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Guest post by Intentional Detours
India is an assault on the senses in every way possible- the colours, the smells, the sounds, and of course-the tastes. With a country as large and diverse as India, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the delicacies of the Subcontinent are just as unique as its geography. Considering its the 4th largest country in the world, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Indian food is exploding with variety.
With so many different heritages and traditions mixing throughout its borders, Indian food can look completely different depending on whether you’re in the north, the south or the east, or somewhere in the middle. A foodie paradise through and through, India will have your taste buds tingling and oftentimes, your waistline expanding! Here are some absolutely must-try foods as you make your way through this mesmerizing land.
A mixture of potato, fried bread, chickpeas, and both tangy, and hot spices, Chaat is a small appetizer that is an immensely popular Indian food choice that can found all over the state of Uttar Pradesh in the north of the country. Having originated in New Delhi, it’s no surprise that some of its best versions can be found there! Chaat comes in many forms and can also be found by the names of bhelpuri, tikki, aloo chaat, and pakora. While small in size, this delectable dish definitely makes up in taste for what it lacks in in width!
When you think of Indian food, it’s doubtful that dumplings would come to mind. But, in many of India’s mountain states, momos as they are called, are a true favourite. Similar to Chinese dumplings, momos are flour balls filled with everything from minced meat, to cheese, to tofu to veggies- along with various spices to taste, of course. If you find yourself somewhere in India’s majestic mountains, these are not to be missed.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth then you will absolutely love jalebi. First twisted into pretzels or corkscrews and deep-fried, this delicious dessert is then dipped in a juicy sugary syrup to give it its signature sweetness. You’ll easily find some to spark your sugar high all over Northern India.
Once you taste your first bite, it will be no surprise as to why the masala dosa is one of the most loved Indian foods of the South. Best described as a thin, slightly crispy, stuffed pancake, the masala dosa is airy on the outside whilst bursting with a flavoursome potato filling on the inside. This dish is commonly served with various types of tangy chutneys and can be found all over India’s southern states.
If you’re familiar with Indian food, you’ve likely heard of (or tasted) chana masala, the chickpea curry dish popular in almost all Indian restaurants back in the West. But what’s chole bathure? It’s a combination of the spicy chana dish but with the addition of bathure, a fried bread made from soft wheat. Popular as a breakfast dish or a snack, Chole Bathure is most commonly found as a street dish in the Northern states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Ilish Macher Jhol
Also known as Hilsa Curry, this dish is native to the lesser-visited Indian state of West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh. Fish is a staple in Bengalis’ diet, and they sure know how to add some flavour to it! Made with the Hilsa fish, this must-try West Indian food is spiced with turmeric powder, black cumin seeds, mustard oil, and green chillies, providing an explosion of flavour you can only find in this region.
Native to India’s Southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, Rasam is a tamarind-based soup spiced through-and-through. An appetizer that can be either drank like a soup or poured over rice, Rasam is composed of tomatoes, peppers, and cumin seed. While its watery consistency might cause you to question its worth, rest assured that this little dish packs a big punch. If you find yourself in Tamil Nadu, soothe your throat and your taste buds with this local favourite.
Idli and Vada
Also heiring from Tamil Nadu, these two items complement each other perfectly and make a delicious breakfast. Resembling a small pancake, Idli is made of a combination of urad dal and rice. Its spongy texture makes it unique in nature, as its quite different from most other Indian bread items. Vada, on the other hand, is shaped more like a doughnut and boasts a bit of deep frying. This filling snack is made with fermented gram mixed with curry leaf, cumin seed, and mustard. And the flavour doesn’t stop there! These two are usually paired with a spicy sweet sambar (which is similar to curry) and a generous serving of coconut chutney.
No trip to India is complete without a lassi… or 12. Lassi is a sweet, creamy, yoghurt-based drink that perfectly complements any and all Indian spices. Lassis can be sweet, they can be salty, and at their best, they can even be mango flavoured. This popular drink can be found everywhere across the Subcontinent as it is one of the most popular Indian food items in the country. If you went to India and didn’t have a Lassi, did you really go to India?
A mixed rice dish with origins from Pakistan, Biryani is also widely found across India and enjoys immense popularity in certain regions. Biryani is often served on a large plate and is filled with spices and usually some kind of meat, which can range from fish to goat and everything in between! While the Indian city of Hyderabad claims to have the best and most popular variety in the whole country, this filling meal can be found in many Indian cities including New Delhi and Kolkata.
Perhaps the most foodie-friendly dish on this list, a Thali is not just one type of food but many. Thalis are large platters composed of many different type of Indian foods, which range from curries, to dals, to chapatis, to pickles and all kinds of veggies. Thalis can be found just about all over the country, with different states each having their own take on the meal. No matter where you visit in India, a thali is just one Indian food you cannot miss!
Another sugary dessert, Gulab Jamun is a ball-shaped sweet made from milk powders that are reduced to the consistency of a soft dough. The balls are then deep-fried and bathed in a special syrup to give them their delectable flavour. Gulab Jamun can be found all over India, and are served everywhere from street stalls to fancy restaurants.
A favourite Indian food from India’s Kashmir, Rogan Josh is a savoury red curry spice-filled that has become notable across many states of the country’s states. The dish consists of pieces of lamb or mutton braised with an aromatic gravy, though it can (rarely) be found made with beef as well. The dish is slow cooked to perfection and has been a longtime favourite in the Kashmiri diet- and for good reason. Expect to see this meal on many a menu!
As one of the most well known Indian foods, samosas are found in Indian restaurants across the globe. It’s no surprise then that they’re even better tasting in the Motherland herself, and available virtually everywhere. This triangular fried pastry is stuffed with a delicious spicy potato filling, and is commonly eaten as an appetizer or a snack- usually accompanied by a tasty sweet chutney.
While this might seem like a lot, this is but a small fraction of the thousands upon thousands of Indian foods you’ll find throughout this massive country. Whether you love spices, sweets, meats or one of everything, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to find something to meet even your wildest culinary desires during your Subcontinental adventure.
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