The Indians (and also Bangladeshis, who frequently own and operate “Indian” restaurants) have proven to be very industrious in bringing their hard-working efforts and culture to foreign lands – whether that is the village shop (which thankfully is now most likely open 24 hours per day) or the culinary trades.
From Brisbane to New York, the Indian food revolution’s robust delights can now to savored and sampled. If you’re looking for a restaurant in Chicago try Marigold Maison for delicious indian cusine. However, if you are beginner, when it comes to ordering stakes and gastric disorder is a serious threat, what should you ask for? And where should you post the carry-out menus so you can always find it?
In all of our maritime excess, we might have experienced a few King Prawn and may fancy we know all about the health advantages that can be gained from plain staple rice, fiber-endowed vegetables or windy pulse.
Sit down for dinner, place your napkin politely on your knee and pretend you are looking over the wine list. Stall to gain yourself some time. Sit back, look very confident, and ask the waiter if there is a suitably chilled and imported Indian lager beer available. It should be a Taj Mahal, Cobra, Lal Tofal, or best of all the Kingfisher (if it isn’t in the UK and brewed under license).
Otherwise, it might be a good idea to stall a bit longer with a Millers Lite, Harp, Bud or whatever passes for a beer. Or maybe barely passes for one.
First of all: vegetable, fish or meat for your main course? Let’s get the scary and big part out of the way. In a sauce or dry? Mild and cream or spicy-hot?
One of the best things about Indian cuisine is that it has a wide range of vegetarian options available. Branches, roots, greens, lentils, are all prepared to satisfy and please. Maybe in the form of a complete and integrated Vegetarian Thali, served attractive in a silver dish that goes by the same name, which gives you the opportunity to sample several smaller vegetable portions of food. No longer the carnivore’s poor cousin, you might indulge yourself and enjoy some ghee (purified butter) for complete satisfaction into your descent into the ultimate when it comes to Vegan gluttony. Oops, forget about that butter.
First, let’s consider the mild: Muglai, Passanda, and Korma are all words you want to watch out for. These dishes are very creamy and mild and come from different parts of the Indian sub-continent. So when all of the chips are down, will be bowel and face-savers for you.
For those who prefer something purer, drier, and not-too-hot to the state source of fish or meat, try the Tandoori or Tikka versions.
You can tackle the very spicy hot stuff in the Vindaloo or Madras variations on this theme. Brave but sometimes foolish forkers such as myself will feel compelled to opt for the Tindaloo or Phal, those show-off macho dishes that we become so every-addicted to. There is nothing that disrupts that band sound-check more than those pervasive after-effects that come with Tarka Dhal (garlic and lentils).
Medium and more acceptable rich in all their saucy tastiness is the so-called Massalas – lamb, beef, shrimp, prawn, chicken, and more. For a first or even second timer, those may be described as being the ultimate safe bet.
The Chicken Tikka Amssala (CTM) is a somewhat over widely-acclaimed replacement for Yorkshire Pudding and Roast Beef, at least where I am from.
The sensitive and touchy palate may prefer the delicate lamb or chicken Korm which is cooked with a thick creamy yogurt-based sauce. Usually, Bhajee refers to the accompanying side vegetable dish.
Broadly speaking, Pilaus is a fried-rice that includes additions like vegetables or prawns but maybe only a simple Patna long-grained rice that is fried in spices, with boiled chicken stock that fluffs it out, which accompanies the main dish.
Kebabs are a type of sausage-like starter and can be beef or lamb.
Dhansak is delicious and originates from Persian. It should be medium-hot, lentil-based, as sweet and sour.
Usually, Pathia is a drier version of the same thing.
For Risotto aficionados, Birianis is a safe haven, since it is a rice-plus kind of dish, frequently served with a wet vegetable curry as a side dish.
Indian bread is delicious yet simple. Nan, which is cooked inside of a Tandoor clay oven, is doughy and unleavened, and delightful for dipping. Fried Paratha, with maybe an enclosed vegetable filling, is both fulfilling and fattening. The Chapati is a thin, pancake-like excursion into dhal (lentil) sauces. Purees are a type of deep-fried crispy and puffy pastry enclosure for vegetables, fish, and more.
Poppadom is ubiquitous and looks like a big potato chip. However, it is made out of lentil flour and not potatoes. Plain (boring) poppadoms or Massala (spicy) poppadoms are the ideal time-killer while you are thinking about ordering the rest of your dishes. Frequently serves with dips of either a spicy or mild nature, they allow for plenty of excitement, deliberation, and cogitation before the real moment of truth (as well as consequences) arrives.
If you happen to find a restaurant that specializes in regional, instead of generic Indian cooking, then you can rejoice.
Food from South Indian, perhaps coming from Kerala, is rich in seafood and vegetarian options in addition to being renown for its rice flour pancakes and breads like the Dosas and Idlis that are severed with Sambha, which is a lentil-based soup sauce use for dipping and something that accompanies a majority of meals, including breakfast. From the Muslim north, there are creamy, smooth, and mild Passanda and Mughlai chicken and lamb curries, or from the Kashmir region, there are mild fruity dishes and rich tomato-flavored Rogan Josh, a lamb dish that may be preferred but is a more cautious option. If all of the hot tasty spice proven to be your downfall, then there is immediate recourse available to you in the form of cooling cucumber and yogurt Raita. Even if you are in doubt, it is best to order some as a side dish. Plain water instead of wine or beer can help with the raging result that comes from whatever rash tasting you did or your friend’s pork Vindaloo.
Typically, soups are Dhal soup or chicken and rice Mulligatawny soup, which is the Anglicized invention from the days of the Raj.
of course, there are many regional dishes that are available, especially snacks, that are best appreciated and found in their sub-continent natural habitat, but for now, a standard Indian restaurant menu has to remain as our at times pedantic but always pragmatic mode of culinary adventure. It’s not exactly fast food, but it is very tasty when you a bit rushed for time.