in English is “good oil”.

In general though at home, For deep frying pooris or snacks like murukku, bajji, bondas or pakoras we’d use sunflower oil.

Coconut oil was reserved for aviyal(Steamed vegetables in yogurt sauce) or making plantain chips. There are still debates about coconut oil and cholesterol though. Some say it is good for the heart and some people say it causes heart disease. Any ideas on these are welcome and I’d be happy to learn about it.

So, coming back to cooking with olive oil. I was skeptical at first. I couldnt think of making typical iyer/iyengar sambars or vatha kozhambu with olive oil or aloo curry or yennai kathrikkai curry with olive oil.

Yet, I decided to try one day with just making a kari(stir fry) with olive oil. As usual I added mustard seeds, hing, curry leaves and the veggie. I couldnt see/smell/taste any specific difference when I tasted it and so I gave it to hubby for the ultimate taste test. Nope, he didnt taste anything different either.

So slowly I started cooking with olive oil for upmas, sambars, vatha kozhambus and karis. I have even sauteed vegetables for biryani/tomato rice with olive oil. There is no difference in taste and I didnt miss any flavors.

But the one disadvantage was that I couldnt use it for steaming. That kinda turned out to be smelly :(

Here is the list of my success and failure for Indian Cooking with Olive Oil.

Success in substituting olive oil for other oils:
I use light flavor olive oil and not extra virgin olive oil.

All sambars, vatha kozhambus, kootus.
All stir fry karis
All variety rices like vangi baath, tomato rice, lemon rice.
All gravies like paneer butter masala, chole masala, rajma masala, koftas, dals…
For tadkas

Not so good taste when I used olive oil in:
Steaming idlis,
Steaming dhoklas.

Havent tried (still debating)
Pouring olive oil for making dosas and adais.

Print Friendly

No Comments so far.

Leave a Reply