It’s a scientific fact that Indian food tastes good, mainly thanks to the abundance of spices and flavours.
There’s also quite a variety in Indian cuisine, with dishes ranging from North to South and sometimes by kitchen to kitchen. Punjabi, Bengali, Rajasthani, Goan, Gujarati, and Maharashtrian are just the tip of the delicious iceberg.
And that doesn’t even take into account all of the Anglicized versions of classic Indian dishes, from curry to chutney.
Here are nine authentic Indian dishes you should try instead of the Western knockoffs.
Instead of chicken tikka masala, order chicken tikka
As the story goes, an Indian chef named Ali Ahmed Aslam invented chicken tikka masala dish while cooking in Scotland. The improvised mixture of yogurt, cream, spices, and tomato soup was poured over chicken after a customer complained about the meat being too dry. Wherever it originated, the dish caught on with the Western palate.
And while the sauce does add a lot to the flavour of the dish, a much more authentic meal to try would be chicken tikka, boneless chicken pieces baked on skewers after marinating in spices and yogurt (basically tandoori chicken, but without the bone).
Instead of eating naan with every meal, try making rotis instead
Most British and American eaters will only consume their Indian food with a side of naan bread. And while the naan is the same baked fluffy flatbread that is eaten in India, it’s usually only reserved for special occasions.
Roti is the bread-of-choice in India. Roti is unleavened wheat-flour bread that is thinner than naan, and can be paired with just about anything from honey and cream for breakfast to curries.
Instead of dishes made with curry powder, try using a more unique mixture of spices
What we think of as “curry” are dishes that have been cooked with curry powder, typically with pre-mixed flavours of turmeric, ginger, chillies, and coriander, among others.
But the word “curry” was coined by the English and is an oversimplification of Indian cuisine, which uses a variety of spices (masalas) all individually added as you cook so that the mixture is much more unique and varying depending on the region and sometimes by specific kitchen.
A few of the key spices to have on hand are turmeric powder, cumin seeds, coriander power, cinnamon, red chilli or cayenne powder, cardamom, ginger, garlic, and mustard seeds. Don’t be afraid to branch out and experiment.
Instead of mango or “Major Grey’s Chutney,” try different kinds of chutneys
Chutney was a favourite among the British when Imperialism was still in its heyday. The most famous was Major Grey’s Chutney with mango, vinegar, raisins, lime juice, onion, tamarind, and other spices.
But there are so many different chutneys to try, most of which are less jam-like and more runny than the Anglo-Indian counterparts.
In Indian cuisine, chutneys can range the gamut from sweet to savory. Pineapple, coconut, olive, walnut, and fig are just some of the variants — it it’s a fruit, spice, or herb, you can make a chutney with it.
Instead of eating kedgeree, try the much more authentic khichdi
Though American readers may not be as familiar with kedgeree, it’s a type of British curried rice usually made with smoked haddock and hard-boiled eggs with some curry powder thrown in. Needless to say, it is a British version of an authentic Indian dish.
It likely originated from khichdi, a rice and lentils dish that varies heavily by region. No matter what recipe you choose, it’s generally considered to be comfort food and makes a fantastic side. It ranges from plain (lentils, rice, and salt) to chock-full of veggies and spices.
Instead of ordering mulligatawny soup, try rasam over rice
Surprise, surprise — another British version of a classic Indian recipe. Mulligatawny, loosely translated as “pepper water,” is made with chicken or lamb broth, vegetables, and lots of spices.
It’s based on a sauce known as rasam that’s typically eaten with rice, though it can also be eaten as a soup. It’s usually prepared with tamarind juice, tomato, chilli pepper, pepper, and cumin, though there are many different kinds of rasam to enjoy.
Instead of the Anglicized comfort food meatball curry, order malai kofta
Meatball curry is an Anglo-Indian comfort food classic with minced beef or chicken, coriander, chilies, potatoes and more all simmered into a delicious and easy meal.
For a more authentic and still tasty counterpart, try malai kofta. It’s a North Indian meal with fried vegetable balls and tomato-based gravy with coriander, cumin, chillies, cardamom, cream, and more. This is a good one for any vegetarians out there, too.
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