Indian Food

Find out all you need to know about the best Indian food and drinks before your trip.

India has one of the most chaotic, eventful, and substantial cuisines in the world. It is the world’s spice headquarters, and the most exotic spices hailed in international gastronomy, such as pepper, cardamom, and turmeric, were introduced from India. Other than spices, rice and legumes are the main ingredients that go into most dishes. Vegetarianism is unusually common, and the consumption of beef is prohibited in some states due to the cow viewed as a sacred animal. There is a lot to know about Indian food to have a safe and joyous experience, and our Indian food guide is a good place to start exploring. Before you arrive, also keep in mind these Indian food tips:

  • India doesn’t have alcohol at the forefront due to cultural and ethnic reasons, but you will find internationally available beers and alcohol in most hotels and bars.
  • Beware when you are buying food from street stalls, especially certain products such as drinks and dairy products. You can consult your tour guide for reliable stalls and Dhabas (usually roadside food shops).
  • If you are not used to spicy food, do go gentle into the Indian food scene. There is even a term for first-time travelers who have stomach problems after eating spicy dishes: Delhi Belly.

Must-Try Indian Foods

Here are the top dishes of the Indian food scene that will help you eat like a local:

Indian food
Butter Chicken

This signature dish is one of the heartiest in Indian cuisine, originating in Delhi. It is a spicy and thick gravy with chicken marinated overnight in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, and red chili powder. A large chunk of butter goes into the gravy sauce, which gives the dish its much-earned taste. It offers the best of the flavors of Indian food on one plate. If you are a vegetarian, you can find versions of butter chicken with tofu, but only in selected restaurants.

Indian food
Masala Dosa

It may seem like an uneventful crepe at first glance, but masala dosa is much more—the sole representative of South Indian cuisine. It comes with a stuffing of mashed potatoes or other vegetables. Masala dosa is a perfect vegetarian dish and a delicious quick bite. Coconut chutney and sambar dip sauces usually accompany it on the side.

Indian food
Samosa

The delightful samosas can easily satisfy your appetite at any time of day. They are small dumblings filled with potato or veggies, deep-fried or baked and served at most street food eateries. Usually, samosas don’t include any eggs or dairy products, which is excellent news for vegan travelers. Still, don’t try them without asking the ingredients first. Dip a samosa in some sweet mint sauce or chutney, and you will have small Indian flavor buds exploding in your mouth.

Indian food
Dal Tadka

Dal tadka is the most famous Indian lentil dish prepared with pea and red lentils. Its distinctive quality is tempering the lentils with oil, spices and ghee after cooking. If you are eating the traditional version, you will immediately notice its smoky flavor, which is due to the burnt charcoal used in its making. If the solo version is too overwhelming for you, order dal tadka with plain rice.

Indian food
Chaats

Chaat is the number one snack in the Indian subcontinent, although it looks like a proper main course dish. This plentiful bowl has everything quintessentially Indian, from chickpeas to coriander chutneys and tangy spices like Indian chili to dahi (Indian yogurt). It is available in roadside stall and food carts across the country. Apart from the original one with potatoes, you will find a wide range of varieties including sweet chaats made with regional fruit. They are at their best in Varanasi, calling for a photographic experience at the ghats.

Indian food
Gulab Jamun

The sweet side of the Indian food narrative is often not as flashy as the salty. However, gulab is arguably one of the most well-loved dishes in the country. It will make you smile after you challenged your stomach with all those spicy and savory meals. Khoya balls get deep-fried and soaked in saffron syrup. If you are visiting India during the time of the festivities, they will be everywhere in food carts.

Must-Try Indian Drinks

Lassi

The pride of Northern India, Lassi is a delightful local drink that comes sweet or salty. The base ingredient is yogurt, a perfect tranquilizer for the spicy Indian food much like ayran in the Balkans and Turkey. In summer days, the sweet versions made with fresh fruits such as mango and flower essences are perfect to grab as you enjoy your walking tours.

Indian food
Masala Chai

Masala Chai is the aromatic Indian spices brought to the beverage scene. It is almost a national drink for the country, its origins dating back to the 19th century. Black tea blends with milk, and the aromatic masala mix—cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg—goes into the tea. The proportion and variety of spices vary in different regions.

Masala Chai

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