Most Malaysians love Indian food

Indian food: try 15 typical dishes in India

Every child knows Indian food. But do you already know the typical Indian dishes as they are eaten in India?

Indian cuisine: spoiled for choice or a thali

You don't have to introduce Indian food first. India has one of the most famous kitchens of the world.

But even if you are a regular at your Indian, this will be you Food in India to surprise.

There are many dishes at the local Indian Germanized or fictitious. Nobody in India knows a Madras-style chicken curry.

Authentic Indian food also differs greatly from region to region, especially between North India and South India.

If you don't know what to do next in India, the best thing to do is to order a thali. The Indian version of a lunch menu is available in almost every restaurant.

You get at the Thali several bowls of curries, Rice and chapati. So you can try many dishes at once.

For a better perspective on eating out in India, read on. I've been in India for more than 6 months and ate a couple of curries too;)

5 typical Indian dishes all over India

The cuisine in different regions of India is different. You will notice this at the latest when you travel from North India to South India. But east and west also differ, and the mountain regions even more

You can find 5 typical Indian dishes almost all over the country. So they have to be tasty, don't they?

  • Biryani: Spicy rice
    Biryani is a typical Indian rice dish with various spices and one type of meat. It is not uncommon for the biryani to be topped with an egg.
  • Chicken Makani: Chicken curry with butter
    Butter Chicken is one of the most famous non-veg curries in India. Chicken is prepared in a mild creamy sauce with lots of butter and tomatoes.
  • Dum Aloo: Potato Curry
    Aloo means potato and Dum Aloo is one of the most popular potato curries. It is refined with many spices, but usually not very hot.
  • Korma: yogurt-based curry
    Kormas are thick curries based on yoghurt or cream. The main ingredient is often a type of meat, but there are also veg-kormas. Kormas are usually rather mild.
  • Aloo Gobi: Potato and cauliflower curry
    Potatoes and cauliflower are the main ingredients for this vegetarian curry. Aloo Gobi is a dry curry and, despite its many spices, is rather mild.

The same dish with the same name does not mean that it tastes the same everywhere. It can be sweet in one state and spicy in the next.

North India: 5x typical Indian food (+ Pakistan)

The food in North India is more strongly influenced by the Middle East. Most Muslims live in northern India and there are correspondingly many meat dishes.

These 5 Indian goodies are typical of northern India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. You rarely or never find them in South India:

  • Tandoori Chicken: Indian fried chicken
    Indian roast chicken is marinated with yogurt and spices. The chicken is roasted on skewers in or over a cylindrical clay oven, the tandoor. There is also naan and some sauces.
  • Saag / Palak Paneer: Spinach curry with cheese cubes
    Palak or Saag is spinach and Paneer is Indian cooked cheese. Cheese cubes are cooked in a thick curry made from pureed spinach and spices.
  • Malai Kofta: Vegetable plants in curry
    You may know the Kofta vegetable balls as Köfte from the Middle East. In India they are often made from potatoes and cheese. They are served in a thick tomato and onion curry.
  • Kadhai / Karahi Gosht: Mutton curry
    Gosht comes from Persia and is made with goat or mutton. Slowly cooked in a curry of tomatoes and spices, the meat turns out tender and tasty.
  • Chole / Chana Masala: Spiced chickpeas
    Masala means spice. Chole or Chana are chickpeas that are cooked whole. They are served seasoned and dry. Together with fried bread, this makes Chole Bathura.

Not only Bathura and Naan, but most of the other types of bread are also found in the north of India.

South India: 5x typical Indian food (+ Sri Lanka)

The food in South India is a little hotter and uses little bread, but more rice. The south of India is more Hindu and vegetarian dishes are more dominant than in the north.

These 5 Indian delicacies are typical of South India and Sri Lanka. You rarely or never find them in North India:

  • Masala Dosa: Stuffed pancakes with sambal
    The hearty pancakes are certainly the most famous South Indian dish. Masala dosa are filled with potatoes and served with sambar and chutney for dipping.
  • Idly and Vada: rice cake and fried donut
    Rice cakes and fried donuts are popular alternatives to dosa among South Indians. Idly and Vada are served with sambar and chutney for dipping.
  • Rasam: soup made from tamarind
    The thin soup is made from tamarind. Like our soups, Rasam is served as an appetizer before the main course.
  • Kotthu / Kottu: Minced roti with meat and vegetables
    Leftover rotis are loudly chopped into small strips. Then they are fried together with a type of meat and vegetables. Kotthu / Kottu is mostly a dinner.
  • Curd Rice: Yogurt rice
    Leftover rice is cooked into a paste. This rice congee is seasoned and mixed with plenty of yogurt.

Dosa are becoming increasingly popular across India. A few decades ago they only existed in the south, today they are becoming more and more pan-Indian. No wonder, yummy! ;)

Indian rice and the "national dish" Dal Bhat

There is no official national dish in India. But there is one dish that is eaten the most by far.

Many South Asians eat Dal Bhat or Dal Chawal several times a day. For Indians, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, it is “daily bread”.

Dal is a thin lentil curry and serves as a source of protein for many people. Bhat or Chawal means rice and preferably an entire Himalayas of it. There are also some (pickled) vegetables.

If you actually manage to eat the mountain of rice with dal, you will get a second helping. In many restaurants, Dal Bhat is offered as an All You Can Eat.

Dal Baht is also a component of almost every thali. The consistency of the dals varies greatly. In Nepal or Bangladesh it is often watery, in Sri Lanka it is very thick.

Khichdi in the north or Pongal in the south is a dish with the same basic ingredients as Dal Bhat. The rice and the dal are cooked together at once. There are many variants with additional ingredients.

8 Indian breads from naan to chapati

What is the name of a bun with you? Here in the Bavarian Rhön they say Bread and the plural Bread. Less than 100 kilometers further they say bread, Weckla or Kipf.

There are also local words for roti and chapati in India. But there are also fundamentally different types of bread:

  • Roti / chapati
    is the normal flatbread made from wheat flour. Roti / chapati is a side dish for every higher quality thali.
  • Naan
    is a thick, sourdough flatbread that is baked over the tandoor. Naan is also made with butter or garlic.
  • Paratha
    is a flatbread filled with vegetables. The most common is Aloo Paratha, filled with mashed potatoes. Together with a butter dip and some dal, this is a very popular small meal.
  • Bathura
    is a deep fried flatbread, partially filled. It becomes a small meal together with Chana Masala as Chole Bathura.
  • Kulcha
    is a flatbread and is also known as Indian pizza. The toppings can be similar to pizza. Kulcha is in Punjab.
  • Appam / Hoppers
    are small pancakes that are used to suck up curry in South India. In Sri Lanka they are very popular as hoppers.
  • Parotta
    is a layered flatbread that is fried in oil. In Malaysia and Singapore, as Roti Canai (Chennai), it's the best breakfast I can think of.
  • Papad / Papadam
    is a crispy, deep-fried thin flatbread made from lentil flour. It is an appetizer and accompanies almost every thali.

Most types of bread are found in northern India. Rice is more popular in South India.

6 Indian snacks from samosa to momo

As street food in India you get mostly small snacks. They are great when things have to be done quickly.

  • Samosa: deep fried dumplings
    The triangular pockets are filled with curry or something similar. They are fried and eaten as a small snack with a chutney.
  • Momo: Indian Maultasche
    India's Maultasche is filled with one type of meat. Momos actually come from Tibet and Nepal, but are spreading more and more in India.
  • Pakora / Pakoda: Fried vegetables
    Vegetables are wrapped in a chickpea batter and fried to a misshapen structure. You have a snack with a chutney.
  • Chaat / Panipuri: Spiced balls of dough
    Hollow balls of dough are filled with various ingredients and eaten cold. The first time you're guaranteed to make a mess;)
  • Kati roll: Indian wrap
    India's variant of a burrito or dürüm is the Kati Roll from Kolkata. The wrap is filled with different ingredients, e.g. as an egg roll or chicken roll.
  • Chicken 65: Fried chicken
    You can order hot fried chicken as an appetizer. There are also vegetarian variants such as Paneer 65 (cheese) or Gobi 65 (cauliflower).

Typical Indian snacks are also “Chinese dishes”, i.e. everything with noodles. Maggi is surprisingly popular in India ...

6 Indian drinks from lassi to chai

  • Lemonade
    Lemons come from India and lemonade was invented by Indians. You will find a stand for freshly squeezed lemon soda in all possible and impossible places.
  • Lassi
    Everyone knows the yogurt drink with spices. In addition to plain lassi, there are also lassi mixed with fruit juices, e.g. banana lassi or mango lassi. A specialty is Bhang Lassi;)
  • Milk tea
    Nobody says milk tea in India. You just say tea, so chai. It is clear that the tea is served with milk and a lot of sugar.
  • Masala tea
    Masala means spiced. A masala tea is a milk tea spiced differently from region to region. Sometimes super delicious, sometimes it takes getting used to.
  • Black tea with lemon
    In addition to the ubiquitous milk tea, you'll also see chai wallahs with black tea with lemon. They are more common in the morning.
  • Sugar cane juice
    If you see a stand where someone is literally turning the wheel, that is the sugar cane stand. The juice from the sugar cane is mainly sweet.

FAQ - 5 practical tips on eating in India

1. What does it cost to eat in India?

Eating out in India is cheap. A small meal like aloo paratha, a kati roll or a masala dosa costs 50 cents or less. Thalis is available from one euro. A better Executive Thali costs 2 or 3 euros. Curries or tandoori chicken cost 2 to 3 euros.

Food fact: Of course you pay more in the AC restaurant and a multiple in the tourist restaurant or star hotel.

2. Is the food in India hygienic?

No, the hygienic standards are unfortunately bad. However, this applies to many tourist restaurants as well as to street stalls. Fried street food on the street is probably safer than the salad in a star hotel.

Food fact: Sooner or later you will get a “Delhi Belly”. So don't let Indian food stop you. Any diarrhea will pass. I didn't have any problems with 2 out of 8 visits and didn't do anything differently than with the other 6.

3. Food culture: How do you eat in India?

In India you eat with your hands, or rather with your right hand. It's harder and more unusual than you might think. It's also very different from eating with your hands in Africa. Indians have a special shoveling technique that I still can't really master.

Food fact: As an easily recognizable foreigner, you will often automatically be given a spoon. If not, ask about it or learn how to eat again.

4. Can I read an Indian menu?

Almost all Indian menus are in Latin script and most of the words are in English. Ingredients are not translated, e.g. aloo for potatoes, palak for spinach or paneer for cheese. However, types of protein are translated, i.e. chicken, mutton, fish, egg or seafood. In simple restaurants, the dishes are also on the wall. There is hardly any language barrier.

Food fact: You can tell whether you are really in an Indian restaurant when there is only one menu for 4 people.

5. Where are the best Indian restaurants?

All Indian restaurants are great, aren't they? Unfortunately, no. Choosing any place in India by chance can go wrong. In rural areas in particular, the quality is often mixed with watery curries and poor quality. It is not infrequently worthwhile to spend more on a better Thali. Big cities usually have the best food. The Punjab is known for the best Indian cuisine.

Food fact: Indian restaurants of consistently high standards can be found on the west coast of Malaysia. Maybe that's because of the competition with Chinese and Malaysian food.

FAQ - 4 questions about Indian cuisine & food

6. Is Indian food spicy?

Indian food has a reputation for being spicy. But these are only a few Indian dishes. Many dishes are mild. According to Ayurveda teaching on food, you should only eat moderate amounts of hot spices. Even the hottest food in India is not half as spicy as regular dishes in Thailand. But be careful, compared to Germany, Indian food can seem spicy.

Food fact: Curries in Europe are often sharper than in India. This is what we expect and leads to British inventions such as “Madras” as a hot curry and “Phall” as a very hot curry.

7. Is Indian food vegetarian because of Hinduism & Ayurveda?

In every restaurant you get a large selection of vegetarian dishes. A clear distinction is made between Veg and Non-Veg. There is no such thing as vegan. Ayurveda has Pure Veg, which means no meat, no eggs, no onions, no garlic, no mushrooms, no alcohol - but dairy products. Only Pure Veg is allowed in holy places, e.g. Hampi, Rishikesh, Pushkar, ...

Food fact: Hindus are not automatically vegetarians. Jains are the religious vegetarians. Still, India is a vegetarian's dream.

8. Is there pork and cow meat in Indian cuisine?

Hindus do not eat cow meat for religious reasons. Muslims do not eat pork for religious reasons. These are the two largest religions in India and so you really only get chicken, mutton, goat, fish or seafood. There are exceptions. In the Muslim Hyderabad there is supposed to be cow meat and in big cities like Mumbai or Delhi you can find pork.

Food fact: In the Christian northeast, a pork curry is nothing special, e.g. in Meghalaya, Mizoram or Manipur.

9. Is Eating in India Healthy?

Eating in India is far from healthy. Almost all snacks are deep-fried and we prefer not to talk about the sweets at all. There is often a lot of sugar in normal food too. Nutrients are literally boiled out. The portion sizes are a problem. Some thalis can meet your calorie needs for the whole day. In terms of the amount of energy, a butter naan is actually a main meal. Many Indian dishes can be cooked healthily, but it is rarely made in India.

Food fact: If you only travel through India for a few weeks, you don't care. Otherwise, you should limit yourself to healthy Indian food and small portions.

Indian recipes: original, vegetarian or vegan

Is your next trip to India still in the distant future? Cook Indian dishes at home with these cookbooks:

1. Original Indian *
19,95 €
5 Stars

130 recipes
312 pages
September 24, 2015

2. Seductive Indian cuisine *
9,95 €
5 Stars

100 recipes
224 pages
July 1, 2017

3. Indian vegetarian *
24,95 €
5 Stars

130 recipes
304 pages
22nd January 2017

4. Vegan Indian cuisine *
29,00 €
4.5 stars

150 recipes
280 pages
4th November 2016

What's your favorite Indian dish?

I am dying for Palak Paneer, Roti Canai and Kotthu Roti.