My Thoughts On India, Part 4

Indian Food, Part 1 

Early last year I began writing a series of posts all about India and my views of it. I fully intended to keep it going, but somehow it fell by the wayside with my getting pregnant with Scarlett, moving to a new house, and so on. I am going to pick it up again so you can look forward to more of these posts.

Indian cusine is extremely varied, changing from north to south and east to west. Since I have only lived in the south, I will talk about some of my favorite South Indian dishes.
I think of all the foods I have eaten here, my favorite is the masala dosa, which also happens to be the first Indian dish I ever tried. It is actually considered a breakfast or snack food and is listed as such on menus.

A masala dosa is made from a special flour mix that is fermented and is filled with a spicy potato mixture. You break it with your hands, then dip it in sambar or chutney before eating.
Some other traditional breakfast foods are idlies and vadas. A vada looks like a doughnut, but is a savory deep fried item made from dhal (lentil) flour. It often features whole peppercorns inside and is eaten, like the dosa, with sambar and chutney.

The white round things on this plate are idlies. An idly is bland, one of the few bland foods served here. The sambar is a thin sauce that contains vegetables and lots of seasoning. The chutney is usually made from ground coconut and green chilies, but there are various other ones.

Here is how meals are traditionally served, on banana leaves. Lots of people still serve their meals this way. It is interesting to eat from one. Since you use your hands, you have to learn some special tricks to make sure you get enough in your mouth without making a mess of your hands. You are supposed to use just the tips of your fingers to eat, but many people use the whole hand to mix the sauces and rice together.

And this is how you will get the meal in a restaurant. This is known as a thali (literally “plate”) and it varies from north to south. One of the main differences between a north Indian and south Indian thali is that a north Indian one will be served with rotis and south Indian will be served with rice, lots of it. Each of the sauces in the little bowls are different. All are meant to be dumped on top of the rice and mixed in. Some of the options are dhal, sambar, channa (chickpeas), mixed vegetables, and some different chutneys. I am not familiar with the other items there.
The white stuff in the bowl on the bottom is yoghurt. It is served with every meal to help ease the burning of the spices in your mouth and stomach. In many restaurants, a thali is refillable and you can have as much as you can eat, except there will be fewer options. Men walk around with a, for lack of a better word, bucket of food and will serve it to whoever wants it.

Another common dish is biriyani, a rice dish that comes in many versions – chicken, mutton, beef, egg, and vegetarian. The one pictured below is chicken. Biriyani is delicious.

Some things about eating in India:
– Always eat with your right hand when using your hands. Never use the left. (If you don’t know why, let me know and I will tell you in the next post.)
– If using silverware you can use the traditional fork in the left position, but in your right will be a spoon. I still have a hard time not using a knife and do use it at home, but knives are rarely served in restaurants.
– There are two kinds of foods served here, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Some people are so strictly vegetarian that they will only eat in restaurants that serve vegatarian food, avoiding ones that also serve non-veg. (as it is called here). Some vegetarian landlords are so strict about not having non-veg food cooked in their houses that they will say that in the rental advertisement. Restaurants that serve both will have separate kitchens for each one so that meats can’t contaminate the vegetarian food.

To be continued… (click here for part 5)

Leave a comment


  1. I like this post, as I have always wanted to know what would be good Indian food. I think it all looks good. There is an Indian restaurant near where we live, and I'd like to go there to eat. Thanks for the pictures, it really helps to see the food. Are there any western style restaurants there that serve that kind of food? Are there any fast food restaurants?

  2. Yes, you can get western food, though as could be expected, it isn't all authentic. And we do have KFC, Macdonalds and Pizza Hut, but the menus are adapted to cater to local palates. For example, you won't find beef burgers at Macdonalds, only chicken, fish or veggie burgers, and no milkshakes. 😦 I miss those. KFC is quite true to the original, though they also carry combos that have things like rice and such that you won't find in a western KFC.

  3. OK, I have to try each one of these, now I have more then one reason for going to India!The food looks very interesting! I'd like to try some of Glad's favorites, are you ready? Mom


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