So many iconic dishes spring to mind when thinking of this beautiful cuisine, each one as complex and exciting as the next.
A staple of Indian cooking, there are many different kinds of Dahl. A popular dish often seen on a Thali is the classic vegetarian dish – Dal. Made chiefly from beans, peas, or lentils, Dal is consumed widely in staunchly vegetarian regions. It is versatile and easy to make. It is high in protein and fibre and always contains immune-building aromatics of fresh ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Another famous vegetarian dish – Palak paneer. An intensely green sauce of spinach and spices coating cubes of firm paneer cheese.
Thanks to the Afghans, a favourite among many Indian regions is Tandoori Chicken – tender, brick-red chicken marinated in a mix of yoghurt and strong spices then cooked in a flaming-hot Tandoori clay oven. This marvel of a cooking vessel from Afghanistan has also helped make Naan Bread what it is today. Cooked on the sidewalls of the oven, Naan can be served plain or filled with potato, lamb or even cheese. Afghani-style Naan is made with coconut and nuts inside and is called Peshwari.
A favourite from the Kashmiri region, Rogan Josh – a rich meat curry with meat (traditional lamb), Kashmiri chillies, a heady spice mix, and tomatoes, all cooked low and slow until tender and hearty and finished with fresh coriander.
A popular way of eating in India, particularly when enjoying food with friends and family is with a Thali meaning ‘plate’. A large platter is covered with small bowls of a range of different curries or side dishes with rice in the middle and naan bread on the side all to eat with your hands – the definition of finger-licking good!
A popular side served with curries aside from rice and naan is Gujarati potatoes – potato cubes tossed in spices and salt and sauteed in hot oil and mustard seeds and coated in coriander and coconut.
When it comes to sweets in India, they’re as beautiful as they are delicious. Often prepared for celebrations like weddings or festivals, they are vibrant and colourful and commonly covered in silver and gold leaves. A favourite among locals, Coconut Cardamom Burfi – a sweet combination of coconut, condensed milk, cardamom and crushed pistachios that’s rolled into bite-sized balls.
No Indian meal is complete, however, without the famous Masala Chai. A fragrant combination of Assam black tea and crushed and whole spices, it is brewed with cows or soy milk until warm and deep caramel colour. It is said to have many healing benefits as well as acting as a digestive aid and incredibly warming, comforting afternoon pick-me-up.