In the recent past many people known to me have asked me to write about the cooking oil scene in India. One of those is my aunt Poornima who is very particular about her health and has always wondered about the merits and demerits of Olive Oil.
My aunt is right. Last year India consumed 17 million tonnes of cooking oil. Oil has always been the mainstay of Indian cooking considering that the cooking method always employs frying and in some cases deep frying. And this has been repeatedly pointed out as one of the main reasons why almost a third of Indians are over weight.
India also consumed roughly 12,000 tonnes of Olive oil and that too it was mostly in the upper strata of society, people with a annual household income of Rs 10 Lakh and above have been the patrons of olive oil.
But now Olives are being grown in India. In the state of Rajasthan some dozen odd farmers have been given the expertise, subsidy and incentive to start growing Olives. So soon we will have home grown oil and it will be much cheaper and as available as a low cost option.
But problem is not with only the cost.
The highest quality is the extra virgin oil olive oil that is available after cold crushing fresh olives after the harvest. It is the highest grade oil and requires very little flame to cook.
With Olive oils, the more refined they are, the higher their burning point. An Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil would be a terrible choice for Indian cooking as it would cause effect on taste, smell, and nutrition which has prolonged periods of sauteing on high heat.
Lower quality olive oils, or a light olive oil, interestingly, would be a better choice. They are much more refined like vegetable oils, so have a higher burning point. But at that point, you’d consider why are you using Olive oil?
In my opinion using refined butter (ghee) or coconut oil for Indian cooking is the way to go. Ghee and Coconut oil will rarely smoke or burn and can stand high heat pretty well.
So unless you are changing your diet and using raw food and using Olive oil to just add flavor, this medium for cooking will just complicate your diet…
So Olive oil may not be a solution to the health problems today…