The Best 10 Traditional Indian Dishes
Let us share with you our favorite traditional Indian food specialties. These are a must for everyone looking to explore India through its flavors.
Indian food is amongst the trendiest cuisines worldwide; everyone loves a good Indian meal. Spicy cuisine can be intimidating as well, so here is a great place to start: There are 10 traditional Indian food specialties that will show you what the exotic cuisine is all about.
Indian food is not only exciting; it’s incredibly varied, and it has many regional variations. These 10 Indian food items are just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a great start!
What Is Traditional Indian Food?
Indian food comprises many regional cuisines. You won’t find the same ingredients or recipes on the southern coast as in the hilly north. India is a vast country, after all. Also, Indian food is linked to the country’s culture and religions, mainly Islam and Hinduism, so they too play a role in how the food is prepared and the ingredients used.
Making a list of only 10 Indian foods is not easy, and we had to leave out dozens of traditional Indian food delights. Still, these are our favorite Indian flavors.
10 Indian Dishes to Try
Let’s start with flatbread, an essential food item present at every Indian table. Roti is perhaps the most beloved unleavened bread in India; it’s made with wholemeal flour and cooked just before being served. You can enjoy roti with curries, rice dishes, and stews. The bread helps you scoop up the last drop of spicy sauce.
Other prevalent Indian flatbreads, all typical Indian food items, include chapati, naan, phulka, and paratha. They’re all different and are used for different things throughout India.
Chutneys are flavorful condiments; sometimes they’re homemade and others are store-bought. These are preserves that are made with pickled or stewed vegetables or fruit and seasoned with spices.
Chutney is a side dish, but it’s more than that; sometimes it’s a critical element in a recipe. Tandoori chicken, for example, is best enjoyed with a side of chutney, and there are many others, including aloo chop, paratha, and gwaramari.
Making chutney at home, by the way, is easy and fun, so make it a weekend project—chutneys have long shelf lives, so make a large batch!
Biryani is the most famous rice dish in India. The famous basmati rice is the chief ingredient, but people can add chicken, eggs, veggies, and many other elements to the golden rice, even dried fruit! Of course, there are many biryani variations; it’s safe to say every household has its own recipe. What all biryanis have in common is that they’re filling, inexpensive, colorful, and fragrant.
This is no side dish, but the main course, and when done right, you don’t need anything else on the table. The word "birian" is Persian for "fried!"
Let’s talk about another versatile Indian food. Paneer is cow's milk cheese, made fresh and ready to enjoy with little or no aging. Paneer is moist and crumbly, creamy and mildly flavorful.
The role of paneer is to complement more intense flavors without stealing the spotlight. The cheese has its origins in Bangladesh and might be thousands of years old. Paneer is used in both sweet and savory recipes, and you can also enjoy it as is (paneer is a fantastic snack). It goes without saying that paneer is an excellent vegetarian substitute for white meat.
Concisely, dal is a lentil stew, but it’s more sophisticated than that. The type of lentil used matters, most likely yellow or black lentils, and some people make theirs with chickpeas. Dal is rich and creamy, thick and intensely flavorful. Sometimes considered a humble dish, dal is a true delicacy and a great vegetarian protein source.
Lentils are the main ingredient here, but the spices used give the dal its personality. In a traditional dal recipe, garlic, onion, and brown spices all have a place. Chili peppers are customary in some areas as well.
6. Butter Chicken
This Indian food is famous worldwide, and it’s a great example of the colorful cuisine. Legend says the dish originated in the 1950s in Delhi, but now you’ll find it in every Indian restaurant across the map.
The secret behind this juicy chicken is the sauce, a combination of butter, tomatoes, and marinade juices, spiced up and reduced until thick and creamy. Garlic, ginger, fenugreek chili powder, and cream are typical ingredients in butter chicken, which is not all that hard to make at home! If you get the sauce right, you’ll have a great dish for dinner.
7. Chicken Curry
This Southern Indian specialty is what you’d expect from a warm, colorful and spicy curry. The secret is in combining hot peppers and spices with tamarind and coconut cream.
Creamy, silky and brightly colored curry is the tastiest way to eat chicken. Enjoy this specialty with a side of rice or flatbread. Other than that, this is a satisfying meal to keep your hunger at bay. There are several chicken curries in India, and the most subtle condiment variation transforms the dish altogether.
8. Malai Kofta
This is India’s version of meatballs. Two-bite juiciness with no meat!These are vegetarian treats made with potatoes, carrots, corn, peas, and beans, and they’re often heavily seasoned.
Malai kofta is best enjoyed in a thick, spicy sauce with a side of paneer. Rice and flatbread are typical side dishes for the saucy dish as well. Sometimes, these "meatballs" look more like croquettes, but they’re always soft and delicious. This is not only a lovely vegetarian meal, but it’s also great Indian food for everyone!
Before we talk about perhaps the most attractive Indian food, let’s mention the most crucial ingredient in Indian cooking—clarified butter, or ghee.
As you might already know, butter is great for cooking everything, but it can’t take high temperatures. That’s where ghee comes in; the clarified butter is suitable for stir-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, and more!
To clarify butter, one must melt it and scoop away its proteins, leaving all the delicious fat behind. Cooking with ghee is also healthy, by the way, and it gives food a warm flavor.
10. Tandoori Chicken
Tandoor is the name of a clay oven, wood-fired to incredible temperatures and used to make everything from bread to chicken. Tandoori chicken is seasoned chicken roasted in one of these traditional ovens. This is no regular chicken — it’s crispy and juicy, and it’s seasoned with masala, cumin, nutmeg, and many other spices. What you get is a colorful chicken dish with no equal.
You might also find this dish as tandoori murgh. Rest assured, you’ll surely love the chicken’s spicy and smoky flavor.
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