It seems like if you avoid rice, chickpeas, bread and lentils, there might be some good options for eating out at Indian restaurants, especially if you eat some dairy. Am I out of my mind? Veg, fish, lamb, tandoori, cooked in ghee, etc. Are there nasty ingredients (especially in curries) that I'm not aware of?
No, not a "safe option" - even in India it is very hard to find a restaurant that will cook in Ghee. Curries use plenty of fat, and worldwide the fat of choice now is soybean oil or some kind of fake butter/ghee. BTW all Tandoori (barbeque) also uses a LOT of fat for basting and though, traditionally that would be garlic or spice flavored ghee, nowadays it is just soybean or peanut oil.
Another thing to be wary of is pre packaged curry powders if you cook curry at home. most of these contain MSG and often it will be disguised as flavoring agent. But when you look at the amount of sodium in a teaspoon, in the RDA list, you will know the MSG hiding in there.
Make your own 'masala, (curry powder) using fresh spices, it is real easy and stores well, cook at home if you can - if eating out, beware of the above.
I think in almost any case, with rare exceptions, one should assume cooked dishes in a restaurant will contain any number of non-paleo or allergenic ingredients. Restaurant employees, even the best intentioned ones, are generally clueless about these things--particularly compared to the hyper-awareness we have about our food issues.
I'm lucky in that I have no food allergy issues, so it's possible for me to simply make restaurants my "treat" meals. I may still ask lots of questions, and try to choose with an abundance of caution (or with reckless abandon!), but I always assume I'm getting ingredients I don't want and would never cook with at home.
I'm really not a fan of the technique of lying about food allergies in order to try getting what you want. When they lie in turn, and serve you the same food anyway, and you fail to get sick and never follow up with a complaint, some might conclude this "food allergy thing" us bullish*t and lie about their food to a customer with a truly life-threatening allergy like peanuts.
Some restaurants may be using "vegetable ghee" aka hydrogenated vegetable oil. I'd call ahead and ask. In my experience the easiest way to getting straight answers is to ask to speak the the chef/cooks saying that you have severe allergies and need to know exactly what is used.
i agree with what other posters have said. indian restaurants are notorious for using butter-flavored trans-fat vegetable oil and calling it ghee. who can blame them- its so much cheaper and easier to store. and they use A LOT of it. i think the tandoori stuff is probably the best bet.
im saving up though- my next big binge is going to be indian. its really the one thing i really miss. not pizza, not beer, not cake....INDIAN. and i like the bad stuff. samosas and pakoras, aloo naan, poori, garlic naan, malai kofta, lamb vindaloo (extra vindaloo!), and i will eat ALL the chutneys.
of course, you can make it at home and tweak most things to make them more paleo-friendly, but its a lot of work to make more than a couple of dishes. theres actually this indian cooking show that i caught the other day and had never seen before and it was awesome. she made everything look very simple. ill see if i can find it.
here it is! indian made easy on the cooking channel. its a good show.
Vegetable oil?!?! The scoundrels!
In all seriousness: in my personal interpretation of paleo, when eating out I am less worried about vegetable oils than I am about getting a meal with an abundance of vegetables, a moderate amount of meat, and a safe-for-Kation starch. With that logic, I find Indian to be a great restaurant option because I can eat out and splurge a little (hello, dal) without deviating too far from my ideal diet.
There are some excellent ingredients in curries, with all of the spices, herbs etc. However, here in the UK, a number of Indian restaurants (I don't know if it is some, all or most) use GM soy oil to cook in....
I'm an Indian and not Paleo yet. Organic ghee far too expensive here. So, I believe it's not used in restaurants at all. Most of them use hydrogenated fat when they say ghee. And those without specifically mentioning ghee are cooked with reused oils in restaurants for sure.
Even curries may contain gluten as thickener (only in restaurants not in traditional Indian cuisine).
Nearly without exception, fats used in Indian restaurants range from toxic to deadly. I was at the Mumbai airport the other day, idly watching the fellow make me "butter" parathas for me. Turns out, the butter is some kind of white Crisco that is widely used in restaurants. I gave him a long lecture about good fats and bad fats - and made him cook me parathas with no fat on them. Of course they tasted terrible.
Likewise in the US, restaurants use food color, soy, corn, cottonseed and other oils, irradiated spices, poor quality vegetables; their meats are third rate, their grains neither organic, nor GMO free, their chutneys and pickles are loaded with preservatives and vinegar, rather than lactofermented, their yogurts are made from BST rich, post pasteurized milk from sick cows.
I hope a budding Indian restaurant owner takes notes of all this, and starts a restaurant that makes food like his great, great, great, great grandmother did - with wonderful, healthful ingredients.
With all the solid research on what the polyunsaturated Vegetable oils are doing to the human body....it is sad that the choice is to use them. Many people think they are eating "healthy" when they heat out at Indian but honestly the soy oils are some of the worse thinggs you can place into your body.
Please take up the charge as an individual and ask for different. tell the owners that you will not return and will spread the word. I think it is a silly thing because almost every fine dining establishment uses clarified butter to saute in..so the idea that it is dangerous is erroneous at best.
Stand-up and make a difference!
Some tings to read: http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/articles/fats5.php