Naan bread is something that you see all over the country, but in the north it is an essential part of most meals. This is a leavened flatbread that is made with yoghurt and traditionally baked in a clay oven. The oven itself is called a tandoor and is part of the tandoori cuisine of northern India. This staple often accompanies rice besides rich curries and pickles.
Dhal My Kingdom for Some Dhal!
Dhal is curried lentils but don’t let the simple description fool you, because when made well, it is pure joy on the tastebuds. The wonderful thing is that you can experience a completely different flavour depending on the cooking method and the subtle choice of spices. This dish is a great classic and is often flavoured with asafoetida and even tamarinds. Tarka Dhal is very popular throughout the Indian Sub-continent and is made with fried garlic, onions and regional spices.
Biriyani Rice Dishes
The Muslim invaders from Persia can be thanked for influencing many wonderful Indian dishes, including the Biriyani. This is a North Indian rice dish that marries saffron with whole fragrant spices. It is usually combined with marinated chicken or pork and you may, if you’re lucky, get a hard-boiled egg on top too! This is an ancient dish that is both filling and satisfying.
Delight of the Dosa
Heading south, the Dosa is a classic savoury pancake that can sometimes be quite overwhelming as they like to serve this tasty rice batter dish huge sometimes. They are fantastic to fill, just like you would a tortilla in Mexico. One very popular bite is the Masala Dosa when it is stuffed with a spiced potato curry.
Thali for the Traveller
For many travellers, one of the joys of train travel in India is receiving a metal tray holding a Thali. In fact, the word itself comes from the tray on which it is usually served. It is typical that a bowl of freshly cooked rice is surrounded by small pots of various curries, pickles, dhal and chutneys. This is quintessential Indian dining.
Raitas are Cool!
A Raita is something of a saviour sometimes when the going gets hot! This is traditionally a curd and coriander dish, but yoghurt is often used these days. Many wonderful variants can include cucumber and subtle spices. This is exactly what you need if you have accidentally ordered the hot curry and the chilli is starting to bite!
Another fantastic side dish that is part of Indian cuisine is the Bhaji. The sweet fragrance of bhajis are one of the fabulous aromas of street life in India. They are usually made from onion, potato or aubergine. They are highly seasoned, spiced and then deep-fried to a crispy golden delight. It is made with a flour batter mix and is a trendy starter or snack.