Perfect Indian Dishes for Beginners

Assorted Indian dishes of rice and curry on wooden background. Top view

Indian food is one of the most diverse and flavorful cuisines in the world. From rich and creamy curries to fiery tandoori chicken, there is something for everyone to enjoy. For those who are new to Indian food, there are a few classic dishes that are a great way to get started. These dishes can provide an overview of the range and complexity of flavors of Indian cuisine, while also introducing new diners to some traditional cooking methods and ingredients.

From the fragrant biryani rice dish to the spiced lentil soup known as dal, here is an introduction to some of the delicious flavors that you will find when exploring Indian food. We will look at each dish in detail, so you can be ready and prepared when it comes time to order.

Introduction to Indian Food: Delicious Dishes for the Novice

Indian food is exciting and exotic but also can be intimidating for those who are new to it. From the numerous types of dishes to the different flavor profiles, it is easy to get overwhelmed. However, with a few traditional dishes and a bit of research, you will be ready to start exploring the wonders of Indian food in no time.

Indian cuisine is quite diverse, with different dishes and flavors depending on the region. However, several staples are represented nationwide. 

  1. Samosas are deep-fried pastry pockets stuffed with spiced potatoes or vegetables.
  2. Naan is an oven-baked flatbread made from white flour that is served hot and commonly used to scoop up curries or other sauces. 
  3. Tandoori chicken is a classic dish featuring whole chicken marinated in yogurt and spices before being roasted in a tandoor oven. 
  4. Dal makhani is a lentil dish made with slow-cooked whole urad beans and cream for richness – this dish makes for an excellent side for other dishes.

These iconic dishes represent just the start of your journey into Indian cuisine – so if you’re looking for where to start your exploration of Indian food, look no further.

Popular Indian Dishes

If you’re new to Indian food, there are some popular dishes to get you started. A staple of any Indian meal is curry. Curry is a mix of various spices and herbs, cooked with meat or vegetables in a liquid base like water or coconut milk. Curries vary widely in flavor, depending on the country and region they come from. For a milder introduction to Indian cuisine, try tikka masala—a creamy tomato-based curry that’s mild enough for most palates. Then explore other curries such as rogan josh (in Kashmiri cuisine) and dal (in Punjabi cuisine). Other classic Indian dishes include:

  1. Dahi Vada: Deep-fried lentil doughnuts served with yogurt and tamarind chutney.
  2. Pav Bhaji- Spicy mashed vegetables served with soft rolls.
  3. Samosa- Fried pastry puffs filled with potatoes, peas, and spices.
  4. Pani Puri- Crisp hollow shells filled with spiced potatoes and chickpeas.

India is also home to many delicious desserts like;

  1. Kulfi (frozen sweets),
  2. Ladoos (sweet balls made from flour, yogurt, and sugar),
  3. Rasmalai (cheese dumplings in sweetened milk), and
  4. Gulab Jamun (milk-based desserts that are fried and then soaked in syrup). 

Try these treats as well for a real exploration of India’s flavors. 

Top Five Indian Foods that must try for Beginners

Indian cuisine is full of flavor, spices, and colors and has gained international recognition as one of the most popular cuisines in the world. If you’re new to Indian food, there are some essential dishes that every beginner should try. Here are five of the top Indian dishes to get you started:

  1. Samosa- Samosas are a delicious snack or side dish made from spicy potatoes, vegetables, and spices all wrapped up in a crispy pastry that’s fried golden brown. They can be served as a snack on their own or paired with chutney for added flavor.
  2. Chicken Tikka Masala- This classic dish is bursting with flavor. Tender chicken marinated overnight in traditional spices is cooked in a tomato-based sauce, making it one of India’s most iconic curries. This dish is served with fluffy basmati rice or naan bread to help mop up all the flavorsome sauce.
  3. Palak Paneer- Palak paneer is not just a vegetarian favorite but also an excellent choice for anyone enticed by the more subtle flavors of Indian food. This curry is made from spinach and cubes of soft paneer cheese, flavored with garlic, ginger, and fragrant spices such as cumin and coriander seeds – a perfect balance of savory and mild flavors that everyone can appreciate. 
  4. Biryani- Biryani is an aromatic rice dish flavored with warm spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Originating from Hyderabad on India’s west coast it’s typically made with long-grained rice.
  5. Tandoori Chicken- Tandoori chicken is a popular North Indian dish that consists of grilled chicken with curd and Indian spices. It has a distinct flavorful aroma that will provide the ideal taste. It is typically accompanied by salad and mint chutney. This wonderful chicken meat recipe pairs beautifully with hot rice and crispy butter naan.

Four Best Vegetarian Options for Indian Food-Lovers

Indian cuisine is a paradise for vegetarians, with a plethora of options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular veggie dishes that should find their way onto the plate of everyone exploring this unique cuisine for the first time:

  1. Chole Bhature- This Punjabi delicacy is a tasty combination of fluffy bhaturas served with spicy chickpeas. Both components can be prepared in advance and reheated when required.
  2. Pav Bhaji- Pav bhaji consists of a thick vegetable curry served with a thick loaf (pav), topped with coriander, onions, amul butter, and lemon juice. A great dish to enjoy family-style due to its shareable nature.
  3. Paneer Tikka Masala- Paneer tikka masala is an incredibly flavorful dish composed of paneer cheese cubes cooked in creamy tomato gravy. Its mild spiciness is sure to please even picky eaters.
  4. Aloo Gobi- This humble dish consists of cauliflower and potatoes cooked in an onion-tomato masala and is one of India’s most popular vegetarian curries. It pairs well with naan or roti for a satisfying combination packed full of flavor and nutrition.

The Wide Variety of Spiced Curries

Indian curries come in a multitude of varieties – from mild to blazing hot – and incorporate onions, tomatoes, yogurt, or coconut milk for richer flavors. Whether you’re looking for something spicy to excite your taste buds or something light for a quick dinner, there’s nothing quite like a well-seasoned curry. The most popular classes of Indian curries include:

  • North Indian curries: these are creamier and heavier than other types of curries; they usually have tomatoes and ghee (clarified butter) as their main ingredients
  • South Indian curries: spicier than North Indian curries, they are typically made with water rather than cream or dairy
  • Meat curries: dishes cooked using beef, chicken, or lamb with spices such as garam masala, turmeric, coriander, red chili powder, and more.

Each variety of curry is unique to the region in which it is made. From Maharashtrian Chicken Curry to Mutton Saagwala from Delhi to Kerala’s Avial; every region has its own unique culinary specialties. So don’t hesitate – to go ahead and explore the world of Indian spices. 

Discovering the Flavors of India’s Street-Food Culture

No culinary journey to India is complete without exploring the country’s rich street-food culture. From savory snacks like samosas, pakoras, and chaat to sweet treats like jalebi and malpuas, the offerings are both delicious and unique. Here are some of the most popular Indian street-food dishes you can explore:

  1. Samosas- Samosas are savory turnovers filled with spiced potatoes, peas, and onions. They are often deep-fried but can also be baked or pan-fried.
  2. Pakoras- Pakoras are fritters made from a range of veggies like spinach, onion, cauliflower, and potatoes. These delectable snacks are usually deep-fried in gram flour batter.
  3. Chaat- Chaat is an umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of savory snacks that have been hitting Indian streets for centuries. Some popular chaat items include bhel puri (a mixture of puffed rice and vegetables), sev puri (a mixture of thin crispy noodles with potatoes and onions), and dahi puri (boiled potatoes in yogurt sauce).
  4. Jalebi- Jalebi is a classic Indian sweet made with flour batter that’s fried in hot oil in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup. It is usually served hot and garnished with nuts.
  5. Malpuas- Malpuas are pancake-like sweets made from thick rice flour batter that is deep-fried in ghee or clarified butter until golden brown. They may be topped with sweet or spicy sauces depending on your tastes.

Best Restaurants in India

India’s restaurants, with their authentic flavors, captivating aromas, and eye-catching presentation, are a veritable feast for all the senses. If you’re new to exploring the culinary wonders of Indian food, here are five of the best restaurants in India you should try:

  1. The Leela Palace in New Delhi- The Leela Palace offers its sophisticated guests a one-of-a-kind dining experience with classic Indian dishes like tandoori chicken, kofta curry, and biryani as well as modern dishes like sea bass in a tamarind sauce. The restaurant also offers an extensive selection of wines and other beverages to complement your meal.
  2. Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in Mumbai- Head chef Jiggs Kalra has crafted an exquisite menu full of classic Indian favorites with a modern twist at his restaurant Masala Library. Sample signature dishes like the 12-course degustation menu or try new favorites like black pepper dal makhni or chili garlic prawns. You can also opt for the “Freestyle” tasting menu where Chef Kalra will curate a custom menu for you based on your tastes and preferences.
  3. Kebab e Que in Bengaluru- Kebab e Que is renowned for its amazing kebabs which are served with an assortment of chutneys and slices of bread – all made in traditional clay ovens according to centuries-old recipes. Signature dishes include chicken kebab rolls and smoked eggplant with curried onions known as channa bhatura (you’ll want to order seconds).

Indian food is an endless exploration filled with flavors, aromas, and textures waiting to be discovered. From the mild and fragrant to the robust and spicy, the diversity of dishes found in Indian cuisine is sure to please anyone. Whether it’s the classic tikka masala or the savory Samosas, there’s something for everyone. Exploring Indian food is a journey that will take you through different regions of India and back again. So, why not take the plunge and dig into the wonderful world of Indian cuisine?