Indian Food

Understanding Indian Food Names

For anyone traveling to India for the first time, choosing what to eat can be quite a puzzling experience. Indian food names are quite uncommon for an outsider, not to mention the fact you have heard thousand times about the spiciness, or that you should only eat at “clean” and “reliable” places. Once you finally choose a restaurant, you start reading the menu and find so many options and names you have never heard of, and no clue that is in that dish, that making a choice can be quite challenging.

Luckily, apart from delicious, Indian food is quite easy to figure out.  Most of the dishes are named after the main ingredients, so once you figure out their names, choosing a dish becomes a lot easier. It’s important to mention that most restaurants in India generally mention if they are “veg” or “non-veg”. The term “non-veg” is quite funny for foreigners, as restaurants tend to be non-veg by default in the west.

However, given that India has a highly vegetarian population, not only restaurants, but any food you buy at the supermarket has a sign informing if it is a vegetarian or non-vegetarian product. It’s also worth mentioning that egg is considered non-vegetarian, and due to the conditions of meat houses in the country, I’d recommend eating any type of meat only at very reputable restaurants.

List of the main Indian food names you should know:

-Aloo – potato

-Pyaaj – onion

-Paneer – white cheese, generally in cubes

-Tamater – tomato

-Mutter or matar – peas

-Chawal – rice

-Rajma – beans

-Chola – chickpeas

-Murgh – chicken

-Laal Maas – red meat (generally buffalo)

-Dal – Lentils

It’s also worth noting that because the main alphabet in India is not the English one, it’s common to see variations of the same word written. For instance, pyaaj can also be found as pyaaz, and aloo as alu.

Indian Bread:

Indian bread is delicious and there are quite a few options to choose from.

The most common types are:

-Chapati or Roti

The most common type, made with whole wheat flour at a flat oven called tawa or a cylindrical oven called tandoor.

-Naan

Made with all-purpose flour and yogurt, it is heavier and bigger than chapati. It can be served plain, with butter, or stuffed with vegetables (garlic naan is amazing!)

-Paratha

Similar to chapati, but it’s a bit fried on both sides, and can be also stuffed.

-Puri

Puri is a delicious deep fried round bread, commonly eaten with a potato curry, a dish called Aloo Puri.

-Bhatura

With some differences, it is similar to puri, but in a very big size. Bhatura is a very big deep fried type of bread, that “puffs” when fried.

So now what?

Well, it’s pretty simple. If you find a dish called “mutter paneer” it means it’s a curry made of white cheese cubes and peas, which can be dry or gravy – with or without gravy. In India, it is very common to use garlic, ginger, onion and tomato in everything, so many curries have those ingredients at their base.

Along with the pictures below, there are links to the recipes, in case you’re interested in learning how they are made or other ingredients used (especially useful for people with any type of dietary restrictions):

EXAMPLES OF INDIAN DISHES:

Aloo Pyaaj

Indian Food Names: Aloo Pyaaj
Indian Food Names: Aloo Pyaaj

Aloo Pyaaj is a dish made with potatoes and onions, which can be dry or with gravy. It is usually eaten with Indian bread (chapati, mostly).

Paneer butter masala

Indian Food Names: Paneer Butter Masala
Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer butter masala is a delicious curry made with white cheese cubes and a gravy made of tomato sauce, cream and butter. It tastes even better when combined with some Indian bread, like chapati or naan.

Dal Fry

Dal Fry and Rice
Dal Fry and Rice

Dal Fry is a yellow type of lentils very common in India. It always has gravy, and it’s eaten with rice.

Chola Bhatura

Chola Bhatura
Chola Bhatura

Peeyush’s favorite, chola bhatura is a dish made of chickpeas in a thick gravy, served with raw onion and bhatura bread.

Mouthwatering, no? If you’re planning on going to India soon, don’t miss out on our ultimate travel information you need to know before going to India.