Dining Out: Indian Food
Indian cuisine offers tremendous regional diversity.
Every region of India has its own style of cooking. In northern India, spices are usually ground before being added to dishes; in the south, they are added whole, then ground into a paste with other ingredients. In the north you’ll find wheat, basmati and jasmine rice and other grains. Dishes native to the south often rely on coconut milk. India’s Persian influence turns up in lamb and mutton dishes that often feature dried fruit and nuts. The Portuguese influence in the southwest regions puts pork, goat and duck on the menu. From India’s Hindu population come dozens of delicious vegetarian choices based on lentils, peas and beans mixed with vegetables and dairy products.
Almost any Indian dish is bound to include blends of several fragrant ingredients, including cumin, coriander, cardamom, mustard, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, turmeric, tamarind, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, pomegranates and dozens more. Also used in Indian dishes are a variety of nuts, different types of rice and plenty of dairy products, including yogurt, buttermilk, homemade cheeses, cream and sour cream.
The most popular Indian dishes are the ones called tandoori, which refers to both the dish itself and the kind of oven in which it is cooked. The tandoori oven is made of clay and fueled with charcoal. It reaches extremely high temperatures, meaning foods can be cooked very fast. Other popular choices include a variety of curries, which is basically any dish seasoned with curry powder (a mix of spices), kebabs (skewered, grilled meats) and dals, or lentil, chickpea and bean options. Sweet-and-sour chutneys are traditional accompaniments to many dishes, as are papads, the crispy, wafer-thin slices of lentil-flour dough.
- Raita: Yogurt with cucumbers, often served as a side dish to tame the fire of spicy dishes
- Pakora: Fritters made with vegetables, chicken, cheese or meat
- Samosa: Seasoned lamb, potatoes and peas enclosed in a pastry crust
- Biryani: Rice-based dishes of spiced lamb, chicken, shrimp or vegetables, sometimes including nuts
- Vindaloo: Spicy chicken, duck, lamb or shrimp cooked in a tangy sauce with potatoes, herbs and spices
- Kebab: Seasoned chicken, lamb or shrimp and vegetables skewered and cooked on a charcoal grill
- Korma: Mildly spiced cubes of lamb or chicken (and sometimes nuts) cooked in cream sauce
- Dal: Dishes of spiced red or green lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, kidney or other beans, sometimes cooked with tomatoes
- Kofta: Lamb or vegetable balls simmered in sauce
- Saag paneer: A homemade cheese cooked with spinach and spices
- Lassi: Delicious yogurt shakes that can be served sweet or salty, for breakfast, lunch or as a snack. Some combine herbs and spices, while some use rose water and mango or other fruit
|An Example of a traditional Menu in an Indian Restaurant.|
|Appetisers and Starters|
(Fried Patties Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables)
(Onion, Potato, Chicken or Vegetable-Stuffed Fritters)
Assortment of Naans
(Leavened Flat Breads Baked in the Tandoor Oven)
(Curried Eggplant Puree)
Served with Chappatis
(Baked Spiced Lentil Wafers)
Green Salad with House Dressing and Raita
An Example of a traditional Menu in an Indian Restaurant. Entrees ( Main Courses) Chicken Tikka
Inquire about all the elements in a specific dish. Because Indian food combines so many different ingredients, menus often do not list them all. Remember that vindaloo usually includes potatoes, and that lentils and/or rice may be plated along with your food. Stick to kebabs, tandoori dishes and curries, which are pretty straightforward and basically derive their flavor from herbs and spices.
The Chicken Kabobs are probably the best choice for entrees on this menu.
Tandoori baked items, such as the Chicken Kabobs, are often marinated in yogurt and spices, giving flavor and tenderness without much added fat.
Curries tend to be higher in fat and often contain coconut milk.
Ghee (clarified butter) is often used first to sauté vegetablesThere are some areas to watch out for to avoid a high fat meal:
Try to order meat and starch items separately to have a better idea of the serving sizes of each.
Curried chick-peas with rice would be a nice vegetarian selection with a green salad on the side. It is important, though, to watch out for mixed vegetarian dishes. Legumes mixed with rice can have a very high carbohydrate count