Indian alternatives to international ingredients

The food scene in India has gone global. Thanks to food shows like MasterChef India and food channels like Living Foodz and Food Food, people are becoming increasingly aware of a wide range of global cuisines. As international travel and fine dining becomes more affordable and the people’s purchasing power goes up, everyone is waking up to their pasta done al dente and their vegetables cut into juliennes. Not just that international ingredients that are not really native to India are making their presence felt on our plates and our palates. But finding these ingredients to make that delicious Thai salad or a Paella can be quite a challenge. These ingredients are not just expensive, they are also rarely available in non-metro cities.

That shouldn’t stop us from eating delicious food though, should it? While India has a very, very wide range of cuisines that one can never tire of exploring or learning about; international cuisine has its own unique flavors to offer. And cooking international dishes at home with scarce availability of these special ingredients can be a challenge. No more!

Here are some easy Indian replacements for the international ingredients that can help you get your flavors right and enjoy that perfect plate of food. Besides its super important to support local farmers and buy local produce.

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Filipino Vegetarian Adobo A staple dish that every Filipino mom knows how to make. This makes for the perfect savoury bite with just the right amount of tang. Pair this with rice and my ‘Smashed Cucumber Salad’ (recipe coming soon✨) and dinner is SERVED! Ingredients For Tofu & Marinade 3 c fried tofu (1in cubes) 3 garlic cloves (minced) 1/3 c soy sauce 1/3 c apple cider vinegar 3 dried bay leaves For Cooking 3 tbsp oil 3 garlic cloves (minced) 1 small onion (diced) 1.5 c water 2 tsp black pepper Combine all ingredients for marinade and pour over tofu. Let this sit for at least 30 minutes, even better overnight. Pan fry marinated tofu over medium to high heat with enough oil to cover the base. Don’t throw alway the marinade just yet.. as we will be using this later on. Cook until edges are slightly brown then set aside. Add more oil to skillet and sauté onions first then garlic over me low to medium heat until soft. Next, add the rest of the marinade, water, and black pepper to the skillet. Bring the heat up to a simmer then take out the bay leaves (optional). Turn it down for a low simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. Return tofu and let the sauce reduce for 5 more minutes, depending how little or how much sauce is wanted. Serve this over rice and enjoyed! Tip: add scallions and fried garlic on top for extra omph💁🏻‍♀️ *Click to my ‘👩🏻‍🍳pt.3’ highlight to see the process! . . . . . . . . . . . #filipinofood #filipino #filipinofoodmovement #pinoy #pinoyfood #pinoyfoodie #foodporn #food #foodphotography #foodie #foodstagram #foodiesofinstagram #vegetarianrecipes #vegetarian #recipes #vegan #veganrecipes #veganfood #tofu #tofurecipes #foodporn #foodpics #foodlover #foodblogger #foodforfoodies

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Paneer instead of Tofu

This is quite a no-brainer. Tofu is the curd obtained by curdling soy milk. It has different types – silken tofu, regular tofu, firm tofu, extra firm tofu, super firm tofu, seasoned tofu, etc. But if you can’t find tofu to make that stir fry or salad or whatever Asian dish you’re working on, replace it with paneer. You can make paneer quickly at home and adjust the firmness of the paneer according to the requirements of your dish. Or you can use store-bought frozen or fresh paneer too. The flavor profiles are definitely different and your dish will not be vegan anymore if that’s what you were planning on though.

Carom seeds instead of Thyme

Thyme is an aromatic herb commonly used in European cuisine. It can be used fresh or dried. However, thyme is not quite common for the Indian climate, so it can be a challenge to find fresh thyme throughout the year. Dried thyme can still be found in spice bottles from popular brands like Keya. However, if you can’t find thyme, simply replace it with carom seeds. Carom seeds are commonly called as Ajwain in Hindi. Both thyme and carom seeds contain the enzyme thymol. All our kitchens always have carom seeds. It is also a popular home remedy for cold. This will help you get the flavors you were looking for.

Bottle gourd or Sponge gourd instead of Zuccini or Courgette

You’ll often find yellow or green zucchini as an ingredient in many recipes. Did you know in South Africa, zucchini is called as baby marrow? Zucchini is a summer squash. Nowadays, many people make noodles out of it as a healthy alternative to the usual noodles. Well, you can’t do that with a replacement ingredient, but for usual recipes you can substitute zucchini with a bottle gourd or a sponge gourd. As a last case, you can also try substituting it with the Indian squash or tinde. The flavor and texture of either are not generally comparable to zucchini, but the recipe would still work and you wouldn’t miss the zucchini in the dish at all.

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🔥🔥 BIG CELERY TIP From @vegetableacademy Celery is one of the crops that will be with us right to the bitter end as fall temperatures arrive.  It already proved its hardiness by surviving an early low of -6ºC that we experienced last week and with the help of a floating row cover over top of this crop, we should be able to coast through several more freezing nights yet and keep enjoying fresh celery into late October. . Our celery crop is still with us because we harvest our celery differently than most larger growers.  Instead of cutting and removing the whole head at the base, we snap off the outer stems as needed and allow the inner stems to continue growing.  It takes a little more labour to harvest single stems instead of the whole plant, but this simple difference in harvesting techniques can make a big difference in the overall yield we can get from this space.  We have already harvested over 30 kg (66 lbs) from this 50 square foot bed and all 60 heads are still growing happily here converting sunlight into good food.   . The lesson here is not to model your harvesting techniques after what you see in the grocery store.  We typically only see full celery heads in the grocery store, and it’s easy to understand why celery in that form makes more sense for harvesting and shipping on an industrial scale, but it just doesn’t make sense for us as small scale growers.  Had we harvested full heads from this space, we would have had to start again with another crop from seed or transplants, and we would lose all the growing momentum that we had with these well established celery plants.  We would much rather keep our space green and productive as long as our season allows. 📷 & Caption @vegetableacademy #GardenActivist . . . . . . #gardener #garden #gardening #mygarden #nodig #veggiegarden #kitchengarden #backyardgarden #growyourown #growyourownfood #vegetables #growwhatyoueat #eatwhatyougrow #gardentherapy #organicgardening #organicgarden #instagarden #gardensofinstagram #urbangarden #smallspacegardening #raisedbedgarden #urbangarden #homesteadlife #homesteading #tomatoes #celery #foodstyling #allotmentlife #urbangardenersrepublic

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Green Apple with Spinach instead of Celery

There are some recipes that require a lot of celery to be used to give it a distinct flavor. Now, celery is not so easily available with our subjiwalas most of the time and if you live in smaller cities celery is almost never found anywhere. What to do? Just substitute it with green apple and spinach together. The tartness of the green apple paired with the earthy saltiness of spinach will closely imitate the flavor of celery while also giving the fish a green color. And there you go, you just salvaged that soup!

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~Lingdu ke sabzi🤤🤤🤤. . Fiddlehead fern is one of the healthiest organic vegetables. This green vegetable is Usually picked from wilderness near water sources. In spring season to mid summer. It is known by many names like Linguru/ lingdu/lingru/lingda commonly found in almost all Himalaya states like Uttarakhand, J&K, Himachal pradesh, Sikkim etc. This vegetable is rich in high fibre besides iron. An antioxidant,this fern also provides omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. INGREDIENTS : Fiddlehead ferns (lingdu) – 1 kg Onion- 2 chopped Coriander seeds – 2 tsp Jakhya- 1 tsp Garlic – 7-8 cloves. Minced Dried Red Chilli – 3 Red chilli powder-1 tsp Turmeric (haldi) – 1 1/2 tsp Hing – 1/4 tsp Salt to taste Oil – 5-6 tbsp Method of preparation: 1. Peal lingdu by rubbing a knife along the stem and remove thread like skin. 2. Wash and cut lingdu in small pieces & boil for 10 minutes on low flame. Drain and set aside. 3. In a kadhai Heat add oil and on low flame for 1-2 minutes. 4. Add jeera, dry chilli, hing, Coriander seeds, jakhya. Heat for 1 minute. Add garlic and heat till garlic is golden brown. 5. Add onions and cook till golden brown. 6. Add boiled and strained linguda and mix well. 7. Then Add salt, haldi powder and red chilli powder, mix well. 8. Cook open on low flame for 5 minutes. While stirring in approximately 1 minute interval. 9. Best to Serve with roti or plain paratha with a side of bhangul chutney and pickle. Don’t forget to add few drops of lemon🍋 for great taste. Dm for credits . . . . . . . . . . #lingude #lingudukesabzi #lingdu #pahadifood #foodart #quarantineandchill #foodporn #homecook #chef #uttarakhandculture #paurigarhwal #garhwali #garhwali #kumaon #kumaoni #uttarakhandheaven #uttarakhand #pahadan #pahadi #Dehradun #Doon #uttarakhandheaven #chatorapahadi #uttarakhandtourism

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Lingude instead of Asparagus

Some oven roasted or stir fried asparagus in a dish can add such a burst of flavors. But well, in the town where I grew up, no vegetable vendor had ever seen or known asparagus. If I would have asked them about it, I would sure have gotten laughed at! A classic alternative to asparagus grows in our Himalayan state of Uttarakhand – Lingude. Well, I can’t find it in my markets either, but its still an alternative for those can find it. Lingude or fiddlehead ferns are the furled fronds of young ferns. Just steam the lingude till they are tender and there you have something just as crunchy and delicious as the asparagus shoots. Always remember that the lingude cook really quickly, so be mindful of the cooking time.

Onions instead of Leeks

I’ve very often felt that leeks taste almost pretty close to onions. Anyone else felt that? Though, leeks are a little more mild in flavor and slightly more watery than onions. But it could still work as a good replacement. I’ve tried it in my leek and potato soup (with leeks replaced by onions, effectively making it an onion and potato soup!) and even with a leek pie (should actually be onion pie then!), and it has worked out pretty fine. As for the leafy bits of leeks, use the onion leaves or the spring onions.

Spring Onions or Green Garlic instead of Chives

People often tend to mistake chives with green garlic leaves. Well, they are close relatives in the same family, but they’re not the same. They’re more like siblings but not twins. Chives have tubular leaves with a delicate oniony flavor with a hint of garlic. So, when you don’t find chives, trust me, you can easily replace it with spring onions or green garlic and none of those party guests you’re trying to impress will be able to tell the difference. Get chopping then!

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Our Bandel Cheese Stuffed Chargrilled Bhavnagri Chilies are back on the special #TBCAnniversaryMonth menu at @thebombaycanteen for a limited time only! . Did you know that there are several indigenous Indian cheeses beyond the crowd favourite paneer? From Kalari in Kashmir, to the Parsi Topli Paneer, the Himalayan Chhurpi, or Kalimpong and Bandel from West Bengal, we do have pockets of our country that make specific kinds of cheese which you wouldn't find anywhere else in the world! And if you’ve visited The Bombay Canteen for a meal over the last 5 years, chances are high that you would’ve come across quite a few of them highlighted on our menu. . Beyond the local Indian produce we showcase through our seasonal menu at @thebombaycanteen, we're also passionate about indigenous Indian cheese and it's always exciting when our guests find comfort in these dishes. . Bandel for example is a salty, smokey cheese named after an erstwhile Portuguese colony in West Bengal it's made in, and it's available only in Kolkata's New Market where I first came across it about 2 years ago. It is made with cow milk set with lime juice into small discs and salted so heavily it'll last without refrigeration for days. . Our new version of a @thebombaycanteen classic, the Cheese Stuffed Grilled Bhavnagri Chillies brings together the Bandel with another incredible ingredient from West Bengal, the aromatic Gondhoraj lebu, king of citrus! It’s amazing how a few indigenous Indian ingredients can come together to produce a burst of contrasting flavors that work perfectly with each other. This is spicy, creamy, citrusy, smokey goodness on a plate! #indianingredients #bandelcheese #gondhoraj #indiancheese #indigenousIndiancheese #gondhorajlebu #cheesestuffedchillies #bhavnagrichilies #localseasonalvegetables #TBCchhota #traditionalindian #modernindian #thebombaycanteen #indiainspired #mumbai

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Bhavnagri Chilies (Achari Chilies) instead of Bell Peppers

These days, bell peppers or our desi Simla Mirch is quite easily available. But when Murphy’s law gets acting it can be really tough to find them. Or just when you have begun cooking, you realize you’re out of bell peppers. Fret not. Bhavnagri chilies are the perfect replacement for bell peppers. These Bhavnagri chilies or the achari chilies are what we use to make those stuffed chilies or what we in Gujarati call as bharela marcha. These bhavnagri chiles have very low amount of the spicy compound – capsaicin in them, just like all the members of the capsicum family. Plus, they have this characteristic aromatic herb flavor. When you make this replacement, you’ll add a really good flavor note to the dish without disturbing the balance.

Raw Mango + Carrots instead of Parsnips

Parsnips are root vegetables that are closely related carrots and parsley. They look similar to radishes but they don’t taste the same. Radishes have a sharp flavor, while parsnips have sweet flavor. In Europe, parsnips were used as a sweetener when the cane sugar wasn’t yet introduced in the continent. While radishes can’t be used as replacements for parsnips, you can use a combination of raw mango with carrots instead. Parsnips and carrots belong to the same taxonomic family, and are close in flavor while the raw mango adds the slight sour notes that are required in parsnips. Together the sweetness of carrots and sourness of the raw mangoes will together imitate the flavor of parsnips very well.

Mustard + Radish instead of Wasabi

Wasabi is a commonly found ingredient in Oriental cuisine. It has a very sharp, strong flavor. When you can’t find wasabi, mix together some mustard oil with radish and there, this is the perfect replacement for wasabi. Wasabi, horseradish, radish, and mustard all belong to the same family and have similar flavors.

Cauliflower or Cabbage instead of Broccoli

Cabbage and Broccoli belong to the same family. Their flavors are quite different, no doubt, but that typical pungency is common to both. So, when you can’t find broccoli, replace it with cabbage if you are looking for the flavor aspect in the recipe. If you’re looking for the visual factors and need florets, then cauliflower is what you should use.

Well, these are some of the common Indian ingredient replacements you can use for popular international ingredients. Do you have any such trips of your own? Share them with me and you could get a chance to be featured in my blog. Also, if you try any of these replacements, don’t forget to tag me in the posts.

Penny for your thoughts!