Try Indian cuisine
A true blend of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, Indian cuisine is bursting with flavours, aromas and colourful spices. It’s one of the richest, most aromatic yet understated cuisines in the world. And its charm is enhanced by the marriage of legumes and grains.
From north to south, India offers a multitude of cuisines shaped by its regions, cultural groups and diets.
This little guide will take you on a culinary journey by bringing Indian cuisine right to your table:
2 types of Indian cuisine:
South Indian cuisine – vegetarian
If you’re more into spicy vegetarian food with lots of legumes, you’ll love these southern recipes.
The vegetarian diet associated with Indian cuisine is generally strict: no meat, no fish, no eggs, but sometimes also no garlic or onions. The latter are considered stimulants.
Depending on the caste, all food that grows underground is to be avoided (hence the no onions).
However, there is also a more flexible vegetarian cuisine in India that considers only some types of fish or meat to be impure.
Choosing vegetarian cuisine can also be driven by the price of meat and fish, as well as the production space. Space is a precious commodity in India.
Here’s a short list of ingredients commonly used inIndian cooking, especially in non-strict vegetarian cuisine:
- Starches and grains: lentils, rice, potatoes
- Vegetables: tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic
- Fruits and nuts: bananas, papaya, oranges, pineapple, mango, coconut and peanuts
- Lots of spices
(you will find the spices list below)
South Indian cuisine – non-vegetarian
Since recipes from the north are more influenced by Turkish and Mongolian culture, there are a lot more meat recipes.
Did you know?
Beef isn’t on the list because cows are considered sacred.
Here’s a list with a few meats and dairy products that you find in non-vegetarian Indian cooking:
- Dairy products: yoghurt, milk, ghee
- Meats: mutton, goat, chicken
The best known Indian dishes
Of all the Indian specialities, here are ones that you’ll have no problem finding in restaurants:
- Dhal: The staple dish in all of India, it’s the name for legumes. The best known is lentil-based dhal.
- Curry (or kari in Tamil): It’s prepared with all kinds of food (veggies, meat or fish). The secret is in the dish’s spice blend. Everybody knows curry chicken (chicken base), followed by rogan josh (lamb-based).
Did you know?
In Tamil, kari means sauce or relish for rice and can also mean a bite or morsel. So it’s not a spice like many people think.
- Tandoori: Piece of marinated meat or fish in spicy yoghurt, then cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor.
- Samosa: A triangle stuffed with meat or veggies.
- Kabobs and koftas (or kaftas): Ground meat, meatballs or veggies on a skewer.
Instead of asking for utensils, guests ask in Hindi, “Tumko kitni roti chahiye?” (How many pieces of bread would you like?).
Indeed, bread is generally used instead of forks and knives.
Here are the common breads in India :
- Roti/chapati: Flour patties mixed with water. Baked in the oven or in a cast iron pan. This is the most common bread.
- Naan: Flatbread made with sourdough starter and milk. Fired on the inside wall of a clay oven. You can find them made with butter, cheese and even dried fruit.
- Pappadams: Fried crispy, thin, spicy lentil flour discs. Generally cooked in coconut oil.
The most used spices in Indian cooking
Indian cooking kit
Did you know?
Chilis act on the nerves and not the taste buds. They’re widely used in tropical cooking because of their anti-bacterial and anti-infectious properties. To soothe the heat, drink milk.
To learn more about spices and which ones are good with which veggies, read our guide.
Delicious Indian desserts
Little known and underrated, these sweet treats will satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are a few Indian dessert recipes:
- Gulab jamun: Golden, pan-fried milk balls served with cardamom and rose water syrup.
- Halwa: Widespread in the Middle East, this dessert is typical of northern India.
- Kulfi: Traditional ice cream made with milk, pistachios, cardamom, mango or other ingredients.
- Kheer or khir: Rice pudding flavoured with cardamom.
What to drink with Indian food
In addition to the usual drinks like wine and beer, India suggests some of these specialities to accompany your meals:
- Tea (chai): Tea is called chai in most parts of South Asia. It’s the national drink and is served with milk. Masala chai is boiled with milk, cardamom and other spices.
- Lassi: A popular sugar-based drink, it’s served salty, sweet or plain. It can be perfumed with rose, saffron or banana.
- Fresh fruit juice: Mango, papaya or other fruit.
2 things to know about the Indian table
- According to Indian food tradition, each meal must include 6 flavours : sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, spicy.
- India has one of the longest and strongest food traditions in the world. That’s why it’s called the land of spices.
Indian night at home
Find out more about the recipes:
Appetizer: Vegatables samosas
Drink: Mango lassi
We hope that you will use our guide to organize your future evening with friends. Before you let you taste all the good dishes prepared for the occasion, tell us:
What kind of theme evening do you like to organize at home?