Licence to fry - The New Indian Express

Licence to fry

Published: 26th July 2013 01:27 PM

Last Updated: 26th July 2013 01:27 PM

There is something about fried food that goes very well with the monsoon. After I served a plate of French fries to my daughter and her friends, I could not resist a handful myself. But that did not end my urge to have something satiating and yummy.

The easiest way to satisfy my craving was to make some pakodas. I julienned some onions, a potato, a brinjal and made the batter using besan. Finally when I sat down to eat the hot pakodas, some sort of guilt kicked in about the innumerable calories that I was allowing to make their way to my waistline.

This set me thinking about the process called frying which is believed to have originated in Egypt in 2500 BC.

Can you name some of your fried favourites?

Frying, as you are aware, is the technique of cooking food in oil or any other fat. Depending on the amount of oil required, the vessel or even the time, the frying technique can further be divided into different processes like sautéing, deep frying, shallow frying and pan frying.

As French fries and the pakodas are both deep fried dishes, let us look at this cooking process closely.

As the name suggests, deep frying involves the complete submersion of food in hot oil. This leads to the food being cooked very quickly. It is a dry cooking method as no water is used here. Contrary to the belief that deep frying food is a harmful cooking practice, food items when fried at the right temperature and not immersed in oil for too long, might not be all that bad. What happens when the temperature is right is that oil is only absorbed by the first layer of the food. The heated oil cooks the food by using the water present in the food item to steam the food. The moisture within repels the oil ensuring that it cooks quickly and is less greasy. On the other hand if food is allowed to remain in the oil for too long, the important moisture will be lost and oil will penetrate the food making it heavy. Today, deep frying has come to be the basis of a very large industry worldwide.

This is indeed good news but in no way does it mean that you can heedlessly dive into bowl after bowl of your favourite potato chips.

Too much fried food is extremely unhealthy for our bodies in many ways. Most importantly, fatty foods may lead to high cholesterol levels in the blood. This may lead to blocked arteries, further leading to a heart attack or aneurysms.

Eating fried food extensively also leads to problems like acid reflux or an irritated bowel.

Now I do not mean to say that you should run away at the sight of oily or fried foods but you must use some prudence when faced with a bag of fried chunks of chicken or potato.

Fats are required in our body as much as other important nutrients like proteins and vitamins. Fat has a particular quality that makes the food tasty and is the concentrated source of energy in our diet. It is the fat in our food that provides a satiating sense to us so that we do not keep on feeling hungry soon after a meal or every other hour.

An optimum amount of fat is essential for the greasing of all our joints. Think of your body as a machine. Unless it is well-oiled it will  not function properly.

Linoleic acid and linolenic acid are called the essential fatty acids that are derived from meats, nuts, seeds and oils in our diet. They are of utmost importance for the normal growth and the constant repair work in our bodies.

So you see, it is important to include fat in our food and indulge, but just once in a while.

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