Indian Food 101
Since I grew up eating Indian food, it’s natural for me to tear my naan up and soak up the yummy curry. I love the spices and aroma of Indian food. Some nutritionists even say that the spices are fantastic for our immune systems. However, I’ve come to realize that many Americans may not be accustomed to Indian food or how to eat it. So here’s Indian Food 101: everything you need to know to try ordering and eating Indian food.
More than likely, you will start out with complimentary papadums. These are like very thin crackers, but much larger. There are usually three sauces or chutneys that go along with papadums: a lime green sauce made with cilantro that is somewhat spicy, a dark brown sauce which is very sweet (save some for later, I’ll tell you why in a moment), and a mango chutney which is quite delicious but pretty hot.
Just about every Indian restaurant offers samosas as appetizers. These are a safe option as they’re full of flavor but not spicy. They are triangular pastries filled with potatoes, peas, and other vegetables. The sweet, brown sauce I told you to hang on to is the perfect compliment to samosas.
Tandoori: If you don’t do spicy, tandoori is always a safe option. It has no heavy sauce either. Simply cooked in a clay oven known as a tandoor, the meat comes out a bright red color (don’t let the shade freak you out).
Biryani: Think of biryani as the Indian version of “Chinese Fried Rice.” This rice with vegetables (usually including raisins) comes with your choice of meat. My recommendation is lamb biryani. Again, this is another safe choice as it won’t be a spicy dish.
Curry: thick gravy full of cumin, garlic, tamarind, and a bunch of other tasty spices made to your requested hotness. Curry is by far the most well-known Indian dish. It suits all kinds of meats or vegetables. You may see a kind of curry called vindaloo on the menu. Be aware: this is one of the hottest dishes you can order and certainly not for an Indian food virgin.
Masala: This is a creamy tomato-based sauce. Not usually spicy, but ask just to be sure. One of my favorite dishes is Chicken Tikka Masala. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that Chicken Tikka Masala is the most ordered dish in England.
Dishes come with basmati rice. But you’re missing out if you don’t order some delicious naan (bread). Part of the experience of eating Indian food is using your hands to soak up the gravy with the naan. Although there are various types of naan, start with the plain naan. Two pieces is plenty for one person. Save any leftover naan, as it’s great for breakfast in the morning with some jelly spread on top.
Drinks and desserts:
For drinks, Indian beer pairs nicely with Indian food. If beer isn’t your thing, try a mango lassi. A sweet, fruity drink, it’s like having a milkshake with your dinner. If you’re still able to eat dessert after your filling meal, a good choice is kulfi. This is Indian ice cream, which usually comes in several flavors; mango and pistachio are common options.
Well, there you have it! This should give you enough information to be confident enough to give Indian food a try.
Written for Urbanspoon by Malika Harricharan from The Atlanta Restaurant Blog