If you’re contemplating a trip to India, consider this article your culinary guide. While Indian cuisine is celebrated worldwide, experiencing it in its homeland offers an unmatched authenticity. I can vouch for this, being a native.
Many assume Indian food revolves around rich and spicy curries. While that’s partially true, a plethora of dry dishes often go unnoticed. Although some delicacies might be high in calories, it’s worthwhile to indulge occasionally, especially during a short visit.
Contrary to popular belief, daily Indian meals aren’t as decadent as the dishes you’d find in festivals or restaurants. It’s often for enhancing taste that copious amounts of oil and cream are added.
Indian cuisine is diverse, with prominent categories being North and South Indian. Further, there are variations like Rajasthani, Punjabi, Mughlai, Kashmiri, and North Eastern. Remember, exploring India is as much a treat for the palate as it is for the soul. So, don’t let dietary concerns overshadow your gastronomic adventures.
10. Butter Chicken
This has been one of the most popular Indian dishes all over the world. No other chicken gravy can beat this Punjabi comfort food. Its not-so-hot & spicy gravy paired with some garlic naan (Indian flatbread) makes it a perfect combination.
These web-shaped crispy cakes are usually eaten during celebration times. This street food is also eaten at breakfast with some Kachoris (fried round bread with stuffings) in Varanasi. It’s prepared from wheat flour batter, which is deep-fried in coil shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup. Always enjoy it hot. You must try them if you are visiting Delhi, Agra or Varanasi.
You might be judgemental about the hygiene standards of this irresistible street food. No worries about that; we suggest you explore them in well-known restaurant chains like “Haldirams” or “Bikanerwala”. Then you won’t regret anything. The term “chaats” consists of a collection of spicy and sour savoury snacks like Aloo-chaat, Aloo-tikki, Bhelpuri and Panipuri or Gol-gappa. Believe me, Indians themselves get addicted to them, and it’s so difficult to even resist.
7. Malai Kofta
Here comes another Punjabi dish. In this dish, mashed potatoes and cottage cheese balls are deep-fried, coated with cream and then added to the onion-tomato curry. You are most likely to find this dish at parties and will never be bored of them. The Koftas or the balls themselves are so tasty that you can easily enjoy them as tea snacks.
6. Pav Bhaji
This Maharashtrian food is now enjoyed in every little part of India. It is basically served with buttered buns (Paav) and thick vegetable gravy (Bhaji), garnished with lemon, onions and coriander. It is no longer considered a mere snack and makes for an ideal lunch. Though oily & spicy, you are bound to become its fan.
5. Tandoori Chicken
Another popular delicacy is Tandoori Chicken, which can be a perfect starter for a north Indian meal. The dish is not so spicy but enjoyed when hot. The chickens, which were marinated overnight with yoghurt and spices, are basically roasted in a traditional clay pot grill called Tandoor. The dish goes well with Rumali Roti or Naan.
4. Rogan Josh
You will fall in love with its aroma. It’s an iconic delicacy of the Kashmir state. The traditional multi-course meal (wazwan) of Kashmir would be incomplete without a Rogan Josh. It’s a must-try dish for people who like lamb or goat meat. Lamb shank or shoulder is slow-cooked and spiced with some Kashmiri spices and yoghurt. Although considered rich & royal, the dish is indeed healthy with low fat. You can enjoy its thick curry either with flavoured rice recipes or naan.
With Biryani, we immediately think of the symbolic “Hyderabadi Biryani“, which is inspired by the Mughal era with an Indian twist. This Biryani can either be made of vegetables or chicken/mutton. But on your trip, we recommend you try the non-veg variety. The dish is prepared with rice and marinated meat in caramelized onions, spices, mints, yoghurt and saffron milk. It really has a royal taste, and the aroma can intensify your hunger. It’s a complete meal in itself, but try adding “raita” (spiced yoghurt) to it for even more enhanced flavour.
Thali is one particular dish that you can not miss during your Indian trip. Having Thali will let you get the taste of foods from north India or south India. Simply put, it’s a platter that consists of multiple side dishes, bread, rice and desserts. The best part is that you can enjoy so many meals in one go. You can choose any of the two thalis– south Indian or north Indian. My favourite restaurant chain is Saravana Bhavan, which is famous for “thali” and other South Indian foods. Their branches are located in every big city and even abroad.
1. Chole Bhature
Who can forget our beloved street food – chole bhature. A tasty meal for lunchtime or dinner. Punjabis often eat it for breakfast. It consists of deep-fried wheat flour bread (bhature), which is served with hot chickpea curry (chole). This dish comes on a red alert for calorie-conscious people, but it’s worthwhile for its once-in-a-while indulgence. Indians relish their taste buds with this meal by having it in a restaurant or just by standing near a roadside stall. It’s a heavy meal, so better finish it with a South Indian filter coffee or some lemon water.
Try escaping the menu in your hotels, which will be costly and sometimes bland, and rather explore the local recipes. It’s a good idea to discover India on an empty stomach; this way, you can offer yourself the above-mentioned dishes. Happy food journey!