Reader’s Request: Indian Food

by Holly on March 24, 2010

in Indian,reader's request

Despite the fact that it can look like straight up poop…

…Indian food is fragrantly flavorful, delicious and downright satisfying.  I swear on my vast 5th grade collection of troll dolls, it tastes SO MUCH better than it looks.

In fact, if I had to pick a favorite ethnic cuisine, Indian would be it. While Thai food also tends to rock my world (clearly, I have low standards if food can achieve this), Indian food still remains like naan other. Bad Indian pun? Perhaps. Maybe it is the naan…maybe it is the unique blend of spices…maybe it’s the fact I can have my veggies and eat my carbs too…or maybe it is just effing delicious. Yes, I think that last one sums it right up.

So, for all you Indian virgins and non-virgins, I know present to you…

The Healthy Everythingtarian’s Guide to Indian Cuisine!

In navigating the waters of Indian food, there is only one place to start: BREAD.

The most common carb you will find on an Indian menu is called naan.  It is a traditional, leavened flatbread that is actually eaten in many countries – including Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As previously stated, I would marry naan if I could.  It is chewy, carby and makes the perfect scooper to eat.  The best part? It comes in many varieities, including…

  • Butter naan
  • Garlic naan
  • Peshawari naan (filled with nuts + raisins)
  • Keema naan (stuffed with minced meat)
  • Amritsari naan (filled with mashed potatoes, onion + spices)

Roti is very similar to naan but is made with whole wheat flour.  Roti is also commonly referred to as chapati. Another form of bread you will find at Indian restaurants as a starter is papadum.  It is a thin, crispy bread that is eaten alongside dippers – which usually consist of an array of chutneys.

Once you know your bread, you need to know what to dip your bread in!  The people of India don’t really eat with silverware – they eat with their hands!  Usually, it is easiest to break off a piece of naan or roti and scoop up your main dish…

If you are a meat-eater, chicken tikka masala is an excellent place to start.  Chunks of chicken are served in a rich, red, creamy curry sauce.  The sauce is a decadent mix of tomatoes + coconut, and it is heaven.  I promise.  The chicken is first marinated in yogurt then cooked in a tandoor oven, which results in a dish that will literally melt in your mouth.

If you are more into the vegetarian route, look for the word aloo.  This is usually used in conjuction with, for example, gajar.  Still confused? To simplify things, aloo means potato.  Usually, potatoes are paired with another vegetable and mixed with classic Indian spices like turmeric + garam masala to create a spiced, uber-yummy vegetarian dish. Some different types include…

  • Aloo chana (potatoes + chickpeas)
  • Aloo gajar (potatoes + carrots)
  • Aloo gobi (potatoes + cauliflower)
  • Aloo matter (potatoes + peas)
  • Aloo palak (potatoes + spinach)

Indian is a very vegetarian-friendly cuisine.  If you are looking to load up on your 5-10 servings, scan the menu for the word chana, which means chickpea.  Most Indian menus will feature either chana masala or spinach chana.  Mixed with Indian spices, tomatoes and vegetables, it’s an easy and delicious way to sneak in some protein as well.

Another popular dish is tandoori chicken.  Baked in a tandoor oven, this chicken is first marinated in yogurt, doused with tandoori masala (a piquant, fiery spice) and turmeric.  What results is a brightly-colored piece of meat that is soft, succulent and melts in your mouth…

Mulligatawny (Spicy Indian Vegetable Soup) is a classic soup you will also find on many menus.  It’s loaded up with good-for-you turmeric, which is an anti-inflammatory agent and a common antiseptic in Ayurvedic medicine.  Here is a great recipe from Angharad’s blog, which I have made and devoured!

This recipe features many popular Indian spices, including (but not limited to)…

  • Cardamom
  • Chilies
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Garam Masala
  • Garlic
  • Saffron
  • Tamarind
  • Turmeric

Throughout the past decade, Indian food has become more and more available to the masses.  If you don’t have a favorite local Indian joint, there are tons of companies which now make great, quick Indian meals.  This one is Palak Paneer – which is a spinach and cheese dish common in Indian cuisine.

These pre-made packages are really easy to bulk up too with some extra veggies and served over brown rice.  Even though I loathe her, it’s all very Semi-Homemade…Sandra Lee-style.

And of course, I just had to save the best for last: Baingain Bharta.   And trust me, it’s bangin’. Hands down, my fave Indian dish ever.  It is the most delicious mix of eggplant, tomatoes, spices and vegetables, and I cannot thank Northern India enough for this delightful delicacy.

With a huge chunk of garlic naan, this is perfection.

Obviously, there are MANY MORE Indian foods I could talk forever and ever about.  However, I hope this gives y’all a good start on navigating the maze that is an Indian menu…for both you Indian lovers and Indian first-timers!  As always, don’t be afraid to e-mail me questions or more reader request post ideas at I aim to please.


With that, I’m off to dream about poop, naan and tandoori ovens.  Good night :).

Have you tried Indian food before?  If so, what’s your favorite Indian dish? Obvs, I love it.  And baingan bharta remains #1 in my heart foreva.


glidingcalm March 25, 2010 at 12:06 am

hollerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I’d like to think I’m a pretty educated Indian food eater!!! I mean, I started when I was about 2 years old and requested it for every birthday meal, Christmas dinner, and Thanksgiving……..

Madeline - Greens and Jeans March 25, 2010 at 12:19 am

Must. Have. Indian. Food. NOW! I love Indian food oh so very much and you have me craving it hardcore (with a giant piece of garlic naan to scoop up every last bite of course)

Katie March 25, 2010 at 5:17 am

I have never tried indian food !!! I need to asap!!! A couple of my friends go weekly to a really good place, I just have not gotten to go yet with them!! Thanks for this post!! I learned alot about indian yum!!!!!!!!!

Love you girl! U rock!!! xoxoxo

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is March 25, 2010 at 5:40 am

I have never had Indian food, I know I’m missing out. I don’t know of a good place around me!

Uncle Tommie Timbertoes March 25, 2010 at 5:58 am

your Indian princess cousin would agree with you, Indian cuisine is curry-i-fic.

Lauren March 25, 2010 at 5:59 am

So happy you posted this!!!! I’ve only experienced with Indian food a little bit but I always like to have a full understanding of my fare before I go into a new experience.

You’re a pro! :)

Molly March 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

We have a real Indian restaurant right by our station, and after this post, my mouth is now watering, craving poop and naan and I am going to get some tomorrow. Scrumptious post. <3

Jenny March 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

This is an AWESOME post!! Thank you so much for clarifying this cuisine which has had me soooo perplexed since I started seeing it on other blogs. I’m dying to try it, but had no idea what I would be getting myself into. From your descriptions, I can tell Indian food is something I would LOVE :)

Chelsea @ (Chelsea's Chew and Run Fun) March 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

As a lover of Indian food (it’s the only religion I would follow, if one could somehow make food a religion), I’m happy to see you spreading the glorious gospel. Preach on, sister! Amen!

Teri March 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Indian food is the BEST. I’ve never tried roti since I’m addicted to naan…but it looks so yummy in that 2nd picture, I might have to try it next time.

Great post for an Indian food beginner! I’m going to send this to my mom. :)

Lauren @ Eater not a runner March 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Ahhh I love Indian food! This is making me hungry ;-)

Susan March 25, 2010 at 8:38 am

Thank you for this post Holly! I love Indian food, especially aloo anything. The great thing about it too is that because it relies so heavily on good spices, it can be translated to frozen meals and pre-made dishes quite well. I’m really looking forward to cooking some of my own Indian dishes this summer.

Have a bangin’ day ma!

Morgan @ Life After Bagels March 25, 2010 at 8:49 am

I’m drooling over all those photos. Indian is SO GOOD for cooking vegetarian. Your post was totally educational because it always confuses me too.

Angharad March 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

Well, our shared love for indian food is well documented…my faves include: chicken bhuna, lamb saag, chicken tikka masala, chana masala, lamb rogan josh, ok I’ll actually stop before I just list of a whole indian restaurant menu. I LOVE indian food so effing much.

You + i = date at ghandi mahal next time you’re in town. Love you! xxx

Julie @SavvyEats March 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

And…I’m now craving Indian food.

The Fit Collegiate March 25, 2010 at 9:06 am

I LOVE INDIAN FOOD! Chicken curry and naan are my favorites. Have you been to Maharaja in Madison?

Ashley @ Cupcakes & Combat Boots March 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

I am and Indian food FREAK too! In fact, I just had some earlier this week and blogged about it. I had forgotten how much I adore it. Naan is the best bread product everrrrr. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have some new items to try!

Amy @ Second City Randomness March 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

I’m kind of glad you did this. I’ve only had Indian food a few times. And usually, a friend has to help me order… oh the shame!!! haha

samantha March 25, 2010 at 10:08 am

thank you for this! i love indian food….. but never know what to order. one time, my roommates and i went to an all you can eat indian place, and we ate so much that we didn’t even EAT the next day because we were so full. true story.

Whit March 25, 2010 at 10:25 am

Stop. Now I want curry. CURRY! CURRY! Where are you my love???

Come see me and lets get indian food. Or I can come see you. Or we can eat indian food in a strange city. Lets just hang out.

Evan Thomas March 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

I need to bookmark and print this page. Indian food is becoming a fast favorite of mine. And shamefully my only form of judgement is from the Whole Foods salad bar

April March 25, 2010 at 11:05 am

Thank you so much for this! I’ve NEVER had Indian food and would be so intimidated if I went to a restaurant.. but not anymore!!

Cindy March 25, 2010 at 11:35 am


I don’t go to indian restaurants because I have no idea where to start!

you rock lady!

and it looked good but after you said POOP, well, it was over!

haha (baby in diapers and all)

Katie March 25, 2010 at 11:51 am

Oh my gosh, I feel like I just took a class! I love Indian food, but am new to it. I don’t know what the name of my favorite thing is (I just can’t remember) – but it was green, mushy, and I know where to get it again – which is the important thing, right?

Sonia @ Master of Her Romaine March 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

Yes! I loove Indian food and I would say that my faves are Malai Kofta and Palak Paneer! YUMMO. I’m grew up eating Indian food and make it at home quite often- I would love to send you my baigan bharta recipe!

Kacy March 25, 2010 at 11:54 am

LOVE INDIAN FOOD!!!!!!!!!!! And Thai. Ethnic foods are where it’s at.

rachael March 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Thanks so much for making this post happen! Baingain Bharta looks amazing. I got a coupon in the mail for an Indian place that just opened up near me so I’m going to try it! Super excited and now I feel prepared :)

Opera Girl March 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm

What a great tutorial/introduction to Indian food! I got into cooking a lot of it last year, and my favorite thing was homemade channa masala, or chick peas in a spicy, tomato-y sauce. So good, and you can make it as spicy as you like!

My boyfriend’s dad (what a sweetheart) found out about my new hobby and got me this great cookbook for Christmas ’08. It’s great if you’re starting out, since you don’t have to buy 20 new spices to start!

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete March 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Gahh! I miss Indian food. Actually, I really miss Ethiopian food the most. We used to go like once every two weeks to a place in Tucson. Thanks for the education!

Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) March 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Have you ever come across a recipe for the baingan bharta? I would love to try to make it… Let me know if you do!!!

janetha March 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm

thanks for making me drool. SHIT I HAVE TO GET INDIAN FOOD WITH YOU STAT!

Jenna March 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Never tried indian but makes me want to!!

Kristie March 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Peshawari naan IS TO DIE FOR. Oh my word, so sweet and buttery (err… without butter, right ;)) and delicious. I feel like every time I try a new dish I have a new favorite. I got one with peas and mushrooms last time that was awesome, and before that it was okra, and before that baingan bharta… yeah, Indian food can do no wrong in my book.

Kady @ Livin, Lovin, Learnin March 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I want to try Indian food now! It all looks so good!
But is it usually spicy? I can’t handle spicyness :(

Alison March 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Yum Yum Yum! I love indian food. Biryani is a favorite of ours. And my dh is a really good papdum fryer (during the summer months – outside).

I was recently looking up a how-to video to make your own Naan (on a pizza stone with your oven cranked up as high as possible). I plan to get more adventurous the next time I get Indian food. Which will actually be this weekend at dh’s company dinner. Yum

BroccoliHut March 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I am just now discovering the wonders of Indian food. I have to agree though, the first time I tried it, my dish resembled baby poo more than food:)

Faith March 25, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Yet another reason I adore you, Holly…Indian food is my favorite! My all-time fav dish is chicken makhani.

elise March 25, 2010 at 7:31 pm

mmmmmmmmmmmm…..i love me some indian food! oh naan. i could eat it by the pound. how do you get those cool (albeit nerdy – which is why i like it) pointer tools!!?!?! haha, im such a loser. after all the fabulous food you showed i want to know about the techie stuff :)

Heather March 25, 2010 at 8:05 pm

the best indian food ever can be found in my ex-bf’s kitchen. his stepmother makes THE BEST chana masala ever. also, i have my days where i can’t decide what is better: north indian or south indian. south indian is all about the dosai (MY FAVORITE THING EVER) and coconut milk. indian food is rarely pretty, but always delicious. yum yum in my tum tum.

highonhealthy March 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

This was a fantastic post. :) Very informative and it makes me reaaaally want to try Indian cuisine. Yeah, I’ve NEVER had Indian food.

Katie March 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

You know, I saw the title of this post so I can really only blame myself for the uncontrollable hunger pangs my stomach is now fighting. I haven’t had Indian in SO LONG. I used to have it all the time, and while I make “Indian-INSPIRED” food at home, it’s just not hte same as the real deal. (Have you ever had coconut samosas? Sweet lordy.)

Susan March 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

ohmygosh THANK YOU Holly!!! You may recall I went out for Indian the last time I was home, and I was so embarrassed that I had no clue how to read the menu. I had to make my friend pick our dishes and order! Not anymore ;) Actually, I’m bookmarking this post so I can find recipes to make this stuff at home. Starting with baingain bharta ;) Oh, and I used to buy that Kitchens of India stuff all the time when I lived next door to an Indian convenience store. It’s really good for coming out of a bag… Oh! Double oh! Do you like samosas? I kid you not, my city is OBSESSED with samosas. It is so strange. People will wait outside for two hours in the dead of winter to buy samosas at the market, and all the local restaurants serve them as appetizers.

On that note, fave Indian food is naan. But I try not to eat it, because it’s either none or four, I can never stop at just one piece. Droooool…

Melissa March 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

Ugh… I just put a salmon fillet and veggies in the oven and now all I want is baingain bharta and a large mango lassi…. sounds like I’ll be having indian for dinner!!! : )

Bekah March 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm

nom nom nom. YUM! Wow, I actually learned a lot in this post! I love Indian because it reminds me of mediterranean food.. except India is technically in the asian food realm. The chicken sounds the best cooked in the tandoor oven. and of course the last eggplant spread.. with the naan. mmm it all sounds so good!

mallory March 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

oh, holla.
i love love LOVE indian food
and i also loathe sandra lee. i mean really, just chop your own lettuce and STOP using the word “tablescape”

Peace March 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

You’re my new best friend. I LOVE Indian food, and Naan is like gold!!! :O)

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