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Mutton Biryani

A First-Time Traveller Guide to the Most Popular Indian Food in the World

by Mary Chong
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India is best known for its culture and profusion of dishes that one can find there. When it comes to the most popular Indian food in the world, there is something for everyone whether you are a vegan, vegetarian, or a non-vegetarian.

Whether you are sunbathing on a beach in Goa in the southern part of the country or exploring the snow-covered peaks of Manali in the northern part of the country, you will find that food changes as well as the culture, as you travel throughout India.

From sweet mango lassi to spicy samosa and from finger-licking Biryani to comforting Butter Chicken, you can try some delicious dishes in India. Irrespective of whether you visit the crowded street food markets or indulge in an exceptional sit-down dining experience fit for the Maharajah, there is something for everyone.

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In early 2020 we had an incredible adventure with a tour through the Golden Triangle of North India – Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur with additional days spent in Varanasi and Khajuraho. This trip wasn’t our first time to the country as we had previously visited Southern India via cruise ship and docked in the cities of Mumbai, Goa, and Kochi. But, since this last adventure was landbased, we had a 2-week deep dive into Indian food.

Now that we are home, we genuinely miss the multitude of Indian spices and aromas. If you are new to Indian cuisine, the following make up our list of favourite Indian dishes to try:

Rogan Josh

A First-Time Traveller Guide to the Most Popular Indian Food in the World - Lamb Rogan Josh

The aromatic lamb curry known as Rogan Josh has its roots tied in Persia, though today it is one of the must-try dishes of Kashmir, India. This stew consists of meat and thick red gravy made from authentic red chillies of Kashmir and is typically served with plain basmati rice or flatbreads such as Naan or Kulcha.

Masala Dosa

A First-Time Traveller Guide to the Most Popular Indian Food in the World - Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa is a very popular south Indian dish. The pancake or crepe-like batter is made of soaked lentils and rice and then stuffed with a mixture of onions and potatoes. Often the dish is garnished with grated coconut. As the dish is quite popular, few variations of the Indian recipe are available, including Rava masala dosa, Mysore masala dosa, paper masala dosa, and onion masala dosa. You can consider this as a quick Indian snack.

Hyderabadi Biryani

Mutton Biryani a popular Indian dish

Hyderabadi Biryani is a south Indian dish that comprises goat, basmati rice, mutton, chicken, yoghurt, onions, lemon, and saffron. The main varieties of this dish include Kacchi that is raw and Pakki that is cooked. The secret to the taste of this biryani is the art of cooking fresh meat and uncooked rice. It is believed that this recipe has come to India during the Mughal rule.

Paratha

Paratha is a type of Indian bread that is ideally consumed for breakfast

Golden brown in colour, layered and flaky paratha is a type of Indian bread that is ideally consumed for breakfast. The dish consists of whole wheat flour that is baked in ghee or oil. Generally, the parathas are triangular, round, and heptagonal shapes. Parathas can be stuffed with various ingredients, including gobi or cauliflower, aloo or boiled potatoes, chilli, garlic, and radish. The parathas can be accompanied by yoghurt, pickles, meat or vegetable curries, and homemade chutneys. Especially in Punjab, parathas are accompanied with lassi.

Tikka Masala

Tikka Masala and basmati rice

The famous Indian tikka masala ideally consists of boneless Chicken. The pieces of chicken are marinated in yoghurt and some authentic Indian spices, including cumin, turmeric, coriander, pepper, garlic, chilli, and ginger. Over charcoal in a tandoor that is a cylindrical clay oven, the meat is roasted. The meat is then brushed with oil or butter, so it remains juicy and tender. The variations of Tikka include mutton and lamb, but Chicken is the most preferred ingredient. In chicken Tikka masala, the meat is prepared and served in a tomato curry. It is also accompanied by onion, vegetable chutney, chopped coriander, and lemon slices.

Pakora

Vegetable Pakora

Pakora is a deep-fried Indian snack that is made with vegetable pieces, including eggplant and cauliflower. Though the quintessential meal is ideally found on small street corners, it can be easily made at home. Generally, people love indulging in Pakoras during spring when they celebrate the monsoon season. The snack food is made primarily of potato or vegetables which are dipped in flour and then deep-fried in ghee or oil. The pakoras are then seasoned with salt, turmeric, spices, or chilli. Irrespective of the terminology, the pakoras are one of the best appetizers that can be paired with a hot cup of tea.

Idli

First-Time Traveller Guide to the Most Popular Indian Food in the World - Idli

Idli is a popular breakfast snack that is served in several households, especially in Southern India. Idli is a savoury, traditional Indian cake prepared from batter made up of fermented rice and lentils, steaming. Generally, the delicious cakes are served hot and consumed on their own or dipped in Chutney or Sambar. The various versions of idli include Rava Idli and Malli Idli. Regardless of its origin, the dish is a staple breakfast meal in numerous kitchens.

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer is one of the most recognized Indian vegetarian dishes made with cottage cheese in a rich, creamy gravy, consisting of a pureed spinach mixed with garlic, garam masala, tomatoes, and other spices. The recipe has its roots tied in Punjab. Though you can try some variations of the dish across the country, the meal is high in nutrition and can be accompanied by Indian flatbreads, including Naan or roti. You can consume this either for lunch or dinner.

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Channa Masala

Channa Masala is a North Indian speciality and is one of the most famous Vegetarian Indian dishes. The dish is a tangy chickpea curry that is either eaten as a snack, breakfast or as a main meal and is generally served with rice or Indian flatbreads like roti or Naan. The chickpeas are combined with several herbs and spices and then simmered in gravy. The dish is finally garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt.

Channa Masala and Naan
Channa Masala and Naan Bread

Naan

Naan is one of the most popular varieties of flatbreads and eaten with some delicious curries. The ubiquitous flatbread is made of whole wheat flour and is baked in a tandoor oven (the same oven that tandoori chicken is roasted in).

Burfi

Burfi - a popular sweet Indian dessert

Though burfi (also called barfi and borfi) has its roots tied in Persia, Barfi is an authentic Indian dessert that resembles a fudge. It is united under a broader group of Mithai. The Barfi is ideally made from the base of condensed milk solids, including Khoya, ghee, granulated sugar, and some common ingredients like pistachios, peanuts, and cashews. Some regional varieties include fruits, rose water, saffron, almonds, and gram flour. The dessert is usually cut into diamonds, squares, or circles after it is cooled.

Lassi

Mango Lassi - one of the most popular Indian food in the world
Mango Lassi

Lassi is one of the most recognized and traditional Yogurt based drinks of India with roots in Punjab region. This popular drink is ideally consumed by people in the summer months and is perfect for cooling down your mouth from the spiciest of curries.

Masala Chai

Masala Chai

Masala Chai is one of the most adored beverages in India. The drink is made from black tea and a combination of herbs and aromatic Indian spices. You can spot a chai stall almost on all streets or small roadside shops in the country and is a favourite to drink any time of the day.

Masala Chia stall in Varanasi India
Chai stall in Varanasi India

Indian gastronomy traditionally is dominated by a plethora of spices and flavours. You must try these popular Indian dishes once in a lifetime as they are healthy and, at the same time, tasty and will instantly transport you to India no matter where in the world you might currently be.

Stay tuned in an upcoming post where we share some Indian recipes to try in your home kitchen.

Are you a fan of Indian cuisine? Have you tried any of these popular Indian foods? Let us know in the comments below.

For more International foods, check out:

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