To an outsider, Indian food might seem pretty straightforward. Sure there are a lot of different spices to work with, but the general form is the same—curries, right? Wrong. It’s important to remember that a billion people live in India, and if you add the other countries of the subcontinent—Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—a full quarter of the world’s population. Given an area with about the same number of people as Europe and the Americas combined, it makes sense that there is a tremendous variety of food.
Food from the Northwest of India is heavily influenced by Iranian and Central Asian food traditions. There is a heavy emphasis on grilled meats, especially meats marinated in yogurt, as well as rice dishes such as pilafs and biryanis. This is the type of Indian food most prevalent outside India, and probably the kind of Indian food that most non-Indians are familiar with. A lot of food is prepared using giant clay ovens known as tandoors, bringing a charcoal flavor into the mix. Dairy is also prominently featured.
Eastern Indian cuisine is regionally famous for its desserts, based around semolina and cheese curds, rice, coconut ingredients. Savory foods are typically cooked in mustard oil, which gives the dishes a distinct pungency. Due to the region’s many rivers, fish and rice also feature prominently in the local cuisine.
Southern Indian cuisine is quite different from other cuisines of the subcontinent. The region’s more tropical weather means that southern cuisine tends to employ a lot more tropical fruit flavors like coconut, tamarind, and mango. They are also famous for their cooked bread-like dishes, such as dosas.
The world of Indian cuisine is impossibly broad and diverse. It would take years to get an understanding of all the region’s different regional techniques and styles, but we’re determined to try. To that end, we’ve assembled some of our favorite Indian recipes here for you to get started with.
Potato pakoras with yogurt sauce recipe
Pakoras are a type of Indian appetizer that’s perfect for sharing. They also come together in a flash—to call them dumplings might be technically correct, but these are very simple dumplings: instead of painstakingly creating a dough and then stuffing the dough with a distinct filling, the stuffing in these dumplings is mixed right into the batter! Chickpea flour is mixed together with mashed potato along with various seasonings until it forms a loose batter, and then the batter is dropped into hot oil, cooking one dollop at a time until they’re golden brown. Serve with a slightly sweet yogurt sauce and you have the easy and impressive Indian pakora!
Indian poppadoms with rosemary recipe
You are probably familiar with poppadoms—crispy chip-like appetizer often served before you order anything at restaurants. This is a twist on the classic poppadom recipe: where normally these snacks are made with lentil or black gram flour, these are made with a more readily available ingredient: plain old flour and yeast! These poppadoms with a twist are flavored with rosemary, making a sort of crispy, Indian style flatbread.
Paratha: Indian flatbread recipe
Paratha is an amazing, delicious Indian flatbread. They make heavy use of ghee, which is a type of clarified butter popular on the Indian subcontinent. Ghee brings a nutty, cheesy flavor to this flaky Indian flatbread. In a way, parathas are a bit like the Indian answer to a croissant, or maybe halfway between a croissant and a Mexican flour tortilla: greasy, flaky, and savory. These parathas are great to be served alongside a homemade curry to add a bit of extra deliciousness to your meal.
Potato samosa recipe
A samosa is a fried Indian dumpling. They originate in the country’s northwest. Usually stuffed with savory, spiced vegetables, the classic is a potato samosa, and this is the recipe we will show you today. For this Indian appetizer, a spiced potato and vegetable mixture is wrapped in an equally spiced dough and deep fried until crispy on the outside and hot and steamy on the inside. Since the inside of these can get a bit dry, it’s typical to serve this popular Indian appetizer with a colorful array of sauces and chutneys. A sweet mango chutney, a tangy yogurt chutney, and sour tamarind sauce, and spicy chili sauce have all made appearances. The colorful sauces add to the impressive presentation.
Mango kheer recipe
Kheer is the Indian answer to rice pudding, but it’s so much more than that. First off, the rice pudding is made using fine basmati rice and elevated with the addition of saffron, giving it an appealing golden color and that distinctive saffron flavor. To the pudding, we add raisins, nuts, and some rose water, then top the whole thing with sweet, ripe mango. This makes for an impressive end to your Indian feast!