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Indian Cuisine

Indian cuisine as the Western world knows it can seem overwhelming, although it's often a surprise for visitors to learn that traditional Indian cooking is much more than curries and samosas. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger are just a few of the numerous spices used in Indian staples, and even curries themselves offer a wealth of different options: wet, dry, red, green, mild, or tongue-scorchingly hot, there's no end to the ways in which it can be enjoyed, often paired with dal (a stew made of lentils, peas, or beans) and some roti (a tortilla-like wheat flat bread) or of course, the internationally popular naan. Indian cuisine is also one of the most vegetarian-friendly in the world, making heavy use of potatoes, cauliflower, peas, and eggplant in place of meat in certain dishes. Paneer is a type of hearty Indian cheese that also features prominently in many typically vegetarian dishes such as palak paneer (spinach and cheese), and methi malai paneer (fenugreek greens, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese).

Famous Authentic Indian Dishes

  • Mushrooms with Fennel and Ginger This very simple mushroom dish may be served with almost any Indian meal. It may also be served cold, as a salad.
  • Roasted Moong Dal with Spinach This earthy dish has a delightful flavour which comes from roasting the grains of dal before cooking them in water. In Bengal, it is generally served with rice and a fried vegetable — such as Delicious Fried Morsels — as a first or second course. You may serve is as part of any Indian meal.
  • Potatoes and Peas in Yogurt Sauce Throughout India, yogurt is eaten in many forms, including those that require that it be heated. As yogurt curdles when boiled, it is first stabilized with chickpea flour. The pulse flour adds extra nutrition to the dish — a very important consideration for India's numerous vegetarians. This recipe comes from one such Benares family of Banias or businessmen. Karhis, eaten all over India, have endless regional variations and may be served with Plain Rise or with Indian breads. Other meats and vegetables can also be served at the same meal.
  • Indian Sweet Coconut Porridge (Pongala) Pongala means “to boil over,” referring to the moment the starchy water from this sweet rice dish bubbles above the lip of its clay pot. At the Attukal Pongala festival, pongala, the offering made to a Hindu deity, is cooked over fire and seasoned with jaggery (unrefined palm sugar) and coconut. Recipes can vary to include cardamom, cinnamon, banana, and raisins.
  • Stuffed Okra The okra is stuffed very simply with coriander, cumin, and lots of amchoor, a tart, green mango powder that is sold in most Indian grocery shops. If, for some reason, you cannot find it, leave it out. Instead, sprinkle about 2 tsp of lemon juice over the top of the okra just when you are ready to cover it for the final 5 minutes of cooking. Stuffed okra is very versatile and may be served with almost any meal.
  • Indian Fried Banana Dumplings (Unniyappam) These sweet, fried rice flour balls are a typical prasadam, or “offering,” sold at Hindu temples in Kerala or at local sweet shops. The runny batter, which includes banana purée, grated coconut, and jaggery syrup, is spooned into a ghee-coated appachatti pan (a specialty pan with divots), which is then heated over an open flame, cooking the batter into crispy cakes. 
  • Indian Veggie Burgers (Vada Pav) These starchy sandwiches are a popular beachside snack in Mumbai. Fluffy Goan-style white rolls are filled with a crispy fried potato patty, sweet and spicy chutneys, and a garlicky powdered chile-coconut condiment.
  • Indian Fried Banana Cakes (Mangalore Buns) In the tropical Udupi-Mangalore region on India’s southwestern coast, you’ll find a sweet and fragrant puri made with mashed ripe bananas and cumin. The combination works better than you might expect, and these sweet, earthy doughnuts, called Mangalore buns or banana puri, are served hot, for breakfast with tea, or for a with spicy coconut chutney as a snack. It's a tempting way to use up overripe leftover bananas, too.
  • Indian Stir-Fry Roti (Baghari Masala Roti) A savory snack similar to Mexican chillaquiles, Jewish matzobrei, and Sri Lankan kothu roti.
  • Spiced Indian Cake Balls (Roti Laddu) This buttery confection is a quick and simple treat commonly given to small children in India. Clarified butter (ghee), jaggery, and spices are kneaded into dry leftover roti to make a rich, shaggy dough that is then pressed into snack-sized balls.
  • Indian Roti and Lentil Stew (Dal Dhokli) The flatbread is sliced into noodle-like pieces, then simmered in the broth until tender. Freshly ground spices, spicy chiles, and tomatoes toasted in ghee make up a “tarka”—a savory finishing touch to spoon over the stew at the table.
  • Steamed Cardamom-Spiced Rice Flour Balls (Mandaputtu) Local to Kerala, these chewy, lightly granular sweet rice balls are made by binding green mung bean flour and rice flour with cashews, coconut, raisins, and cardamom, using melted ghee and jaggery syrup. Their flavor profile—sweet but strongly spiced—is typical of South Indian sweets. 
  • Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce Salmon filets cooked in a spice-filled mustard sauce.
  • Spiced Ground Beef Patties (Shami Kebabs) Ground beef is stuffed with a spiced onion mixture and then fried until crisp and savory in this favorite street food of Muslim Indians.
  • Whole Mung Bean Pancakes (Pesarattu) Among the most beloved dishes in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is the pesarattu, a savory pancake made with a batter of whole mung beans.
  • Creamy Fenugreek and Spinach with Cheese (Methi Malai Paneer) This dish is made with fresh Indian cheese called paneer, peas, and whole peeled tomatoes, along with plenty of tangy fresh fenugreek greens.
  • Indian Tomato Rice Flavored with sweet plum tomatoes and aromatic spices, this rice dish is perfect alongside roast chicken.
  • Hyderabadi-Style Steamed Chicken and Rice (Kachi Yakhni Biryani) In this version of biryani from Hyderabad, hrice and meat mingle, cooking together in one pot, the ghee steaming, to create the harmonious version of the dish known as kachchi biryani.
  • Naan (Indian Leavened Flatbread) Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and crafted from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, but many home cooks make it on the stovetop.
  • Pork Vindaloo (Spicy Goanese Pork Stew) Goan vindaloo is different than the well-known British version, with a vinegar tang and flavors of chiles, tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom.
  • Malabar Mussels In this Anglo-Indian recipe mussels are cooked with tomatoes in a richly spiced coconut broth.
  • Kashmiri Lamb in Chile Sauce (Mirchi Qorma) Tender lamb simmers in a fiery sauce in this Kashmiri dish.
  • Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala) A signature dish of the South Indian city of Chennai, this spicy chicken recipe is flavored with fennel seeds, curry leaves, and urad dal, the skinned split black lentils that are a popular ingredient in southern India.
  • Andhra-Style Sautéed Spinach (Palakoora Vepadu) This dish of fresh spinach sautéed with an array of spices is typical of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Red Lentils with Green Mango (Malika Masoor Dal) Dried green mango adds sour pungency to this creamy lentil dish.
  • Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh) For these simple bite-size confections from Bengal, milk is turned into homemade paneer cheese and then combined with sugar and cardamom to yield a dense, fudge-like treat.
  • Malabar Fish Fry Fried fish seasoned with turmeric and chile powder is a popular dish on India's Malabar Coast. While small bullseye fish or sardines are traditionally used, salmon, shrimp, or snapper, as we've used here, also work.
  • Rajasthani White Chicken Curry (Safed Maans) Yogurt tempers the heat of this coconut chicken curry, a variation on a classic lamb dish from the state of Rajasthan in western India.
  • Indian Vegetable Fritters (Pakoras) Crispy chickpea-battered vegetable fritters are a popular street-food snack throughout India. This recipe calls for potatoes and onion, but cauliflower florets, eggplant slices, or plantains can also be used.
  • Cilantro Yogurt Chutney This creamy yogurt-based chutney is made with cilantro, lime, and fresh green chiles.
  • Plantain with Sesame Seeds and Peppercorns (Yellu Molaghu Vazhaipazham) Often served in south India as thevasam, or memorial food, this curry is flavored with a simple combination of sesame seeds and black peppercorns. 
  • Spiced Black-Eyed Peas with Curry Leaves In this earthy legume stew, chickpea flour serves as a thickener and adds a nutty undertone. 
  • Samosas (Potato Dumplings with Tamarind Chutney) This classic savory snack is terrific paired with sweet and tart tamarind chutney.
  • Sweet Yogurt with Saffron and Pistachios (Shrikhand) Pistachios, cardamom seeds, and saffron are mixed into yogurt to make this cool and creamy dessert.
  • Mango Lassi Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as strawberries or—as in this recipe—ripe mangoes, resulting in a refreshing drink that's as thick as a milkshake.
  • Lime Juice with Seltzer, Black Pepper, and Sugar (Nimbu Pani) This bubbly limeade gets a spicy kick from a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper. With its lip-smacking tang, it's the perfect refresher to combat the summer heat.
  • Hyderabadi-Style Sweet Lassi This lassi is made with Rooh Afza, a rose-scented syrup made with botanicals and sugar.
  • Spiced Tea (Masala Chai) Cardamom gives this Indian drink a bright, piney sweetness tempered by a creamy base of evaporated milk and black tea.
  • Spiced Mango Drink (Aam Panna) This thirst-quenching north Indian drink is made by boiling unripe mangoes until tender and blending them with sweet jaggery, pungent black salt, asafoetida, and other spices.
  • Tamarind and Cumin Drink (Imli Ka Pani) Sour tamarind is tempered with vibrant cumin and sweet jaggery sugar in this refreshing drink.