A Beginners Guide to Indian Cuisine
Food helps us connect with our own culture and makes us curious about others. It creates a well-rooted bond among families and friends where people of different cultural backgrounds and experiences share their mutual passion for food. Food can be used as a tool to break social barriers and stereotypes when people savor new dishes, which eventually get added to their list of favorites. Whether it is Mexican, Italian, Thai, or Indian, the lure of global cuisine makes us explore different cultures.
Indian cuisine is incredibly adored and is much like the Italian staple, pizza – pretty much available everywhere around the globe. The tantalizing aromas, flavors, and spices can take you far back to the Indian roots and make you picture yourself in a busy street market in Mumbai, trying out dishes from the food vendors on the busy roads.
Imagine you decided to embark on a food venture where you want to explore Indian cuisine for the first time. Or it might be that you want to particularly try authentic Indian food or the best dessert for Indian food. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think about Indian food – the added spices, flavors, and diversity? In fact, Indian cuisine has a lot more to offer than just that. Here in this guide, we will be exploring the culture of Indian cuisine.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and delicious staples of Indian cuisine that you might want to try when trying out your first Indian meal.
The Indian samosa is undoubtedly one of the most widely-available and identifiable Indian food out there. From restaurant menus to street vendors, this appetizing morsel is essentially synonymous with Indian cookery. Samosa is basically the Indian version of empanadas. The portable delicacy is known for its triangular shape, and it can be fried or baked. Inside the crunchy doughy shell is a delicious and spicy filling of different vegetables – potatoes, onions, and peas are the common ingredients. Some also contain flavorsome meat.
The level of spice and heat can be varied depending on individual tastes and preferences. The finger-food-friendly size and the delicious taste is what make this Indian snack so popular and widely available. While samosas are mostly consumed as an evening snack or appetizer before meals, they can be eaten at any time as they are quite filling.
Raita and Chutney
These are fundamentally the dips for your samosas and other similar snacks. “Chutney” is essentially a term used for Indian sauces that contain spices, vegetables, and/or fruit. While exploring Indian cuisine, you will certainly come across the two common types – green and red. The green chutney is a sauce prepared from coriander and mint, whereas the red one is made of tamarind, which gives a strong sweet and sour flavor.
They are more or less the Indian versions of salsa dips. Raita is prepared using yogurt, to which you add a combination of spices such as mint, cilantro, cumin, or some other herbs. Raita isn’t as spicy as the other sauces and provides a perfect balance to the spicy Indian snacks.
Indian cuisine majorly consists of flatbreads. It is the kind of flour used as well as the cooking procedure that determines their name. Naan is one of the most famous and widely accessible Indian flatbreads. It is incredibly fluffy and is prepared using wheat flour dough, which is allowed to rise with yeast or yogurt. The prepared dough is rolled into flatbreads and cooked in a special Indian oven, known as a tandoor.
It is very much analogous to pita bread but a lot fluffier. Naans are super versatile and can be enjoyed with pretty much anything. You can eat it with a butter chicken curry or dip it in chutneys. Some naans also contain fillings of vegetables or meat and are often enjoyed as a proper meal as they can be quite filling. When it comes to naans, there are no rules as to how one might enjoy them. You can eat them whenever and however you want.
Tandoori chicken is similar to roasted chicken where the chicken marinated with yogurt and spices is cooked inside the Indian oven – tandoor. The prominent orangish-red color comes from the blend of Indian spices used in the marinating – chili powder, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne pepper are often used. Despite the rich combination of spices and herbs, tandoori chicken isn’t particularly very spicy. It is mostly savory with a sweet, smoky flavor coming from the tandoor and added paprika.
Anyone who liked creamy, cheesy spinach would absolutely love this Indian dish. The word saag is generically used for different greens like purslane, fenugreek, and mustard. The staple green color of the saag comes from a combination of different types of greens. Paneer is a soft cheese commonly used in Indian curries in the form of cubes. It is unsalted and has a nice fluffy texture. Saag paneer is one of the common dishes that you will likely come across on Indian buffets and menus, and one can never pass the opportunity.
Kheer and Gulab Jamun
Is a meal ever complete without a dessert? We don’t think so. A gulab jamun is one of the most consumed Indian mithai – desserts. It can be thought of as a donut hole, where small dough balls are deep-fried and glazed with sugar syrup. The dough absorbs all the syrup, which then oozes out every time you bite into the gulab jamun. And kheer is basically a rice pudding that is a characteristic dish in many different cuisines. It is considerably versatile and can be jazzed using different ingredients and toppings like almonds, pistachios, cardamom pods, and raisins.
Food is a very dignified matter in India. In most Indian households, there is either an active preparation of meals or some intensive planning as to what is to be cooked next. There is a common culture of “thalli,” which is basically a platter in which you serve a delectable assortment of both sweet and savory Indian dishes. The taste of Indian cuisine is quite unique and has influenced many other cultures’ cuisines as well.
Indian food has now become one of the most popular takeaway options for people living in the US. Hopefully, this guide gave you some insight into the popular Indian staples. It is now time to embark on this exciting food adventure and try out the fun, fragrant, and flavorful Indian cuisine.
Amanda Bakers is a culinary expert and an experienced food coach. She has an immense passion for exploring the different cuisines and the best dessert for Indian food all across the world. Her goal is to educate people about the various global food cultures and how it can be used as a communal effort to encourage a universal togetherness.