Once you have your Indian visa in hand, consider the many gastronomic options available to you while visiting India. Indian food is very much a cultural funfair, and it depends on where in India you find yourself, what your menu will present.
Beginners guide to Indian food, the first lesson: Do not fear the burn as I did on my first visit! Simply ask the chef to hold the chilies, and you’re good to go if you are not a fan of spicy-hot fare. Vindaloo is possibly the hottest curry, best known on the Indian food menu, as is Chettinad cuisine, while Korma and pasanda are typically the mildest.
There is just too much to say on the subject of a guide to Indian food, so let’s just touch on the basics. An Indian food guide must include the various constituents of a characteristic Indian meal, which may be grouped into:
- Indian bread: naan, chapati, roti, paratha, or idli
- Side dishes: salad, papad, pickles
- Main dishes: meat and/or vegetables
- Daal: lentil dish
A beginner’s guide to Indian food requires a knowledge of how to eat these components. It is important to appreciate the uniqueness of each dish by sampling each separately. Dish up a little of each main dish and whatever you choose of the side dishes. With your right hand pick up a little vegetable or meat with a smallish piece of Indian bread, fold the bread over the food and pop it into your mouth and follow up with finger food from a side dish. After you have finished the bread, start with the rice and a little daal, as the two are traditionally eaten together. Work the rice and main dish or rice and daal into a ball with your fingers and flick it into your mouth using your thumb. This can be understandably messy once you have worked through the entire meal, and this is where you get to use the small bowl of water with the slice of lemon placed on the table for the purpose of cleaning the fingers.
Now you know the technical aspects, let’s take a closer look at the food itself.
- Tandoori food is cooked in a tandoor oven, a cylindrical oven using charcoal or firewood for baking or cooking traditional Indian food. Drippings of fat and juices combine with the fuel, adding to the flavor of the dish.
Tandoori Naan, Tandoori Roti, and Tandoori Laccha Paratha are only some of the flatbreads prepared the Tandoor way.
Tandoori chicken is possibly the best-known Indian dish prepared in the Tandoor style. It offers a great many flavors and variants depending on the masala and spices used.
- Biryani is made with rice, meat, marinade, and spices, but could also include fish and shrimp.
- Raita is for dipping the Indian bread as well as cooling spicier dishes. It’s yogurt-based with a blend of spices such as coriander, cumin, and mint.
- Murgh makhana (butter chicken) is a creamy, stew-like blend, ideally eaten with naan bread and raita.
- Pakora is most often a battered vegetable, either eggplant, cauliflower potato, spinach, and onion, although chicken is sometimes added.
- Channa Masala is a chickpea curry, a winner among Indian foods regardless of who is eating it.
- Basmati rice dishes is the perfect accompaniment to anything Indian when it comes to dining. This versatile rice can be spiced up and flavored so many different ways.
- Palak Paneer, if you have not enjoyed Indian styled soft cheese (paneer), you are missing a taste and texture sensation. This dish combines cubes of mild farmer’s cheese and spinach cooked in onions and spices.
No Indian food encounter is complete without drinking an authentic lassi. Cooling and healthy, this flavorful and sweeter equivalent of chaanch (buttermilk) is just what you need with a satisfying meal of Indian food.
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