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The Land of a Thousand Spices - What to Eat in India

Sweet, savory, spicy, usually all in one dish! Taste as much as you can but be sure not to miss:

  • Curry - Many other countries have curry dishes (Mexican mole is actually a form of curry). Indian curry is a sauce made up of a couple dozen spices including turmeric, cardamom, chiles, fennel, saffron, and garam masala.

  • Chicken korma - Chicken and vegetables in a sweet, nutty sauce. Typically with cashews.

  • Butter chicken - A good place to start your Indian food experience. A sweet, savory sauce made from coconut milk, butter, and mild spices.

  • Tikka Masala - Tomato based sauce, typically served with tandoori chicken.

  • Naan - A flat, soft, perfectly toasted bread. You can get it topped with garlic or cheese, or eat it plain. Be sure to order at every meal to soak up your leftover sauces!

  • Papadum - A tortilla sized, paper-thin cracker.

  • Samosa - Similar to curry, you may have seen a samosa in a different part of the world and called it something else. It’s a fried pocket typically filled with meat, veggies, and spices.

  • Tandoori - Oven roasted, typically chicken (tandoori chicken). It comes out on the bone and has a reddish color from the spices.

  • Gulab jamun - A dense, syrup soaked, fried dough ball.

  • Mango Lassi - Mango flavored yogurt drink

  • Thali - This a great way to sample several things at the restaurant. It’s essentially a sampler platter that usually includes a couple of curry dishes, rice, beans or lentils, dipping sauce, papadum, and a sweet.

  • Mukhwas - Sugar coated fennel seed (or raw sugar and fennel in a dish) served after the meal as a palate cleanser. Grab a pinch and chew them up. Very flavorful!

  • Street food: Proceed with caution.

  • If you have any food allergies, this might not be the way to go since food is prepared from dozens of ingredients and, if there is a language barrier, you may not be able to ask.

  • Only eat what you see being prepared in front of you, i.e., fruit that is cut in front of you, meat that is cooked in front of you (a typical strategy is for the vendor to cook the meat, let it sit out, and then reheat it for you...politely decline.), etc.

  • If there is any water or liquid in the dish, make sure it is boiling or has been boiled. If a drink has ice cubes in it, skip it.

  • If you see a food cart with a line or lots of people around it, check it out! Locals know best.

Thali in Delhi

Food Phrases

Here’s the scoop on what you may see on the menu:

  • Alo - Potatoes

  • Dal - Lentils

  • Saag - Spinach

  • Gobi - Cauliflower

  • Mutter - Peas

  • Channa - Chickpeas or garbanzo beans

  • Paneer - A type of cheese that looks like tofu in size and texture. Common in vegetarian dishes.


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