Wondering what mustard oil has to do with cultural activities? Although the popularity of mustard oil receded in the second half of the 20th century, because of the availability of mass-produced vegetable oils, the cultural connections are still to be seen. The oil is poured on the sides of the threshold during ceremonies, for instance, to welcome a newly wedded couple into the house, or even during small celebrations in a household. It is also used as fuel for lighting earthen lamps or diyas during festive occasions such as Diwali.
American chefs, on the hunt for new flavors, have discovered mustard oil. Instead of using it for sautéing, they top off the dishes with a trickle of the raw oil, according to an article in the New York Times in 2011. Mustard oil is also a key ingredient in the “uni panini,” a popular sandwich at Alex Raij’s Chelsea tapas bar, El Quinto Pino. “It has these great vapors, but it’s not the kind of heat that lingers,” she said. “I think because it’s an oil, it hits the tongue differently.”
According to a report in the Times of India, a comparative study of different edible oils has shown that mustard oil as a cooking medium can reduce the risk of heart diseases by over 70%. The study, conducted by experts from the AIIMS and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital compared the fat content in different cooking oils, including olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil and sunflower oil, and its findings were reported in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“A heart-friendly oil should be cholesterol- and trans-fat free, low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), it should have an ideal N6 to N3 acids ratio and a high smoking point. Mustard oil meets all these criteria and that’s why it is the best cooking oil,” said Dr Manchanda, co-author of the article.
Clinical nutritionist Dr Ishi Khosla has this to say of mustard oil:
It is best when consumed in its raw form known as ‘kachchi ghani’. Our forebears have used mustard oil for centuries. The refined oils and other exotic varieties have arrived recently. The need is to change dietary habits rather than oils.”