Indian cuisine, just like the country, is filled with an air of mysteriousness. The combination of spices & aromas are unlike any found in Western cuisines, and are a result of the influence of various civilizations throughout the history of India.
In the North, it is common for Indians to eat more meat, and the style of cooking is attributed to the Mughal empire. Whereas, the South is predominantly vegetarian with meals containing more rice and spicier curries.
- Pav bhaji
Pav bhaji hails from the vibrant, bustling city of Mumbai, famous for its street food. “Pav” is a soft homemade bun, and the “bhaji” is a veggie curry dish that can contain a variety of vegetables from potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and green peppers. The pav is toasted with butter until cripsy on both sides before the bhaji is placed over it. It is then garnished with a topping of chopped onions & cilantro.
India has a lot of breads: chapati, paratha, roti, puri, kulcha, bhatura, appam, dosas to name just a few! The naan, however, is one of the kids favorites! Naan, which means bread in its native Persian, is a flatbread that is common to India. Unlike a chapati, which is made over a flame, naan is baked in a clay oven known as a tandoor, resulting in a fluffy bread, with charred bits on the surface.It’s very common for naan to be flavored. Popular varieties are garlic naan, cheese naan, and you will even find them stuffed with minced meats & veggies.
Another snack LouLou & Jaf love are samosas! They are a pastry filled with a savory spiced filling that can either be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The vegetarian samosas are often filled with potatoes, peas, onions, and lentils while the non-vegetarian samosas are composed of a variety of minced meats. Though not native to India (originally from the Middle East), they are a staple snack in Indian households and are best eaten hot with ketchup (best for the kids!) or mint/tamarind sauce.
Raita is a delicious side dish made from yogurt and a variety of vegetables/fruits. It is served alongside main courses that are generally spicy (South India has spicier foods than the North), as the yogurt cools the stomach. It can even be served as a dipping sauce, or over a salad. It’s a great way to introduce kids to Indian curries – you can make a raita-rice mixture, and add in a little bit of the curry, so it’s not as piquant for their tummies!
Tikkas are popular appetizers that originated from Northern India made by marinating the meat or paneer (for a vegetarian version) in yogurt & spices and baking it in a clay oven aka tandoor. Like samosas, they are served with a cilantro or tamarind sauce and garnished with onion slices and lemon wedges. Tikkas can also be used in preparing the ever famous chicken tikka masala.
Biryani, a lovely, aromatic rice dish is one of India’s most famous delicacies. In the North, it is believed that the Mughals first introduced biryani to the country, while the South can thank the Arabs for it. Biryani as it is known today is extremely varied; Hyderabad, in South India, has over 40 distinct versions, whereas the West has the Bombay Biryani, Sindhi Biryani, Gujarati Biryani and Mughlai Biryani. In order to prepare biryani, rice, meat and/or veggies are cooked separately and then cooked together by forming layers of each in a pot. The variety of spices used to create biryani that is bursting with flavor include: pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, cilantro, mint, ginger, garlic, onions, and saffron.
- Butter chicken
Hailing from the Punjab region of India, butter chicken is a curry well known around the world. It’s chicken simmered in butter and a rich, creamy tomato sauce that Indians love to eat at restaurants with rice, or better yet, some naan. A favorite amongst Indian children because it isn’t hot & spicy and is Jaf’s favorite curry!
- Chole bhatura
Here’s another staple from the Punjab region (thanks, Punjab), that’s a favorite among Indian kids. Chole is the curry made with chickpeas and bhatura is a deliciously light, fried puffy bread. It’s a great vegetarian option that you’ll find at most restaurants, and has now become a common street food in major Indian cities.
Lassi is a delicious yogurt based drink from India that is popular in other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal & Pakistan. The traditional lassi is made with yogurt, water and is slightly salted. Its a perfect chilled, thirst-quenching drink for kids to have in the summer! In the US, you’ll often be served a variety of fruit Lassis, which are sweet variations of the original.
- Kulfi Ice Cream
Kulfi is the perfect frozen Indian dessert to beat the summer heat! It is similar to ice cream in looks & taste, but it is in fact more dense and incredibly creamy as a result of simmering the milk for hours until reduced. It is flavored with a variety of fruits, nuts & spices, the most common being pistachios, cardamon, cashews, and mango.