Chef Rushina Reveals Three Indian Superfoods You Didn't Know You Were Eating

Rushina posted on 06 February

What Is It?

Super foods is a term most of us have come across, but most likely in association with exotic ingredients like kale, quinoa, goji berries, rather than kadipatta {curry leaves}, ragi {finger millet}, or amla {Indian gooseberry}. In India, we have a vast forgotten repertoire of foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition thanks to certain naturally present physiologically active components. These strengthen, prevent disease, and enhance health. Indian Culinary culture has a vast repertoire of undiscovered super foods.

Long before the Turmeric Latte, we had Dadima’s haldi doodh. Generations of Indians have been ‘blooming spices in hot oil’ a.k.a. giving tadka to dishes to optimise flavours and nutrients. Paya soup has existed for millennia – our own bone broth rich with strengthening properties. Here are 3 ingredients we eat without realising just how lucky we are to have them, and if you haven’t started using them already, it’s about time you do.

Curry Leaves

The aromatic curry leaf is the unsung hero of the Indian kitchen. Native to the Indian subcontinent and intrinsic to many regional Indian cuisines, used fresh or dried, their fragrance and flavour are unmistakable. Despite prolific availability, so much so that they are given away from free by vegetable vendors, curry leaves are barely used beyond the tadka or tempering. Just 100g of curry leaves contain 830mg calcium and a whopping 12,600 IU of vitamin A. And the fact that they are traditionally added to hot ghee or oil, helps the body absorb that vitamin A. Dry and powder the leaves or cut and add to tadkas so they get eaten rather than picked out and discarded for maximum benefit.

Curry leaves are available easily in supermarkets, stores and with local vegetable vendors.

Ragi

Ragi, mandua, nachni, or Finger Millet, is a much-neglected indigenous wonder grain that has been grown and consumed from as far back as 4,000 years ago in India. Eaten as a grain, flour to make flatbreads and malted for children, ragi’s high calcium and potassium content, weighing in at 344mg and 408mg respectively {more than any other cereals or millets} make it a super food. Additionally, its easy digestibility, high dietary fibre, minerals, sulphur containing amino acids high protein {as complete as milk protein} and low glycaemic index make it invaluable. Use it to make pancakes and dosas, and try substituting part of the flour in your breads with ragi.

Ragi is available in all major stores and with local grocery shops.

Amla

With its hauntingly grassy-acidic-tang is a fruit we do not eat enough off. Traditionally pickled, brined or candied into murraba, amla is valued in Ayurvedic medicines and tonics. One small amla packs the vitamin C of two oranges clocking in at 600mg per 100gms. It is also packed with anti-oxidants, fibre, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. And because the vitamin C is heat stable, it can be cooked and still deliver on the benefits it packs. Grate it into marinades, use in soups, juice it, slice into salads, eat lots more of it!

Amla is available easily in supermarkets, stores and with local vegetable vendors. Also, look out for amla pickles and murrabas to get your dose of this wonder fruit.

Check out Chef Rushina, founder, ABP Cook Studio at The 360 Super Food Festival this Sunday, February 5 at the Radio Club, Colaba. Click here for more details.