Traditional Indian foods

Indian food is much loved throughout the world, whether you’re in an East London takeaway or trying the regional delights of the Goa. One thing you are guaranteed is to be eating food that has a long and illustrious past. For 8000 years or more, different ethnic and religious groups have played their part in producing foods and dishes that are now becoming more and more a part of a global cuisine. The flavours of India are as rich and diverse as the landscape. From the deserts of Rajasthan to the high Himalayan mountain passes of Ladakh, the subtle differences in dishes is staggering.

Here are just some of the traditional foods you may see if travelling in India and are a great part of their culinary traditions.

Naan Bread

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!

Aromatic Bhajis

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.