Indian food offers a wide variety of flavours, some of it mild and some of it being very spicy. Overall, it is a food type that offers no end of variety and it can also be a fun type of food too in terms of the tastes and flavours there are with this very type of cuisine. In India, most families order many dishes for the table, and each person takes a little of each dish and puts it on their plate. Expect sharing too; it is very much a close knit way of eating too.
If there’s one dish that almost everyone knows in Indian cuisine, it’s biryani. The origin of this aromatic mixture of rice, spices and meat is famed far and wide. It is a type of dish you can expect to see in most typical curry houses and this is also a dish that will vary very slightly from curry house to curry house. This is very popular in the UK. It is also a well priced dish too when you see it on the menu in Indian Restaurants.
Order dishes from which you like the ingredients being used
You may be unfamiliar with most of the herbs and spices in Indian dishes. But there are a lot of ingredients that you will recognise too. Look for ingredients you typically like to make ordering food less daunting. If you prefer lamb dishes, pick something from the lamb section. If you want veggies, scan through the vegetable sections. Think of it as remixes of food you like. If you’re a lamb-lover, try the Lamb Tikka Masala. Everyone knows about the Chicken Tikka Masala, but not many people talk about its lamb variation. You’re already trying something new; why not kick it up a notch further?
Be true to yourself when it comes to overall spice tolerances
Indian food can be spicy, but not all Indian dishes are spicy. If you’re not fond of spicy things, pay close attention to the heat legends. Indian menus would usually put legends indicating the heat level of a dish to help you navigate away from your version of hellfire. It’s also important to address that consuming incredibly spicy food doesn’t equate to your self-worth. Eating extremely spicy food is not a testament to how strong you are. If you love spice, go for it. But if you’re weak to spice, don’t hurt yourself to prove a useless point. For people who like spicy food or not, try the Tandoori King Prawns. They have the perfect amount of spice to make your tastebuds happy. For spice fiends who like their food extra, extra hot, try the Naga Chicken and get the Mango Lassi on standby.
Most restaurants serve one plate per person. That’s not the norm for Indian restaurants because Indian cuisine is best-eaten family-style. In India, most families order many dishes for the table, and each person takes a little of each dish and puts it on their plate. Expect sharing-sized food portions when you order. If you want to sample Indian cuisine, bring a few friends along with you. Eating with people is a fun way to enjoy a meal. But ordering Classic Thali as a takeaway and eating it for the next few days sounds good too.
The style of food and cooking varies across all areas of the country
India’s different regions each have unique styles of cooking and distinct flavours. North is famous for spicy Tandoori and mild, creamy Korma. The South loves a thin, crispy, stuffed Dosa. The East is hot for Chilli. The West is crazy about tangy coconut and seafood. And Central India is a blend of them all. Indian cuisine is the ultimate whatever-you-fancy food. When you’ve finally managed to choose your dream dishes, you still get to choose the perfect rice or bread. White Rice? Brown Rice? Pilau Rice? Plain Naan? Garlic Naan? Stuffed Naan? You can be sure of being able to get and order what ever you want. All curry houses are able to offer a menu with something for everyone.
If you’re chicken when it comes to hot spices, sweat ye not, because mild and creamy Chicken Korma will be, quite literally, up your street (and you’ll be showing excellent taste – it’s now Britain’s most wanted dish). Rogan Josh is a hugely popular lamb curry dish (and a really cool rap name) with a sauce flavoured by garlic, ginger, onions and aromatic spices such as cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. A signature dish of Kashmiri cuisine it means ‘cooked in oil at intense heat’ – oh, and it’s spicy too, so be both warmed and warned. And if you’re mad for spices you’ll be mad for Beef Madras – a genuinely hot, tasty curry that hits the spot with steamed rice, Naan breads and mango chutney.
Looking for a conversational starter – what better than a Chicken Chaat? Small pieces of chicken tikka cooked in a sauce of cucumber, onion and masala spices, then topped with coriander and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Yum. (A Potato Chaat is equally moreish.) Naan Bread is a must with any Indian meal, whether Peshwari (sweet with almond flakes, coconut and raisin filling), Keema (often a chef’s signature Naan, with a secret recipe of ground lamb with aromatics and Indian spices), Garlic Naan (which will ward off those family members you don’t want to kiss goodbye) or just plain ol’ Plain (leavened, oven-baked flat bread – think of it as the straight man to the comedy genius of your main course).
Steamed Rice is pure and simple, Pilau Rice is more colourful and flavoursome, and Coconut Rice is positively exotic. And don’t forget the Poppadums – these large circular pieces of thin crisp flatbread are ever-so-irresistibly snappable.
A thin pancake, dosa is crepe-like and slightly sweeter than naan. Coming from the southern part of India, it’s usually made from rice and lentils. You usually eat dosas hot, dipped in various chutneys, as an accompaniment to a curry meal. But sometimes dosas are stuffed with veggies and eaten as snacks (popular as street food in India). Masala dosa, for example, is filled with spiced potatoes.
Of course, you need something deliciously sweet to finish off your Indian meal. Enter gulab jamun. This popular Indian dessert is based on two flavors – gulab (which means rose) and jamun (which refers to purple jamun berries, similar to blueberries). Using milk solids and flour, the dessert consists of small doughy balls soaked in rose water and green cardamom. Think of it like Indian doughnuts dipped in mouth-watering syrup! (But, sorry, ordinary doughnuts won’t ever taste as good again after you’ve tried gulab jamuns.)
We crave curry. But in Indian cuisine, “curry” has many different meanings. It all depends on the spices and ingredients thrown into the pot. You also need to think too as to how the food is paired up and put together with other types of foods too. All of this can for sure make a vast difference of sorts.
Indian recipes are so complex, requiring many different spices and lots of prep and cooking time, that Indian food is not something we can easily whip up ourselves. A vast country, the Indian subcontinent has up to 36 distinct cuisines. But for the sake of absolute simplicity, you can break down the food preferences into two regions: North Indian food and South Indian food. This is the best way to think of it when it comes to how you order your next dishes. You should also think in this manner too when it comes to how you also go about choosing the ideal curry house or takeaway for your next Indian meal.