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Steam and savour

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healthy ‘tiffin’ Idlis are the best bet any day
healthy ‘tiffin’ Idlis are the best bet any day

Steaming is the best method of cooking, but it is the least employed in India. Idli, modak and some dal dishes are all that we steam.

The Chinese, on the other hand, steam many more foods: rice, vegetables, meat, fish and herbs.

Texture and flavour

Steaming preserves nutrition, texture and flavour. A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture showed that steaming preserved nearly 90 per cent of the antioxidants in fresh vegetables.

However, pressure-cooking destroys nearly half the antioxidants, boiling destroys two-thirds, and microwaving zaps nearly 97 per cent of the antioxidants.

Because food does not encounter water, steaming is best at preserving the water soluble B and C Vitamins.

Unlike boiling water which destroys the architecture of cells, steam preserves cellular architecture and foods retain their texture and shape well.

Adding spices to the steaming water will impart a delicate flavour to the food. Steaming fruit like grapes and cherries makes it easier to juice them.

Steaming is energy saving. Cooking different dishes in tiered containers in a pressure cooker or a steamer conserves energy. Steaming deserves a bigger role in Indian cooking.

Most of us do not come even close to eating the 10 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables prescribed by the DASH diet. One reason for this is that most Indian vegetables are inedible when raw.

Steamed vegetables are the closest to raw vegetables with regard to nutrition, and this is the best reason for using steam more often in Indian cooking.

Pressure-cooking is not the same as traditional steam cooking unless the food is in layered baskets and does not directly encounter water.

RAJIV M

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