Indian food is often overlooked as a cuisine compared to more plentiful and widespread options like pizza, pasta, and burgers. However, this cuisine offers some of the most delicious and unique flavors you can enjoy. With some strange names, foreign spices and flavorings, and some interesting ingredients, you might be at a loss knowing where to begin.
If you're visiting an Indian restaurant for the first time, here are six amazing dishes that should be at the top of your "to try" list.
These are often served as an appetizer, and they won't seem too unfamiliar to you if you're used to ordering egg rolls, crab rangoons, or even perogies and dumplings. These are shaped like little triangles, and they are usually filled with beautifully seasoned vegetables. Potatoes are a common vegetable used in the filling, but with curry-like spices to make it a different experience. These come with dipping sauces to help add some heat or some cooling.
Every cuisine has a staple bread. Italy have ciabatta, Mexico has tortillas, and France has baguettes. The Indian bread that is most often used to accompany savory dishes (and some sweet ones) is naan. This bread is made with high gluten flour and yogurt, and it cooked over a flame grill, creating a yeasty flatbread spread with garlicky butter. it's great for scooping up the sauces of a stew or for eating plain. Be sure to order a stack -- it might end up being your favorite part of the meal if you are a bread lover.
3. Chicken korma
Chicken korma is a tasty dish that has a mild level of heat, making it a perfect first entree for those who haven't had much spicy food or for those who don't tolerate a high heat level in their food. The chicken is stewed in a beautiful sauce made from coconut milk, butter, and yogurt. The korma sauce is sweeter because it often has the addition of coconut and sultana raisins. Served with rice, it's the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
4. Tandoori chicken
If you would prefer to eat something closer to barbecue than stew, tandoori chicken is the way to go. It's dry rubbed with vibrant spices and roasted in an oven called an tandoori. The heat from the flames gives a crisp outside and a juicy interior to these pieces of chicken that are usually served on skewers. You can usually have your server adjust your spice level to be more smokey than spicy if you're concerned about the level of heat. If you want to try something more exotic, some Indian restaurants will serve Tandoori lamb or other types of meat.
5. Chicken tikka masala
Perhaps the most famous dish of indian cuisine, chicken tikka masala gives the flavors that you might expect when you try Indian cuisine. It has a higher spice level than milder butter chicken and chicken korma, offering a unique blend of familiar and unfamiliar. You catch the tastes of black pepper, cinnamon, and ginger, but you might not have expected those to be blended with spices like turmeric, paprika, and coriander. The silky sauce is made from coconut milk and yogurt, with the addition of stewed tomatoes for a completely savory experience. The stew is slow cooked to help intensify the flavors, and is usually enjoyed with rice and naan.
6. Rice pudding
Rice pudding, or kheer, at an Indian restaurant may be thinner and more aromatic that what you've tasted in the past, but it is worth every spoonful as a way to end your meal.
For more information, contact an Indian restaurant near you. You can browse through a menu and discover a whole new cuisine to expand your palate.