Much similar to the subcontinent’s cultural and linguistic diversity, the culinary style in India also varies from place to place. Whether you are having an adventure in the high mountains in the north or sunbathing on the south beaches, you will realize that every hundred miles, the food changes along with the culture and region.
The food is the essence of India and you will see it everywhere – not only in bars and restaurants but also on the streets, around places of worship and even on the buses and trains. No matter how many western dishes gets introduced into our country these days, peace is found only when our fingers touch the food made at home.
Some might be tangy and flavoursome, others less so, but they are all vibrant and luring. Here we talk about some of the Indian dishes that you must try at least once in a lifetime. So, let’s get started right away…..
1. Indian Thali
A Thali is the epitome of cultural exploration on a plate. More of a complete meal in itself! If you’re looking for a way to experience the most of India in one dish, well this is just the right plate to choose.
A thali refers to many different dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, served in small bowls called Katori arranged on a Thali, or a platter. These katoris are placed along the edge of the round tray, the actual thali. But sometimes a steel tray with multiple compartments is also used though rare.
Typical thali dishes include rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, dahi, salad, small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish in form of a dessert to top it off.
Though thalis are found throughout the country and many of the twenty-nine Indian states have their own version, it is said that thali has its origin in South India.
2. Hyderabadi Biryani
The world-famous Hyderabadi Biryani came into being after Emperor Aurangzeb appointed Niza-Ul-Mulk as the new ruler of Hyderabad. His chefs reportedly created almost fifty different versions of biryani that used fish, shrimp, quail, deer, and even hare meat.
The Hyderabadi chicken biryani eventually became an aromatic, mouth-watering world-famous dish and is just delicious. Essentially it includes a succulent chicken in layers of marinated, cooked fluffy rice, fragrant spices, seasoned with coconut, saffron and caramelized onions. This biryani is characteristically distinct from others.
The Andhra influence on Mughlai food shows itself in the spicy and hot taste of Hyderabadi biryani, which is of two main types- kachchi and pakki. The aroma, taste, tender meat, the zaffran, everything gives it a distinguished appearance.
3. Bhel Puri
Bhel puri is a low-fat, nutritious, and delicious snack with almost an iconic status in the western region of India. This simple yet delectable delicacy is easy and quick to prepare and is a much healthier alternative to any other junk food. It is made of puffed rice, vegetables, potatoes, chat masala and a piquant tamarind sauce, giving it a crunchy texture. Wondering about the nutritional benefits?
One cup of puffed rice has only 54 calories, 0.13 gram fat, 12.29 grams carbohydrates, 0.98 gram protein and small amount of dietary fibre and iron which makes it ideal for weight watchers. Although in case of diabetics, it’s better to consume in small amounts.
4. Butter Chicken
Think of the most popular Indian cuisine and you’ll think of Butter Chicken. To be specific, Indian Butter chicken has an interesting origin. Originating in north India, it was prepared in Moti Mahal Restaurant in Delhi sometime around 1950.
The place was famous for its tandoori chicken, but the cooks decided to try something new and they made a sauce of butter, tomatoes and some spices and put chicken pieces into it. The rest is history. Although another theory is that Butter chicken was first created by Kundan Lal Gujral in 1948.
Back in those days, the unsold leftovers couldn’t be stored in a fridge. Gujral didn’t want to be wasteful, so he experimented with dried chunks of chicken, added tomatoes, butter, and some masalas to the gravy and thus, gave birth to the famous butter chicken having a silky smooth rich texture.
5. Seekh Kebab
Seekh kebab is a popular Indian appetizer that typically goes with a side of green chutney. It is made with spiced ground meat, usually lamb, beef, or chicken, formed into cylinders on skewers and grilled.
The meat is then minced to make this dish called sheek kebab which is an all-time favourite of all foodies. Seekh just means rods or skewers in which the meat is served. These recipes are part of Mughlai cuisine which were brought to India by Mughal rulers who travelled from Persia and Afghanistan.
6. Masala Dhosa
This dish has specific origins in coastal Karnataka. Prepared from fermented rice and lentils, the ghee roast dosa is first cooked to perfection in pure ghee, and then roasted till it gets as crisp to list it among the ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’.
It has a slight tangy taste due to the fermentation, and is savoury rather than sweet. The types of filling in masala dosa varies, but is usually a potato and onion curry dipped in chutney.
Dosa is specifically light and delicious. It can be your main dish as well as a starter or a snack. Side dish for dhosa includes chutney varieties, sambar recipes, veg kurma and non veg curries.
Among the plethora of vegetarian dishes from Gujarat, dhokla is the forerunner and is widely popular all across India. It reveals savoury, sweet and spicy flavours, with a soft and spongy texture. The fermented rice is first battered and then mixed with chickpeas and is then served jazzed up with mustard seeds, coriander and often with grated coconut.
Another method is to steam the fermented batter for 10 to 15 minutes on plates placed inside a container that does not allow steam to escape. Dhokla is a supremely healthy and tasty snack that fills your stomach without increasing the calorie count. It is counted as one of the healthiest snacks because of its high nutritional profile and low-calorie count.
Tandoori cooking is believed to have originated in Persia and is found in some form throughout Central Asia. The word Tandoor means a cylindrical oven used for baking and cooking. It’s used for cooking a mishmash of meats, breads and vegetables. Traditionally the fuel used in Tandoor is charcoal or firewood.
The charcoal burns in the Tandoor itself, exposing the food to the flame and imparting an excellent charred and smelly flavour and mellowing the food at the same time. Some of the popular Indian dishes prepared in the Tandoor include Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Roti, Butter Naans, Kulchas, Tandoori Gobi.