Skip to comments.Vanity - Want to try Indian food for the first time
Posted on 10/13/2012 6:57:52 PM PDT by MarkL
I'm looking for some advice on trying Indian (like Raj Kuthrapali Indian, not "come to our casinos" Indian) food for the first time.
Do an Indian lunch buffet. You can sample everything they have.
Bread may be made from wheat or rice or garbanzo bean flour (or other flours)
India is a land of many people with many different food traditions and restrictions. Everyone in the restaurant business pushing Indo-Pak food is usually knowledgeable in those restrictions and will know precisely what a particular dish is made with. Feel free to ask ~ I've been in top end Indian restaurants and dumps and they've never failed to be polite when it comes to telling me what's in a dish.
Chicken dishes are usually going to be served in a spicy sauce, although chicken masala is usually available stand alone. Use the green sauce as a dip for your bread ~ be careful because some people toke that stuff up like you wouldn't believe. Learn about scovil units too.
Rice will usually be a bismati, or jasmine. This is indicum rice and if you prefer japonica THEY DON"T HAVE IT ~ but they may be serving an American long grain indicum without the funny flavor. Pour on more sauce ~ in a buffet there are probably going to be 5 or 6 sauces. Otherwise you can order 8 to 12 different sauces that'll come in several small bowls.
Make sure your water is served first.
My favorite places serve everything on paper plates so they can be tossed away and no one has to violate anyone's food restrictions ~ in India they tell me the serving would be on a banana leaf. The trick with these places is they simply make more sauces and chutneys than you find in the more Westernized restaurants.
We do this several times a year.
Oh, best bet for newbies at an Indian buffet is a dish made with what seems to be cauliflower with potatoes, covered in a thick cheese and/or cream sauce ~ and moderately spiced. This is mom's home cooking in that part of the world. Sometimes there'll be some peas in the mix ~ and frequently carrots ~ they aren't as foreign as you thought
Personally I like Lamb Korma, its not too spicy as in hot (although I also like spicy and hot food) and I once had a very tasty goat curry at an Indian buffet, although I would caution that much like many Chinese buffets, Indian buffet restaurants are may not have the same sort of quality as a good sit down restaurant would. Tandoori chicken is also a good dish to try your first time out if you dont want a dish that is too spicy but Ive had some very dry Tandoori chicken.
I found this link by Ian Anderson (yes of Jethro Tull) that might be helpful.
As others have said, tell your server you are new to Indian food and ask for some suggestions telling him or her of your tolerance for hotness, then dive in and enjoy. And please let us know how it went.
BTW, I currently work with a gal who was originally from India and she sometimes brings in home cooked dishes for me to try, mostly vegetarian although she does eat chicken and fish occasionally very yummy but not what youd find in most Indian restaurants.
I can’t really top Null and Void’s excellent post, but here’s my two rupees, so to speak:
Pappadum: These are an appetizer, kind of like a deep-fried cracker or crunchy tortilla. In India, they’re made out of all sorts of things, but the ones you’ll see in most Indian restaurants here are made out of lentils or chickpeas.
Samosas: As NaV pointed out, samosas are are very popular. I had a prof in college who used to make one that was stuffed with a mildly spicy mixed of pea and potato. Just delicious.
Gulab Jamun: This is a popular Indian dessert that I, frankly, don’t much care for. You might, though. Basically, it is small fried pastries - kind of like donut holes - soaked in a sweet syrup flavored with rose water. I’ve usually had it served cold, but I think it is also served warm.
Tea: India is the home to some pretty amazing teas, and many Indian restaurants will have a very nice selection of the better ones.
Beyond the above, I’d just say follow the advice of others and ask your waiter about how to navigate the menu in terms of the spiciness level you are comfortable with. Some curries are rich but not hot, others can make you cry for your mama if you’re not a fan of spicy stuff.
Best of luck!
- Chicken Tikka Masala - Chicken in a tart cream sauce. It's delicious.
- Naan - Flatbread. You use it to eat with.
- Samosas - Pastries usually with veggies inside. Pretty mild. Better with some sauce.
- Saag Paneer - Spinach with pieces of cheese. Mild and yummy.
There will also be rice and beans and you should also grab a lentil cake if they have them.
I bet that you'll be going back there again soon if you try the things I mentioned.
Water works fine with all the Indian cooking I've ever encountered.
Lived in the UK for a number of years and frequented the Indian restaurants from time to time.
I have a pretty sensitive tummy. I LOVED the nan bread (to be torn and dipped in your saucy main course). They are usually baked within a Tandoori oven and are yummy. Usually come to your table like a mattress. LOL! I particularly loved the Pakoras that resemble ‘Munchos’....but less salty.
I stick with Chicken Korma (very mild and creamy with a coconut milk base) and Tikka Masala (which is braised spicy chicken and not hot....sometimes served on skewers with aromatic rice).
Also.....Onion Bhaji is very good.
Thing about Indian food though.....it DOES ‘stick with you the next day’. So be careful.
If you are ever in Chattanooga, we have eaten at India Mahal for years. The food is great. We have taken lots of friends here who are new to Indian food (including our kids' friends!) and I think they have all enjoyed the experience. We enjoy the lunch buffet--but like most Indian buffets, I think, the food is spiced mildly. There is hot sauce always available to spice it up. Their kheer is wonderful!
Also, have a Taj beer with your meal. You will not regret it. I lived near a very good Indian restaurant for years and have had some exceptional meals.
I'll try any Indian place I find - love their food.
For desert order the Gulab jamun. Go ahead and google it and click images! Amazing.
The Indian desserts I’ve had are decadent, unique, and thoroughly addictive. The food in general is the most one-of-a-kind on earth.
Oh, and by the way......STAY AWAY from ANYTHING that says “Vindaloo”. You will need a fire extinguisher!!!! AND and new stomach.
First you kill a buffalo....
No, I get it...
Actually, my kid’s first day care was with an Indian lady from Madras...
She cooked the real deal...
You haven’t lived until you’ve changed a curry diaper.....
Hope you find what you are looking for! Yum!
What about Touch of Asia around 103rd St. Hasn’t it been there forever?
I love all curries and especilly Indian food. I took my stepson to an Indian restaurant in Buffalo a few years ago. I ordered a lamb curry and the waiter asked if I wanted it hot. I said sure and my stepson said the same. The waiter said, “Do you want it hot or do you want it Indian hot?” I thought to myself,”Woohoo1 there’s a hot hotter than hot!” and said, “Oh, definitely Indian hot”. Waiter disappeared in the back and came out a minute later, “Chef want to make sure you want it Indian hot?”. Reassured he went back to the kitchen and a minute later came back with a small dish with some evil looking peppers in oil, “Chef say this Indian hot, you try and make sure you want”. We each dipped a piece of nan bread in the stuff and ate it then told the waiter, again, make it Indian hot. The curry came and it was delicious. I usually can’t get food hot enough in a restaurant but this was just right. As we ate and obviously enjoyed the curry a crowd gathered on the other side of the low retaining wall of wait and kitchen staff. They really had a hard time believing we were eating and enjoying it.
My point is freshly prepared Indian food is better. If you don’t like the buffet don’t think you just don’t like Indian food. And if you order it hot in an Indian restaurant make darn sure you want it REALLY HOT!
I don’t know how I missed pappadum.
The dessert? That’s easy, I never have room left for the dessert...
I would try the “Pryanka Chopra” or the “Rani Mukerji” They’re my favorites.
I love Thai food, Druken Noodles and a good spicy shrimp Pad Thai being my favorits but I once made the mistake of ordering the Green Curry instead of the Red Curry because I thought the Red Curry by its name would be hotter. Boy was I wrong. Dont get me wrong, it was very good and I liked it as I have a very high tolerance for spice and heat but it was probably the hottest dish I ever ate, couldnt finish eating it all and I literally sweated for several days after. If you go to an authentic Thai restaurant and see anything with the name Green Curry, stay away unless you want to lose all feeling in your mouth for several days and like the feeling of having hot flashes : ),
Have you tried Thai food?
Coconut-curry sauces on beef or pork or chicken? mmMMMMmmm
Tom Yum soup
sweet rice with banana covererd with sweetened coconut milk?
I am going to RETIRE to thailand just for the food (and the wwonderful sweet people)
We have been to Swapna a few times, and it’s pretty good for a buffet, but then it is still a buffet.
We do get up to Chattanooga, so will remember that.
Do you ever go to Sugar’s Ribs? We like that place quite well. They have another restaurant up by Cloudland Canyon, the Cloudland Cafe, and it was quite good as well, the one time we went.
I’ve gotten to the point that I rarely exceed my tolerance level in Thai places by ordering medium hot and asking for the spice tray. I like it spicier than medium but full-on Thai hot is too much, I learned that lesson, lol.
I do Thai most often for lunch and a favorite is Chicken Larb. It’s a lot like the ground chicken with garlic and fresh basil over basmati rice that every Thai place does, but it’s got a lemony twang to it, very nice. I judge Thai places on their fresh spring rolls and peanut sauce though, honestly. If they nail that they’re going to be at least decent elsewhere on the menu.
I am curious. Why do you say that? Is it because you tried Indian food once and really hated it? Or is it because you like and favor bland flavorless foods (not that there is anything wrong with that if thats what you like) or is it just because you assume that Indian food or any non-American food must be crap.
BTW, I like to cook and I like a good traditional Yankee pot roast, meat loaf and mashed potatoes, pork and sauerkraut, home-made chicken pot pie, venison or rabbit stew and the Norwegian dishes of my upbringing but I also like good authentic Chinese, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, North African, Jewish, Mexican, South American, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, including sushi
a wide range of dishes and cuisines. As far as food goes, Ill try almost anything at least once. Variety is the spice of life. ; )
That Ian Anderson link is great! Good stuff. I first saw him with Tull when I was about 17, in the mid-70s.
Hey! Ian Anderson is on Coast-to-Coast tonight!
Tandoori chicken, lentil soup with rice, naan bread and don’t miss the samosas with tamarind and mint dipping sauce.
We have not eaten at Sugar's Ribs--we will have to check it out! We love ribs.
Do you have other Indian restaurants in GA that you like?
The only times we’ve been to Swapna has been during buffet time. Usually after going to the American Crafts Council show at the Cobb Galleria.
The Palace in Norcross is pretty good.
There used to be a place called the Bombay Grill on the Perimeter in Chamblee that was good, but it closed a few years back.
Are there recordings/podcasts of that available? It’s past my bedtime already.
There have been some good Tull recordings/interviews in the Sirius/XM studios that play on the Deep Tracks station on Sirius. Recommended.
I have a great Tikka Masala recipe if you want it. I like almost everything Indian. Vindaloo, anything from the Tandoor oven, Naan bread, etc.
Try some Chicken Tikka Masala, and some naan bread. Its safe, not too spicy, and very tasty. If you like super hot stuff, try any of the Vindaloo dishes..
I love indian food myself.. I have to drive an hour into Vegas for it but its worth it :)
i love indian food...dont listen to the posters calling it crap and telling u to get a cheesburger..their closed minds give conservatives a bad name....
You should have gotten extra mild. Generally, I do, with only a little extra spice added.
Rogan Josh is our favorite, served with the puffy puri flat bread and creamy cucumber riata as a condiment. Delish.
Make sanitary and freshness your priority.
As the others said, Tandoori is quite good. You can get it with chicken, or shrimp, or lamb. Also, Channa Masla or Mattar Paneer are both good. Try to get a buffet, so you can sample a little of each dish and find out what you would like. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the staff for suggestions.
By and large, most Indian buffets I have eaten have had the same basic offerings that I sample:
tandori chicken (similar to a smoked or barbecued chicken, red in color, not too spicy).
chicken masala (cubed chicken in a brown gravy). Can be put over rice.
Often the rice is lightly spiced/seasoned with powders and maybe some leaves.
There is some spinach dish with cheese cubes in it. I don’t eat the cubes although I suspect that the spinach has a bit of a cheese sauce to it.
Sometimes I find a lamb/goat dish also in a brown gravy (different from the chicken masala).
Sometimes there are some vegetable dishes (with beans of different types). I’ve also seen pan seared vegetables (sometimes also served with chicken).
And there is nan bread and usually a rice pudding (that can help clean the palette).
However, I have been to another Indian buffet that must reflect another region. I almost didn’t recognize the names or taste of any of the dishes. They had nan but they also had 4 other types of bread (including one that was more like a soft turnover with sweet potato or something inside).
This was an all vegetarian buffet. There was a soup that tasted like a beef stew (and it had potatoes in it) but there was no meat (or tofu). It was really unusual and some of the tastes were so unfamiliar that I couldn’t describe them or even conclude if I liked them or not (they didn’t make me pale or reject the foods, they were just odd). I did find enough to eat.
Judging by this chap's expression, that looks spicy.
I know western Europeans who won't touch Greek because it's short on pasta, or German because ... I guess because their anticedents weren't German.
With the exception of one Indian restaurant I visited (very briefly) in London, the staff will likely steer you to the gringo friendly specialties and heat ranges. When you have those under control they'll help you branch out.
PS: Sometimes a hole in the wall with long standing or family staff is your best friend.
I’ve grown to love Indian food, since my brother married into an Indian family. I hope you’re not on a low-fat diet! Mango lassi is delicious. Helps cut the heat of the spicy food. Kind of like a mango milkshake, but made with yogurt. Most of the food is made with chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, peas, etc., if it’s vegetarian. Anything with paneer is good. Naan is wonderful. I buy the Trader Joe’s frozen naan, and use it for pizza crust. For dessert, Indians usually have some sort of paneer floating in a milky, sweet liquid with slivered pistachios or almonds. Usually flavored with rose water. Another classic is gulab jamon...paneer balls that are fried and soaked in syrup. They usually have some pretty interesting flavors of ice cream too. Sometimes, they make some no-bake sweets out of milk powder, ghee(clarified butter), sugar, ground nuts, coconut and sweet spices. These usually are cut into shapes or have various bright colors.
Without the R of course!
I’ve traveled all over the world with my pilot husband. My favorite restaurant is an Indian one in New Zealand. We’d never had Indian before. We were in that place about once a week and became the novelty of a delivery customer. “Do you deliver?” “Ummm, yeah, ok.” We loved all of it, and our preschool daughter loved the mango lassi and the naan with nuts, honey, butter and spices. I’ve got an Indian restaurant practically across the street here in Las Vegas, run by Indians. Meh. Hard to know where to start to tell you what to try, but easy to say- stay away from the Vindaloo because it’s not for light weights, and a lager is definitely required. It’s the only thing that will kill a Vindaloo! (Had to get the Red Dwarf reference in.) A tikka is usually a good place to start. Gobi Aloo and Paneer are also amazingly good usually, considering their the main ingredients are things I’d normally pass on. I hope your restaurant is a good one.
It’s a buffet. Try it all and note what each item is, and which you like.
Murg Saag is probably the best thing you’ll ever eat.
Have the paratha bread (sp?), it’s like a fluffy pita and totally delicious.
Oh my gosh, we used to get the best Indian food in NYC down on like 6th street and second avenue.
There was one place we went to, no matter how many people we had and how much or little we’d order, we’d always have food for one more person.
I love indian food, but I haven’t had it for years because hubby and kid don’t like it.
You’ve inspired me, I’m going to go get me some indian food soonest!
You can typically download one of the four hour’s worth as an MP-3 the next day.
It looks like Ian Anderson will be the hour 4 download.
Coast-to-CoastAM members get free podcasts.
“Nothing else really matters right now.”
I’ve actually seen a couple of posts around that Indians are supporting Romney big time. So maybe if our friend eats in an Indian restaurant, the owner will send more $$$ to our candidates!
If it exists...
...there is a Red Dwarf of it!
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