To describe the best Indian dishes is not an easy task. Indian cuisine is rich in spices, tastes and influences from different cultures. And no dish tastes the same if you visit a different restaurant in another town.
But there are certain fixtures, for instance that mainly more vegetables than meats are used. The most popular geographical classification is dividing Indian food into North and South Indian cuisine (although West and East Indian cuisine (Bengali) exist as well).
South Indian cuisine is a bit lighter, with less spices, focusing on rice and coconut-based dishes – while North Indian food can be richer in cream, dairy products, (cottage) cheese or yogurts, spicier and with thicker sauces:
After all, there are more mountains in North India and the temperatures lower. So you better pack some more calories to survive the day, right?
To get an overview, here are my Top 7 Indian dishes:
7. Aloo Gobi
Aloo Gobi is a simple yet very tasty dish. It mainly consists of Aloo (potato) and Gobi (cauliflower) coming together in a tasty tomato puree sauce. This sauce sometimes has a bit sour touch, which makes the whole composition even more delicious. A small dip of cream can but doesn’t have to be in the middle of your bowl.
In Goa you can also use Aloo Gobi as a benchmark dish. That means if you check the menu of any restaurant, check for Aloo Gobi first, as almost all have it. Depending on the price you see, you can judge the price range of the restaurant. While some local restaurants in Mapusa or Panaji offer Aloo Gobi already starting for Rs 30-40, in the tourist belt you pay usually around Rs 50-90, sometimes up to Rs 110 for that dish.
Ahhhh, Dosa! Dosa is usually eaten by Indians for breakfast or as a light dinner. It’s more like an omelette or crepe, made from rice and lentils.
The crust sometimes can be huge and its filled with delicious vegetables, meats or gravies. Almost always, you have at least potatoes, onions, spiced in the typical way of the region as a filling.
Other Dosas are named after their main ingredients. So you can have Egg Dosa, Chilli, Dosa, Butter Dosa, Cheese or Masala Dosa. The choices are limitless or simply follow the fantasy of the chief. I found Dosa in Goa are moderately priced, starting from Rs 20-25 up to 50-60 in the more greedy/touristy areas.
This is more like a snack than a full meal. Samosa come in many varieties, shapes and sizes. To be true, it’s not only common in India, but in other South Asian countries also, as well in the Middle East.
Some call it also Curry Puff, as it is a stuffed pastry, mainly in triangular shape, with a filling of potatoes, chili, curry, peas, coriander, onion or fresh cottage or paneer cheese. They come in vegetable or meat variantes and are fried or sometimes baked.
The good thing about Samosa is that they are small, easily carried around with you, so they make for a perfect snack or appetizer in between meals. If they are from the day before, just use a microwave oven and they taste almost as new.
Depending on size, Samosa can costs anything from Rs 5-10 on local markets up 30-50 in more stylish restaurants.
4. Biryani Rice with vegetable Raita
Those two are almost 2 separate meals, but they go soooo perfectly hand-in-hand. Fried rice you have in all Asia in different varities, so Biryani Rice is simply the Indian rice specialty. Except here they use Basmati rice (the smaller and thinner variante compared to South East Asian rice) and a whole set of different spices.
It has the typical Indian spices, like coriander, cashew nuts, raisins, mint, ginger. So it’s often a bit on the sweeter side, but there are more hearty one or Biryani with meat, like chicken or mutton as well.
Raita is a yogurt dip or sauce, similar to Greek Szaziki, but it can have many more ingredients, like pineapple, raisins, cucumber, mint, coriander, spring onions – making it a perfect companion for Biryani Rice. Prices start from Rs 30-50, tourist prices are around Rs 60-120.
3. Chicken Tikka (Masala) and Tandoori Chicken
This is another, now almost internationally popular dish. Tikka means actually simply ‘pieces’ of chicken. They are marinated in the typical orange/red sauce consisting of spices and yogurt. After that they are baked in a Tandoori oven, to give them the typical smoky taste. A matching sauce of tomato puree, mixed spices (masala) and cream or yogurt is usually added, or the meat chunks are simply eaten with Chapati or Naan Roti.
If done properly, the meat of the chicken chunks is very soft and you can dissolve it simply with your tongue, exploring layer by layer of smoky delight. Instead of ordering the (usually) boneless Chicken Chunks (Tikka), you can have as well a half or complete Tandoori Chicken, which is prepared in a similar way, but comes usually with bones and without the sauce.
The meat dishes have naturally the most differences in prices. Local restaurants serve Chicken Tikka for Rs 50-70, while tourists pay anything from Rs 80-200, depending on location and the size of the portion.
2. Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)
This is a very popular dish worldwide and comes originally from the Punjab region of India. It is my favorite Indian dish for many years and I used to eat it already way back in Germany in Indian restaurants. The rich, thick, tasty gravy is like a poem on your tongue and the soft, marinated pieces of chicken usually melt in your mouth.
Eat that every few days and you will soon feel your wasteline expanding. I can tell you that first hand, as the last 2 months saw me gaining between 2-3 kg. Butter Chicken is definitely to blame for this.
Meat dishes like Butter Chicken start between Rs 50-70, but can cost easily Rs 100-150 in the more up-market restaurants.
Thali is actually not a real dish, but a full-blown meal. Thali simply means ‘plate’ and derives from the metal tray which is used to store small amounts of different food items in small bowls.
Before coming to Goa, I never heard of Thali before. Most Indian restaurants I know around the planet, don’t serve Indian food this way. You have standard dishes like the ones above and that’s it.
Yet, I find Thali is a great thing in its own way. You get the full Indian experience and can try several diverse foods in one go. There is rice, bread (Chapati and/or Papadum) and vegetables, marinated pickles, sweet or sour sauces, some yogurt or curd to neutralize the taste buds and sometimes rose water or milder sauces. As well the better equipped ones come with some sweet dessert or cake as well.
Add a milk coffee or some plain water to it and you have a multi-course menu, all on one plate. Therefore I put Thali here as the number one, but your mileage will vary of course.
The cheapest Thali I found so far had a price tag of Rs 30, normal are Rs 50-70.
And what goes best with any of the above dishes? Of course a yogurt lassi, either plain, sweet or salted or with mango, banana or pineapple taste. Drink a milk coffee (usually more milk than coffee) Or try the masala tea. Ahhhhhh! Simply delicious!
Which Indian dish is your number 1? Did we miss any favorite food items here? Please help to add them via the Comment form below. Thanks!
Epicurienne – do you prefer Javanese or Indian food?
I have to go get something to eat now, so hungryyyyyy….
(Picture source info: all pictures were shot by me, except for #2,3,5,6 – those were taken from Wikipedia)
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