We take you on a culinary journey through India and show you the biggest and tastiest classics of Indian cuisine.

Indian Food: Welcome to India! 

The scent of chilli is in the air, on the clay ovens delicious Indian bread is baked and the Indians philosophize on the common chai about what is probably the most delicious Indian food.

Welcome to incredible India! 

India is a giant and just as big as the subcontinent itself is its selection of delicious dishes.

The variety of spice blends, spicy sauces and regional delicacies is enormous. The “one” Indian cuisine does not exist. Incidentally, purely herbal food plays a very important role. Many Indians feed exclusively vegetarian and there are even several restaurants where no meat is served.

Taboo is only the consumption of beef, because cows are sacred in India. They are given priority in the traffic, to ceremonies they painted colourful and the consumption is strictly prohibited.

It was very hard for us to write down the most delicious dishes of the country, where there is so much delicious Indian food. Nevertheless, we have picked out a few highlights for you that you just cannot miss and that will open up a whole new culinary world for you.

Alone it pays to travel to India – or to head to the next Indian restaurant! 

Since the Indian food is regionally very different and diverse, we divide the contribution into the following categories:

 · 5 national specialities;

· 5 culinary highlights Northern India;

· 5 culinary highlights South India (+ Sri Lanka);

· 7 Indian breads ;

· 5 Indian snacks ;

· 5 Indian drinks ;

· 3 delicious desserts.

 Insider Tip: At the end of the post, we’ll tell you a very special Indian dish that everyone must have tried once in his life! Be curious.

Delicious spices for connoisseurs: In every Indian market you can find mountains of curry powder!

Indian cuisine: 5 typical specialities throughout India

Below are the typical Indian foods that you can find common in almost every restaurant nationwide. You must not miss these 5 classics!

Thali: The classic of Indian cuisine | Top 1

At lunchtime, when everyone is hungrily pouring into the restaurants, there is a meal everywhere.

Depending on the region you are in, various delicious things are served. There are always many small metal bowls filled with Dal (lentil curry), chutney (a kind of spicy sauce), meat dishes (optional) and a huge number of (even vegetarian) curries.

Of course, each restaurant offers its recipes. Often, the bowls of thalis are always refilled – a dream!

Of course, there are big differences between the north and the south at the Thali. We personally prefer the North Indian Thali. Because there we usually find more curries to choose from, they are not quite as spicy and the spices surely meet our taste.

But you should try both variants. 

Typical Indian lunch: Thali can be found in every Indian restaurant.

Aloo Gobi Masala: Potato Cauliflower Curry | Top 2

Take two simple ingredients, potatoes and cauliflower, and make one of the most delicious Indian vegetable recipes: Aloo Gobi Masala.

Fresh ginger, garlic, turmeric, grated coconut and some garam masala complete the vegetarian dish. The taste is amazing! Incidentally, it’s great to cook it at home.

Here we have found a delicious Aloo Gobi recipe for you. Incidentally, you can also make the refined spice mixture Garam Masala yourself from cardamom, cumin, coriander and cloves!

Biryani: spicy rice dish | Top 3

Aromatic Biryani is one of the famous dishes throughout South Asia and Southeast Asia, the rice dish is originally a typical Indian meal. It could best be described as vegetable rice garnished with meats.

You can choose from chicken, lamb or mutton.

The icing on the cake is the basmati rice, which is sautéed in ghee (clarified butter) before cooking to create delicious roasted aromas. Then it is cooked with several spices in the water. Simply delicious!

Dal Curry & Dal Bhat: To get really full | Top 4

Dal means lentils and is an absolute staple food in India! One could call it as the second national court of the country besides the Thalis also.

The Dal Bhat court takes a special place. Dal Bhat literally equivalent to “lentils with rice” and is eaten daily by millions of people across South Asia. In addition to rice, lentil curry usually contains chapati or naan, as well as vegetables and so-called pickles (pickled vegetables as a spicy side dish).

It is an integral part of any thali and is usually served as an “All You Can Eat”. 

Korma: yoghurt curry | Top 5

Korma is a rather thick yoghurt based curry. 

If you do not like to eat spicy food, this dish is a good choice for you. The ingredients are classic with meat, there were a variety of vegetable kormas in India.

We personally love the variation with chickpeas, coconut and almonds. Another tasty option is the Korma Navratan with panir, an Indian cream cheese that melts on the tongue!

Especially popular in Indian cuisine: korma curry, aloo gobi and spicy biryani rice.

Typical Indian food in North India: 5 main courses

The regional cuisine of northern India is probably the best known in Europe and probably what we would call typically Indian. Meat is cooked a lot with dairy products and ghee (butter lard) and the number of meat dishes is relatively large.

In particular, lamb and goat meat are widely prepared in northern India.  

Many Muslims are living in northern India, who make up the second-largest religious group in India (14%) (According to Hinduism, this owns about 80% of the population). Overall, the food is prepared with even more spices but is still not quite as hot as in the south.

Malai Kofta: Indian Balls | Top 1

Malai Kofta are fine Indian vegetable balls. The ingredients of the food include cauliflower, carrots, onions and peas, as well as the Indian Paneer cheese and potatoes. The thick sauce consists of a huge number of spices and freshly roasted cashew nuts. Their taste is stunning and absolutely incomparable!

The Malai Kofta gets a special aroma through the spice mixture of coriander powder and cumin powder as well as the addition of ginger, garlic and turmeric. 

Kadhai / Karahi Gosht: Mutton Curry | Top 2

This Indian food is originally from Persia. In Karahi Gosht, goat or mutton is usually simmered over low heat and for hours in a curry made of tomatoes and spices. At the end of the cooking time, it is wonderfully tender and melts on your tongue!

Sometimes Karahi is also referred to as Kadhai and also exists in variants with chicken or fish. Incidentally, Kadhai Gosht is found almost exclusively in northern India. In South India, we could not see it on any single menu…

Tandoori Chicken: Marinated Chicken | Top 3

For the popular Tandoori chicken dish, chicken is marinated for hours in a yoghurt spice paste.

The special Tandoori Masala paste consists of crushed chillies, cumin and coriander seeds. Then the meat is grilled in a special clay oven or clay oven, the so-called Tandoor. Due to the marinade, it is buttery and tastes fantastic!

The tandoor is a clay oven, which is just as important in Indian cooking as our gas stove. In the tandoor not only many chicken specialities are baked crispy, but also many flatbreads such as Naan or Chapatis.

Rajma: Kidney Bean Curry | Top 4

Rajma is a popular, hearty curry made from red kidney beans in a thick, spicy sauce. It is usually simmered for hours so that all the flavours can develop properly and is a true poem for the palate!

Although kidney beans are not actually of South Asian origin, since they were brought from Mexico to India they are simply part of it.

Rajma is often cooked on special occasions in northern India and is always vegetarian. Special variants are the widespread  Rajma Chawal with rice and the  Rajma Masala from the Punjab region.

Saag / Palak Paneer: Spinach curry with cheese | Top 5

Dishes containing palak (spinach) or paneer (cheese) are mostly mild and not overly spicy.

For preparation, and often homemade, mild Paneer – Indian cream cheese – cooked in a thick spinach puree. Sometimes this curry is also referred to as Saag Paneer, but it is generally curried with leafy vegetables.

The variant specifically with spinach is therefore called Palak Paneer.

This main course is definitely one of our favourite Indian meals! Spinach dishes are a great option for those who want to slowly guess at Indian food.

The North Indian cuisine offers delicious rice dishes as well as classic thalis and the country-wide popular lentil dish Dal Bhat.

Typical Indian food in South India & Sri Lanka: 5 main dishes

In South India, you can taste the tropics. The food is sharper and it is very much cooked with coconut. Instead of flatbread you eat here a lot of (basmati) rice. Besides, the south of the country is more dominated by Hinduism, which is reflected in the large vegetarian selection.

Especially in South India we also noticed the imaginative breakfast creations. 

Masala Dosa: Indian pancakes | Top 1

If there was a court for me to get on the plane to India right away, that would be Masala Dosa!

Dosas and everyone in advance the delicious version Masala Dosa are our absolute favourite breakfast! An overnight lentil-rice mixture is fried to a pancake-like crepe and served with spicy sambhar sauce – as far as the basic recipe.

Out of this, however, there are endless creations. Among the best known are:

· Classic Dosa served with chutney and sambar;

· Masala Dosa, with spicy potato filling – a tutorial on how to cook it yourself here.

· The ultrathin paper Dosa ;

· Rava dosa from wheat semolina or millet.

Besides, there are the baked, crisp pancakes with cashews, coconut or raisins … There are even extra Dosa restaurants in South India, the multi-sided menus full of Dosavarianten have – mhhhh a poem! 

Idli / Idly: Linsenküchlein | Top 2

Idlis, also Idlys written, are a breakfast classic but there are now around the clock in restaurants. Fermented butter is made into soaked dough with soaked rice, beans and lentils and then steamed in round moulds.

They smell slightly sour but taste delicious with the mint yoghurt dip or coconut chutney. If you order Sambar Idly, there are the small, hearty cakes in a light vegetable sauce.

Vada: Hearty Donut | Top 3

Vada is also a dish that is especially eaten in the morning, but like everything else can be ordered throughout the day. A Vada is a small fried doughnut served with a variety of dips and tomato chutneys.

Often Idli and Vada are ordered together and served as a snack or side dish.

Rasam: Sour Vegetable Soup | Top 4

Tomatoes, lentils and spices are cooked in plenty of water to prepare the thin soup. As a spice, among other, tamarind is used, which gives the dish a sour note (tamarind is a legume and widespread in southern India), Rasam is served like as an appetizer before the main course. A strong culinary influence has received this court from the state of Tamil Nadu and the island of Sri Lanka.

Depending on the region, the soup is also known as the Chaaru or Saaru in the South Indians and is traditionally served with rice.

Kottu Roti: Minced flatbread with chicken and vegetables | Top 5

This typical South Indian food is a successful mix of Roti, chicken and vegetables. The ingredients are chopped, mixed and then fried. It’s a typical street food, but you can find it on one or the other menu of restaurants.

The Kottu (also Kotu or Kotthu written) has – as many dishes in South India – also a strong influence from the kitchen of Sri Lanka.

A treat of a very special kind: Masala Dosa is enjoyed in India almost every day!

Indian Bread: Our Top 7

Guess how many different types of bread there are in India? The answer is … we have no idea! But they are very, very many. Especially tasty flatbreads are very popular as a side dish in the north, while rice dominates in the south.

Our absolute favourite breads include:

Naan Bread: Indian Yeast Biscuit | Top 1 

Naan bread has been part of Indian food for centuries as a side dish.

The sourdough pastry is tastefully reminiscent of thin flatbread but baked like pizza dough in a hot Tandoor stone oven. The flatbread is often eaten with hot curry and thali. To do the same to the Indians and just tore off with the right hand a piece of bread and dunk it in the food … Fantastic!

The coveted Naans are also filled or topped with garlic, butter, potatoes, herbs or various spice blends.

A nice video with information on Naan cooking itself:

Roti and Chapatis: Thin Flatbreads | Top 2 

Roti and Chapati are both typical local breads. The thin flatbreads are made from wholemeal wheat flour and water, often completely salt-free.

Both Roti and Chapati do not use yeast on both occasions. This makes them much thinner and lighter than Naans.

 

·Roti:  Roti is, if you like, the tortillas of Indian cuisine. They are thin, big and always folded napkin-like.

·Chapati: Chapati, however, are slightly thicker and about the size of a small breakfast plate. If you order them in an Indian restaurant, you will always get a small sauce assortment consisting of sambar, coconut chutney and other small side dishes.

Papadam: Crispy Lentil Cakes | Top 3 

The crunchy thin lentil bread (papadam) is often served as an appetizer or in restaurants sometimes as a “little attention of the house”. As an appetizer, it is mainly served in front of a thali. Papadam – often called simply papad – is made from lentil flour, then deep-fried and reminds few unsalted chips.

Caution: In some restaurants it is spicy!

Paratha: puff pastry-like bread | Top 4

Paratha is rich bread made from wheat flour and ghee. It reminds a bit of puff pastry.

Paratha is very often filled with various vegetables and then eaten with butter, chutney or Indian pickles. The classic is Aloo Paratha, in which the filling is a spiced mashed potato – to be really full!

Closely related to this flatbread is the parotta, which, however, is more represented in South India. Parotta has the property of being airy and layered as well as being served in kringles. They are often sold as snacks directly from the street.

Kulcha: Indian Pizza Bread | Top 5

Kulcha is fluffy, fermented dough from Maida (Indian wheat flour), sugar, oil, water, yoghurt and salt. Mostly the bread is filled with vegetables. Our favourite is the Tandoor baked version with potatoes and onion stuffing.

For serving it is usually sprinkled with herbs or grains, which is why it is reminiscent of the consistency of pizza bread. Kulcha is a typical bread of the northern Indian state of Punjab. Outside of Punjab, it is rarely found.

Bhakri: Bread made of millet flour | Top 6

Bakhri is a very popular flatbread made of millet flour and water, especially in western and central India.

It is baked without oil in the pan and has a coarse-grained texture. As a staple, it is prepared for all sorts of curry varieties and main courses and also used for the popular Thali.

Puri: Deep Fried Street Stand Classic | Top 7

If you walk through the streets of India, then you can often see vaulted, round flatbreads on the roadside. Mostly it is Puris. By frying they open and their interior fills with air. Upon cooling, the Puris then fall back together.

It should not be confused with the equally appetizing Panipuri, a small ball of dough with stuffing!

Visually very similar is the Indian flatbread bhatura, which is also fried. Wheat semolina and yoghurt are also used to make bhatura.

Papadam, Roti, Naan or Chapatis with Sambar are both staple foods and a popular snack in India!

Indian snacks: 5 treat in between

Samosas: Fried Dumplings | Top 1

The little dumplings are the Indian street food classic par excellence and the ideal snack in between. Samosas are traditionally filled with a vegetarian vegetable curry or minced meat. Before frying, they are folded into a triangular bag and served with delicious chutney!

There are also variations in the oven with potatoes or rice and even sweet Samosa with honey and pistachios are not uncommon. A pleasure!

Momos: Steamed Dumplings | Top 2

Momos could also be called the Indian Maultaschen.

They are actually something like the secret national dish of Nepal and also widely used in Tibet. Thin dough, classically filled with meat, onions and spices, is cooked over hot steam for about a quarter of an hour.

In most cases, this is a meat dish (chicken) and is more common in northern India. However, there are sometimes momos in a vegetarian version with vegetables, lots of onions and potatoes.

Parippu Vada: Lentil Balls | Top 3

Also, this Indian food is typical street food. These are small lens balls, which are baked with nuts refined. Before eating, they are often sprinkled with fresh coriander. Sometimes the lens balls are also a side dish at breakfast.

Originally from the coastal region of Kerala, this Indian snack has become a popular snack in many of the country’s tea houses.

Indian spice nuts | Top 4

Nuts, chilli powder, honey and the spice mixture Garam Masala are lightly roasted together in the oven or the pan and then served as an appetizer or to a fragrant Indian Chai. For example, walnuts, cashew nuts or peanuts are used.

Pakora Muffins | Top 5

Vegetarians beware: This delicious snack is not often found, but if you see it, then you should definitely strike.

For the production of Pakora (also called Pakoda or Bhajia) muffins a dough made from chickpeas and mixed rice flour and various dishes such as potato, onion and vegetables and then baked in the oven.

Incidentally, this snack also exists as a deep-fried option.

Culinary specialities directly from the street stand: stuffed samosas, momos and nuts are perfect for the hunger in between!

Indian drinks: 5 pieces you’ll love

Masala Chai: Spiced Tea | Top 1

In India simply nothing should be left unsung and certainly not their national drink, the tea.

Black tea is cooked together with cloves, cinnamon sticks, pepper, ginger, sugar and milk and then served everywhere: before, after or during the meal – that’s the same for the Indians.

Masala means in India as much as “mix” and that shows already the variety of spices that are used in a genuine Indian black tea. In especially aromatic teas, Indian nutmeg leaves are brewed in addition to nutmeg and cardamom.

Chai: milk tea | Top 2

If you need a little spice break, then you order a milk tea in India. That means chai in the whole country – that means black tea with milk. The black tea is of course also available on request without milk, but then usually with a little lemon.

Lassi: Yogurt shake | Top 3

Lassis are Indian yoghurt milkshakes. The yoghurt in the drink reduces the sharpness of the food due to the fat content of the milk and is therefore wonderfully refreshing (and a welcome addition to spicy ingredients). The yoghurt drink is available in various flavours either Lassi with natural yoghurt, banana coconut or other fruit variants.

My favourite dish is the mango-lassi while Sebastian loves to drink the banana-lassi. 

Fresh coconuts | Top 4

India is a tropical paradise and especially in South India, coconuts from the roadside are a popular, refreshing and extremely healthy drink. In addition to coconuts, there are also many different fruit juices to buy, but we would be exceptionally cautious in India for hygienic reasons…

The exotic fruit juices include guava juice, pineapple coconut and mango juice, as well as passion fruit juice.

Arrak: Indian Rice Brandy | Top 5

Alcohol is hard to buy in India, and in some provinces, there is even a total ban on alcohol (Gujarat, Nagaland and Bihar, as well as highways around the country). Unlike in other countries, it is not uncommon that there is no alcoholic beverage in a restaurant to choose from…

An exception is Arrak or Arrack, a high percentage of spirits (40 to 70%), which is obtained from palm juice and rice mash. It is considered one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world and is still produced today in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Whether lassi, tea or masala chai: In Indian cuisine, the drinks taste particularly refined and well-seasoned.

Indian desserts: 3 typical desserts

In conclusion, what cannot be missing for every Indian meal? Exactly – the dessert! And as you can already imagine the Indian desserts are just delicious.

However, Indian cuisine uses a lot of sugar in the dessert and thus the sweets are usually very, very sweet.

Kesari: semolina cake | Top 1

The Kesari is one of our favourite desserts. It is a seductive millet semolina cake, refined with coconut flakes and cardamom. Rava Kesari is additionally sprinkled with nuts and raisins and saffron gives it a sensationally appetizing colour.

The whole thing is served warm and fresh. Besides, a delicious Chai and the day are perfect.

Kheer: Indian rice pudding | Top 2

Fragrant rice pudding with almonds and pistachio pieces is often prepared for solemn occasions. Cardamom and saffron are something like the basic ingredients of Indian desserts and should not be missed with this rice pudding.

There are a special East Indian type of Kheer with sugarcane concentrate or palm sugar (in Bengal) and cherries (in Assam).

Fruits | Top 3

Fruits are not a typical Indian dessert … Nevertheless, there is nothing against the fact that you round off an Indian meal with a delicious portion of fresh fruit.

Watermelons, mangoes, lychees, guavas and pineapples are very popular in India.

Delicious desserts: In addition to fresh fruit and the fantastic semolina cake Indian cuisine offers many more delicacies.

Our +1 court | Which is the best food in India?

Which Indian dish could be the one that puts all the dishes in the shade? Is that still possible? Oh yeah! Our highlight of Indian cuisine is a dessert and is called Gulab Jamun.

Gulab Jamun: delicious milk balls

This dish is as simple as it is ingenious. The main ingredient of this sweet is sugar, a bit of milk, flour and cardamom. From this, the loose dough is kneaded, which is then baked in hot oil.

The milk balls are served with grated almonds, pistachios and delicious sugar syrup – a sugar-sweet dessert. 

Our tip for vegetarians: vegetable curry

During our tour of South India, we ordered a vegetarian vegetable curry almost daily (“Vegetable Curry”). And should we tell you something? The taste was never the same, always excellent, always typical Indian, but different.

The ingredients, the spices and the preparation at the curry are in fact “home-style” and so each chef offers his own interpretation. But what you could rely on was a thick consistency of vitamins, proteins and regional spice influences.

 

Lassi: Yogurt shake | Top 3

Lassis are Indian yoghurt milkshakes. The yoghurt in the drink reduces the sharpness of the food due to the fat content of the milk and is therefore wonderfully refreshing (and a welcome addition to spicy ingredients). The yoghurt drink is available in various flavours either Lassi with natural yoghurt, banana coconut or other fruit variants.

My favourite dish is the mango-lassi while Sebastian loves to drink the banana-lassi. 

Indian food | Our personal conclusion

Our conclusion is quite simple and puts it in a nutshell: we love Indian food! Indian cuisine is one of the best in the world for us. It is full of unique food, refined spices and an enormous variety.

If we had to list our favourite Indian dishes, we would read this article from top to bottom.

Have you ever been to India or do you like Indian food? What are your favourite dishes? What should you have tasted in any case? We look forward to your comment!