It can be difficult to order food from an Indian menu if you are unfamiliar with Indian cuisine and the words used in the preparation of Indian food. And, more often than not, you’ll order the wrong dishes, or too much or too little, sabotaging your dining experience.
It’s a lot simpler than you would think to decipher and order Indian food. The basics are more or less the same whether you’re ordering food from an Indian restaurant or from another country. Although most Indian menus outside of India use English words to help you describe the food, in India you only have the names of the dishes to go by.
Ordering Indian Cuisine
The first thing to remember is that Indian food is intended to be shared rather than served in individual portions. Unlike in the west, where each person orders a main and side dish, people order Indian food from the table as a whole or for groups of people when there are a large number of people and then shared. Since an Indian meal consists of several ingredients, the food is served on large silver platters or dishes, which are then served to you on individual plates by the restaurant staff. So, in an Indian restaurant, don’t order a main dish per person.
Before placing your order, inquire with your server about the number of people the main dish will serve. A half-plate or a full dish is available in many Indian restaurants. The half typically serves 2-3 citizens, while the complete usually serves 4-6. However, since portions vary by location, it’s best to inquire about the quantity and how many people it will support by asking the workers.
You should be aware of your spiciness level. Decide if you want your food to be mild, medium, heavy, or extra hot before ordering from the menu. Inquire with your waiter about the dish’s spiciness and whether it can be milder if necessary. When it comes to the hotness of the plate, they almost always can accommodate your preferences. However, if you want to sample authentic Indian spices, leave it to the chef.
How Much to Order for a Complete Indian Meal
A starter or appetizer is usually served first in an Indian meal. This is normally served as a small dry dish with a few pieces on each platter…so that each person gets a taste. It’s mostly served with chutneys or sauces as a side dish. A good way to start with a table of four is to serve two types of starters, either vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
For an Indian drink, order a Lassi or Masala Chaas. Popular Indian yogurt drinks such as lassi and chaas, masala chaas are buttermilk that can be sweet or salty and has various spices. Unlike water, the yogurt in Lassi and Chaas soothes the tongue and can help put out the fire that spicy Indian cuisine can often cause.
The main course
If you’re not a vegetarian, one or two meat dishes with gravies or curry are a good choice. Along with the Indian flatbreads, a vegetable side dish is usually ordered. The main course then has a rice dish with lentil dal.
A selection of chutneys, pickles, curd (yogurt), and/or raw onion and cucumber slices are some, if not all, of the meal’s accompaniments.
Desserts are likely to be the only part of the meal ordered separately, though some are rich and sweet enough to share, especially after a heavy meal. Desserts, on the other hand, is given in individual portions.
So, for a complete meal for four people, order two appetizers, two meat main dishes (or vegetable main dishes in the case of vegetarians), one vegetable dish, Indian flatbread (naan, rotis, parathas) per person, rice with a Dal (lentil soup) or pulao/ biryani on its own, and if you have space for dessert, order it separately per person. For an authentic Indian meal, this is the way to go!
You will find a tray or bowl after your meal, either when your cheque is brought or as you walk out the door. These are either candy-coated fennel seeds or plain roasted fennel with rock sugar candy squares attached. Fennel not only helps digestion but also prevents “Dragon Breath,” a well-known side effect of good Indian cooking, which you can chew on a small amount of.
Popular Indian curries to order
These are some of the most well-known curry names you’ll see on Indian restaurant menus. It’s helpful to know what kind of curry you’re going to order.
Vindaloo is a spice blend created by combining whole spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and cumin with dry red chilies in vinegar. Usually, this mixture turns into gravy and people prefer it over meat. Vindaloo is extremely spicy, so pair it with some bread or rice to cool down.
The base of a Pasanda Curry is typically almonds and milk, and it’s much milder than a korma. The word pasanda literally translates to “like.” The best lamb or mutton steaks were thought to be flattened and cut into strips in the past. These were spice-fried before being combined with the smooth almond coconut sauce. Everyone enjoys the mildness of the flavors, particularly those who are trying curries for the first time. Chicken, fish, paneer, mushrooms, potatoes, and other vegetables marinate in a spicy sauce and then fried. Coconut is also used as well. Pasanda is usually white in color, but many people nowadays add turmeric to make a yellow curry.
Korma uses almonds and coconut, similar to Pasanda, but with the addition of saffron, giving the curry sauce a sweet pale yellow color. Pasanda korma is a rich, creamy, and delectable curry.
Mughlai curry is a term you’ve probably heard a lot. On the other hand, Mughlai is very similar to korma or pasanda.
Maharashtra curry is a common dish in the state. The curry sauce prepares with a spicy coconut base. Chicken, vegetables, fish, beef, paneer, and other ingredients can also contribute to this.
This curry is thought to be Persian in origin and arrived in India via Kashmir. Oil is referred to as Rogan, and heat is referred to as josh. However, even though the curry appears to be red, it is not particularly spicy, and it all depends on how you prepare it. The marinated meat is added to the sauce after the onion has caramelized and the spices have been roasted. The red color comes from the Kashmiri Chilli Powder used, which gives the curry a red hue. Lamb or mutton is traditionally used. However, because of the tasty curry, vegetarian versions of rogan josh are easy to come by these days. The ingredients include paneer, tofu, potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, and mixed vegetables.
This curry is made with butter, as the name suggests. To stir fry the onion, tomatoes, and spices in the olden days, homemade butter was used. It was ground into a smooth sauce after it was fried, and then meat, chicken, paneer, mushrooms, and other ingredients were added to the creamy sauce. It’s also topped with a dollop of sugar. According to legend, three men and their families left Peshawar for Delhi during the 1947 Partition. They opened a restaurant in Delhi named Moth Mahal, and the world was introduced to the popular Murg Makhani from there.
Onion and tomato are the main ingredients in tikka masala sauce. To make a sauce, spices are added. The curry or sauce is then topped with marinated and tandoor-cooked chicken tikka bits, beef tikka, paneer tikka, or mushroom tikka. It can range from mild to hot depending on how it’s prepared.
Jalfrezi is a stir-fry that originated in Bengal. In India, this was the first dish to have red peppers in the sauce. In a semi-dry sauce, sweet peppers, tomatoes, onion, coconut, and spices are cooked together. The word is thought to come from the Bengali words dhal, which means spicy food, and porhezi, which means diet-friendly. By stir-frying leftover meat or chicken with onions, tomatoes, and peppers, a new dish was made.
In Hindi, kadhai (kadai) means wok, and masala means spices. The spices for the kadhai masala curry base are first roasted in a kadhai before being ground. Coriander seeds, cumin, and fennel are the key spices used. Other spices are used in various ways depending on the area and family recipe. The kadhai masala is then mixed into a curry base of tomatoes, yogurt, and other ingredients. You may have heard of kadhai mushrooms, kadhai paneer, kadhai chicken, and other similar dishes.
Pyaza is a Punjabi curry in which the onion is added twice to the curry or sauce. To begin, finely chopped onions are stir-fried with spices, including chili, garlic, and ginger. After that, the tomato is added and cooked until it is finished. Along with the meat, chicken, paneer, fish, and vegetables, a chunky swallowed fried onion is added. This curry may be semi-dry or have a little sauce added to it.
You could be overwhelmed by the menu if you’ve never tried Indian food before. Although the names may be unfamiliar, the cuisine is rich in aromas and flavors. You’ll be able to order food you’ll enjoy once you’ve learned to recognise some popular Indian cooking styles and ingredients.
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