In the West, we usually associate Indian cuisine with a meat-based curry with naan bread or rice. However, there is far more depth to characterise this highly diverse cuisine then a ‘korma’, ‘tikka masala’ and ‘vindaloo’. Indian food uses a vast range of spices, as vast as the country itself to produce some of the most exquisite culinary dishes in the world. Further, Indian eating habits are based on culture, geography and influenced on religion and as a result, there are a variety of vegetarian options. We have compiled the following ten delicacies that you must try:
A crispy paper-thin pancake, flat bread (similar to a crepe) made of rice batter and ground lentils. The pancake is traditionally filled with spiced mashed potato and served with a lentil sauce (sambar) and a variety of chutneys. Dosa is indigenous to South India and has numerous variations dependent on the ingredients used to make the pancake or the filling.
A thick stew prepared from lentils that forms an important part of the traditional Indian meal. For the vast vegetarian Indian population this dish is a non-meat source to protein. Spices, onions, tomatoes, chillies, herbs and often cream are added to a dal to give it its spicy and aromatic flavour.
3. Pani puri / Gol Guppa
Pani puris or gol guppas as they are known in North India, are a popular Indian street snack. It consists of a round, crisply fried, hollow bread which is filled with a mixture of spicy flavoured water (“pani”), tamarind chutney, potato, onion and chickpeas. Each pani puri is generally small enough to fit completely into one’s mouth and so several are served as part of one serving.
4. Chole bhature
Chole Bhature refers to a meal consisting of spicy, curried chickpeas (chole in Hindi) and a fluffy fried bread (bhature in Hindi). This dish is a typical Punjabi breakfast, though quite heavy first thing in the morning! The delicacy is widely available as street food and in restaurants all over the country.
Idlis are a traditional South Indian dish. They are round spongy cakes measuring around two to three inches in diameter and are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils and rice. Idlis are usually eaten at breakfast or as a snack with chutneys, sambar or other condiments.
6. Tandoori chicken
A very popular Indian delicacy, tandoori chicken is chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices and then roasted. Its name comes from the type of cylindrical clay oven, a tandoor, in which this dish is traditionally prepared. Spices such as cayenne pepper or red chilli powder are used to give the chicken a fiery red hue.
Jalebi is a well-loved Indian sweet made by deep-frying a wheat flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. They are particularly popular during the festive Diwali or Ramadan season. They have a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallised sugary exterior coating and an addictive taste that is very similar to that of an original glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut!
Kulfi is a frozen dairy dessert which is often referred to as traditional Indian ice-cream. It is denser and creamier than ice-cream and aside from the original cream flavour, it comes in several flavour variations pistachio, mango rose, cardamom and saffron. In India, this sweet delicacy is sold by vendors called kulfiwalas. They keep the kulfi frozen by placing the moulds inside a large earthenware pot filled with ice and salt.
9. Gulab Jamun
Gulab jamun is a sweet milk-solids based desert that can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. They look like golden-brown dumplings that are then dipped in a light sugar syrup and sometimes flavoured with green cardamom and rosewater, kewra or saffron. They are typically found at weddings and birthday parties. More importantly, they should come with a calorie warning to dieters stating the need to probably eat only one or two.
A popular and traditional Indian drink with the main ingredients including yoghurt, cream, water, spices and fruit. Lassi can be found in savoury or sweet form but should always be served chilled as a hot-weather refreshment. Mixed with turmeric it has been considered a folk remedy for gastro-enteritis.
We hope you are able to try as many of these delicacies when visiting India but even if you’re not going anytime soon, we hope this encourages you to try them on your next outing to the local Indian.