Demystifying Indian Food

This blog post may make you drool, so prepare yourself accordingly ­čÖé

Indian food feast – photo by Erinda Martin

I already loved Indian food before going to India. But while traveling and living there for three months, I quickly discovered how few dishes I had even tried from this vast and delicious cuisine. I vaguely remember way back when I first started going to Indian restaurants in USA and trying to understand the menu so I can decide what to order. Usually, I would end up confused and just order some type of curry with rice and naan bread, missing out on so many other dishes because simply I did not understand them or had not seen them before. This was before the time of “googling” your food. I bet many people have experienced this before, whether it is with Indian food or some other exotic cuisine. With this in mind, I prepared this blog post in attempt to simplify some Indian food staples for anyone out there who is curious to try it but is not familiar with it yet. Some of these dishes may not even be available in typical Indian restaurants outside of India. At least, this list of dishes with photos and explanations will give an idea of the variety and options there may be available when considering ordering something else in a restaurant, instead of some type of curry dish with rice, naan bread…. Are you ready for a delicious ride?


Breakfast Dishes:

Masala Chai, spiced black tea with milk. Traditionally this is made with cow milk, but I found places that offered plant based milk options as well. Visit my previous blog post here for the step by step recipe including the full list of spices.

Kashmiri Chai, spiced tea from the Jammu and Kashmir area of northern India

Lemon Ginger Honey tea, a staple in every eatery I visited across northern India

Paratha, a pancake type flatbread, with porridge and Masala chai

Paratha with poha, flattened rice mixed with spices, veggies and roasted nuts, served with sauteed vegetables and curd


Lunch and Dinner:

Thali, a buffet style dish typically served for lunch or dinner

Matar Masala, a spicy sauce dish with green peas  served with rice and Chapati, unleavened flatbread

Khichri (or Khichdi), a dish made with lentils, rice and variety of spices and ghee

Dosa, an Indian style crepe made with spices and fillings, served with chutneys

Masala Dosa with sambar,  a spicy stew, and coconut chutney served with chai
Masala Dosa in the making
Dessert Dosa (Banana Chocolate) in the making
Dessert Dosa (Banana Chocolate)


Street Food and Snacks:

Alooo Chaat, mashed potato cake with lentils, spices and chutneys

Aloo Chat in the making
Aloo Chat ingredients

Pani Puri, also known as Gol Gappa, crispy puff balls served with sweet & spicy sauce

Momos, a type of dumpling, filled with veggies and served with chili sauce

Steamed momos
Fried momos

Aloo Bonda, potato bread roll made with spices

Vada, a savory doughnut made with spices

Papad, crispy spicy and savory bread chips

These are only a few of the dishes and snacks I experienced (and loved) during my time living in India. Keep in mind how large of a country and vastly diverse India is, even though in the west we tend to categorize Indian food and culture as one size fits all. Each region of India has its own style of cooking, spicing food, and preparing as well as serving dishes. My experience was primarily in northern India, but I know for sure that soon enough I will experience the rest of this beautiful country and its cuisine.

I hope you enjoyed this read and feel motivated to experiment with your taste buds.

~ Erinda