Your complete Indian food guide by true Indian foodies

With the highest number of vegetarians globally, our veg food spread can turn carnivorous into herbivorous. But, with the twist, mouthwatering chicken and fish dishes can make you a meat-eater again. Bland to spicy, sweet to sour, healthy to oily – the Indian Thali (meals) are a colour combo with a blast of flavours. Adding colours to your meals will help you live a longer, healthier life, they say. Indian meals are the finest example of a colourful plate with hundreds of ingredients.

Here is your Indian food guide to devouring delicacies, where to find and how to eat them.

Colourful fresh vegetables stacked in a market of India

We grow more than 90+ varieties of vegetables! A visit to the vegetable market is your first guide to Indian food.

What is special about Indian dining etiquette?

Coconut with its head chopped ready for drinking beside the beaches of Goa in India

After drinking coconut water, they cut open the shell for you to eat the pulp inside with the coconut shell spoon.

Is it rude to eat Indian food with utensils?

We use spoons and forks rarely and use fingers more. So when in India, licking your fingers after a delicious meal is fine, as most of us do it.

Does India sell beef?

You can’t get beef at Hindu households & most restaurants. Muslim households don’t use pork.  

Are finger bowls still used in India?

Indian finger bowl looks like lemonade. So many confuse it with good for drinking. But you must not.- Indian food uses ghee (clarified butter) a lot. So eating with fingers leaves you with sticky fingers. Before paying your bill,  

Why do Indians sit on the floor while eating?

Our Yogis have proved that sitting on the floor and eating helps in digesting the food better. In most places, sitting on the floor with legs folded to have meals are common, especially in religious places. So wear stretchable/comfortable bottom wear.

Typical South Indian food spread on Banana leaf

Beginning typical South Indian meals on Banana leaf with Pappad, pickles, lemon rice, Palyas and Payasam.

How is Indian food traditionally eaten?

Using steel plates is common across India. But meals on banana leaves are exclusive to south Indian tradition After the meal, I observed many foreigners wondering what to do with the leaf – Leave it behind.

What do you get at the end of your Indian meal?

In most Indian eating places, they serve you coffee/tea after breakfast & evening snacks. After lunch and dinner, they serve buttermilk or curds. Alternatively, you can ask for kheer/milkshakes/ice cream or fresh fruit juices. 

Fastfood cafe on floating restaurant at Dal lake in Kashmir

Do temples give free food?

Many big temples & Gurudwaras serve the devotees free meals, especially in the afternoon. The food is simple, tasty and hygienic. You have to sit on the floor with folded legs and eat from the plates. Make sure you are adhering to the temple dress codes.

What is a good Indian dish to order?

There are plenty – which you will know next. But you must stick to regional food – The food taste of each region varies a lot. Don’t try south Indian food in North India or vice versa. Chennai special Idlis are soft and tasty, but the same in Ahmedabad tastes stale and hard. Fafda is Gujarath’s amazing snack, and the same in Bangalore tastes horrible. Dosa in Bangalore cost you 50 Rs, while the same in Gangtok costs you 120Rs. 

What is unique about Indian food?

a small shd that serves tea in the highest cafeteria in the world at Khardung La

You get Indian food at the world’s highest cafeteria also!

It is Curd, not Yoghurt- This fermented milk product is served along with rice/roti. You can mix it with rice and pickle to make your stomach cooler after a heavy meal or eat it with sugar.

Indian’s favourite meat order goes like – Chicken, fish, other seafood, mutton

What type of restaurants are there in India?

A streetside open building converted into ane ating place in Banaras

I can’t classify this place in Varanasi into any category – But their underground bread toast with Malai is luscious

Cafes to Bistros; we have a wide variety of eatery joints with their own persona. Some cheap & best types of eateries unique to India are –

  • Darshinis in Karnataka Authentic south Indian fast food joints where you stand and eat. 
  • Dhabas Northern & western states serve their regional food by the highway side, usually in an open area with some basic furniture.
  • Mess – Authentic South Indian veg/non-veg meals served in a small space on banana leaves on the dining tables in Kerala & Tamil Nadu.
  • Chai Patri – Chai sellers on the sidewalk with a burner making a few varieties of chai are common in North & West India.
  • House cafes – The remote villages in the Himalayan belt won’t have any of the above, except tiny individual houses selling chai and basic food like Maggi/homemade cheese.
Indian bikers with a friendly A Sikkimese woman at their small bar at Lanchen

A house restaurant in Lachen, Sikkim

Chutney is a dip. usually, you can ask for a refill. – Chutney is a paste of leafy vegetables along with chillies and other herbs. In South India, coconut chutney and Shenga chutney are famous.

What is the staple dish of India?

Rice and wheat are staple food throughout India – Though southern states grow more rice and use it more, rice and rice products are Indian’s daily needs. Wheat rotis/ parathas are the next most common daily food, followed by Jowar rotis and finger millet balls with curries in specific regions. Rice and curries are for lunch. Wheat chapatis (Phulkas in North India) with vegetable sides are for dinner.

Is Indian street food unhealthy?

Bread toast with malai in making at Banaras

If you try them at the right place, Indian Street food is heavenly – Snacks like chaats, bajjis, vada pav, and momos taste best in those little shops on sidewalks. But don’t try it in random stalls due to hygienic issues. Take your hosts’ help or ask locals for recommendations.

Most famous Indian streetfood Bhelpuri made of Puffed rice in plates placed side by side near Wagaah border at Amritsar

The most famous Bhelpuri– Made by mixing puffed rice with red chilly+garlic paste, tomato, onion, carrot and fried mixture topped with Corriander – Pic above at Indo-Pak Border.

What do Indians eat for breakfast?

Typical South Indian breakfast on a table - Plate of Banana buns, vada, Idly dipped in sambar and rava idli

Usual South Indian dishes meant for breakfast, from top left – Banana buns, Vada with chutney. From the bottom left – Rava Idli with chutney and Idli dipped in Sambar. PC- Roopesh Naik

Varies with the region-

South Indians prefer Idli+Vada, different types of Dosa, Pongal & Appam.
While North & west Indians prefer various pooris with Alu Sabji and Poha.
East Indian food is similar to the North with its flavoured puffed rice and Parathas.
States like Gujarath and Rajasthan love Jalebi, Fafda and Khakhra for breakfast.

Banarasi Breakfast – Kachori with sabzi

How is Indian cuisine different from other cuisines?

Indian spice shop with almost 25 variety  of spices kept in a bowl made into a pyramidical heap at Bijapur market

Our Ingredients are endless –Bijapur market with tons of spices and pulses

  • 40 different Spices like – Turmeric, cumin, clove, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, dried chilli, cardamom, nutmeg and so on
  • We have a variety of Oils- Coconut oils in south India, Mustard oil in Bengal, and peanut oil which is good for health and is common everywhere.
  • Fresh cow/buffalo ghee
  • Pulses ( Dal) – Tur dal, Urad dal, channa dal, Moong dal, etc.
  • 90+ variety vegetables.
  • Many Vegan foods like Poori Sabzi, Chapathi with curry, Dosa, and Kosambaris are part of Indian food Traditions for ages – Even before Vegan food became a thing.

What is Chai?

The most famous masala chai is made by adding a pinch of ginger and cardamom to the boiling milk and tea powder. This is a great remedy for headaches, even on a sunny day. Remember “Chai” means Tea – You need not say “Chai Tea” .

Does India have good coffee?

Yes! South Indians love coffee and our filter coffee is super good!

What does Indian cheese taste like?

Panner is Indian cheese – Usually made with cow milk, panner is famous among North Indian dishes for curry and Manchurians.

There is a lot of coconut and jaggery in South Indian dishes. North Indian curries are more onion+tomato+cashew paste based.

One feet height and wide cylinders of fresh jaggery at Bijapur market

Why Chinese food is very popular in India?

You see many Chinese-influenced dishes in India -schezwan fried rice and Hakka noodles. The spicy Gobi Manchurian sounds like a Chinese but totally Indian origin dish- Deep-fried cauliflower mixed with spice paste is most Indian’s starter dish before noon meals or evening snacks after tea.

Which Indian comfort food you must eat when sick?

 Indian food is usually full of flavour. But when we weren’t feeling well, we stuck to Rice Ganji (Liquidy cooked rice with a pinch of salt and ghee easy to digest), finger miller Ganji (a thick liquid that gives strength), Kichdi (moong dal+rice with veggies cooked), Rice +Rasam prepared with lemon, pepper and turmeric and soups with pepper powder. Idli is one of the healthiest breakfasts. So whether sick or not, south Indians prefer this.

Ladakhi lady making Phulkas

At a homestay in Leh – the host preparing Rotis.

What is a good Indian dish to try?

Rice Items

Jackfruit Biryani with rice papad and raitha on sides

We have Biryani and Veg Biryani – This one is Jackfruit Biryani.

There are more than 90 rice-based dishes in India. Some of our favourites excluding iconic Mughalai Biryani are –

Indian curries

Ragi balls with leaf curries and fresh cucumbers on sides

Curries of south India are called Sambar, and they are coconut+jaggery based. North Indian curries are cashew, onion+tomato paste based. Some curries I love most are –

  • Drumstick sambar for Idlis.
  • Paneer butter Masala and Palak panner for rotis and naan.
  • Chicken stew with appam.
  • Ennegaayi (Brinjal curry) for jowar roti
  • Mutton Saaru for finger miller balls (Raagi mudde)
  • Bindi ki Kalonji for chapatis

Thenthuk

These soupy noodles can be chicken or vegan with only veggies. Wheat dough is rolled flat and cut into strips first. And later cooked in a broth of veggies like tomato, onion, green leaves like saang, corn and carrots. The crushed pepper, soya sauce and chicken sauce are added based on each’s spiciness level. 

Where to try Thenthuk

North-East Indian states

Kori Rotti

Thin rice flakes with chicken currey called Kori Rotti

The coastal Karnataka state’s special chicken dish is a stomach-filling meal. Super crispy, ultra-thin rice flakes with coconut-based spicy gravy with marinated chicken pieces is a delight.  Try it in coastal Karnataka.

Thepla & Dhokla

Traditional Gujarathi food Dhokla - A cube of fuffy steamed Gram floor added with turmeric and other spices.

Thepla stands out from the traditional wheat-based flatbreads of India because it is made of multiple flours like Gram flour, and Jowar flour with wheat flour. The dough is added with finely chopped methi leaves, ajwain, chilly red powder, cumin and coriander powder. The rolled flatbread is cooked on a pan, smeared with ghee/oil, and served with fresh yoghurt and pickles

Which state is famous for thepla and Dhokla?

Try it in Rajasthan and Gujarath.

Pomfret fish fry

Pomphret fish fry dressed with corriander leaves and a slice of lemon by the side

When basking on Indian beaches, don’t forget to try Pomfret fish fry. The flat and wide fish is marinated with lemon, chilly garlic, and cumin powder and is later fried on the pan with coconut oil.

Which is the best pomfret fish in India?

Try it in coastal regions of Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.

Biryani

The Persian origin dish is modified here by adding rice and replacing lamb with chicken. Since Mughals are the ones who brought the dish to the nation, it is often called Mughlai Biryani. The marinaded chicken and flavoured rice is an Indian non-vegetarian heartthrob. Though it is available throughout the nation, in places, where the Muslim community live the majority make the best Biryanis.

Which part of India has the best biryani?

Try it in – Delhi, Lucknow in UP, and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Butter Kulcha & Rotis

Amritsari famous Butter Kulcha with a piece of melting butter and curry by the side

Naan bread is something common between us and middle east countries. The other variant of it – butter kulcha made with maida smeared with butter is one of the most fulfilling dishes I have ever had. The buttery taste compliments any gravy you eat with. My best bet is Kadai chicken, and Sahana loves it with any paneer gravy or aloo sabzi.

Which city in India is famous for Kulcha?

Try it in -Punjab. Though it has become common everywhere, Amritsari people know how to create this buttery magic. It is available at expensive restaurants and also in the cheapest dhabas.

Four Royal Enfield bullet bikes parked in front of a dhaba with Himalayas in the background at Marthi near Rothang
Stopped at Marhi for breakfast before ascending Rohtang La

Dosa

Crispy Home made Dosa with fresh butter on top and chutney by the side

This is the crown jewel of South Indian dishes – The crispy hot breakfast with coriander and coconut chutneys have become all-day snacks/meals for us these days. Plain Dosa, Masala Dosa that got mashed potato fried with spices and onion are most famous and delicious. With technological globalisation in India, Dosa also got globalised by adding cheese to it (Not a personal recommendation, though). Masala Dosa & Neer dosa (coastal Karnataka’s signature dish) are personal favourites. 

Which state is best for dosa?

Try it in – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

Neer Dosa in a plate with fish fry by the side

Rice flour Dosa (Neer Dosa) is Coastal Karnataka’s pride.

Vada Pav 

The square puffed bread stuffed with deep-fried spicy potato balls is the best snack to go with Masala Chai for breakfast. It is like a square burger without cheese. The little shops and street vendors make the best of it.

Which city is famous for the snack vada pav?

Try it in Maharashtra, precisely in Mumbai’s street food. I have tasted Vada pav in many other states. But Mumbaikars know how to make it in the best way.

Pav Bhaji & Misal Pav

The same square puffed bread is used in these two, but you get gravy beside the bread instead of potato balls. For Pav Bhaji, the gravy is made of potato and capsicum cooked and mashed in the masala gravy to get a thicker consistency. Misal Pav’s gravy is healthier, made with sprouts and spices.

Where misal pav is found?

Try it in – Goa and Maharashtra.

Paanipoori 

Paani Poori

The little fried crispy pooris stuffed with cooked peas, masala, onion, coriander leaves and dipped in mint leaf (Pudina) water is the best snack in the whole world for me. There are many versions, like Puchka in Kolkatta and Golgappa in Delhi. In Golgappa, cooked peas are replaced with spicy potato mash. This is usually an evening snack, and tastes best in the sidewalk stalls. This is available throughout India except in the Himalayan region.

Which is the best Golgappa?

There is nothing better than Varanasi Golgappas!

Bhajjis

Fried crispy Ambode

Most of our deep-fried items are meant for a quick snack in the evening. The vegetables deep fried in gram flour (Besan) are Indian’s favourite for coffee and tea time. Onion pakodas, Deep-fried capsicum cut and filled with onion, carrot+corriander, Raw Banana, non-spicy Bajji chilly, and Potato Bhajjis are some of the best things you can try everywhere in India on the streets. As these are deep-fried, you must be careful while choosing the sidewalk stalls for hygiene. The best bhaji, in my view, is Ambode – Which looks like falafels and tastes differently. Soaked & softened channa dal is mixed with finely chopped veggies like onion, dill leaves, and chillies are made into thin flats and deep-fried.

Where do you get Best Bhajjis in India?

Throughout India. But I tasted the best Onion pakoda in Uttarakhand,the best Ambodes in Karnataka and the tastiest Aloo bhaji in Banaras

Fried snacks

KOdubale in making

Other than Bajjis, some fried snacks AKA Namkeens are your best travel companions as they are cheaper and stay for longer days. So when you are on an 18hr train journey, a packet or two of these snacks can make your journey more interesting. Mind that these are Besan/Maida/Rice flour-based and added with spices and toppings. If you eat 50gm of it at one go, I am sure your stomach will hurt. Some of the best carry-on snacks.

  • Banana Chips – Chikmagalur in Karnataka and Kerala. The ones you get in Chikmagalur usually have a pinch of Asafoetida, and the Kerala ones are fried in Coconut oil.
  • Muruku – Rice flour-based deep-fried sticks are made by adding butter to the dough and other spices. It is the most famous snack in Madurai and across Tamil Nadu. 
  • Chakli – The circular rice-based is the elder brother of Muruku and is famous in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These are the best snacks for my tea and are made especially during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
  • Aloo Bhujia – a dry snack made with chickpea flour and mashed potatoes/boiled potatoes. Rajasthanis are its master, Bikaner ( famous for rat temple) to be precise. They even make aloo bhujia- Gravy/sandwich and add it to Maggi noodles also. 
  • Chewda – Flat beaten rice flake ( Avalakki /Poha) based namkeen is topped with fried -groundnuts/green chilli/curry leaves is famous in Maharashtra & Gujarat.

What desserts do Indian people like to eat?

Jalebi in a box

Obbattu: The Maida-based sweet is every Karnataka festival food highlight. The crushed Jaggery mixed with Tur Dal/channa dal and cardamom powder is mouthwatering when served hot with spoons of ghee on top of it – This is my favourite sweet dish in India.

Rasmalai – Sahana’s favourite is boiled milk with sugar, cardamom, and chenna (like panner) mixed with chopped Pistachios and almonds. These are served cold, making it even more refreshing and not so filling. Bengalis are the inventors of this and the master of it.

Madurai Halwa – The wheat-based pasty sweet is Madurai’s heritage. Sugar, cardamom and dry fruits add a unique taste to the halwa, along with ghee.

Malaiyo – The Buffalo condensed milk with almond or saffron flavour is a delight when you eat them on the Gallis of Banaras during winter

Cold beverages

Goli soda bottles with lemon on top
  • Lassi of Punjab – thick curd either flavoured or mixed with sugar and a pinch of cardamom is a stomach fuller. On a hot sunny day, the big glass of this in the Punjab region can be filling so that you can’t have anything else.
  • Kokum juice – If you are struggling to beat the heat of south Indian beaches, look for Kokum juice that gives you relief from sunstroke and helps to reduce acidity. 
  • Aam Ras– Technically it is the mango pulp extract, but a pinch of cardamom and saffron to the thick pasty drink makes it magical. Gujaratis make this with Kaiser mangoes while Maharashtrians use Alphonso. Some even use this as a dip for pooris and chapatis. 
  • Poppy seeds Payasam – The seed banned in many countries is one of the most important ingredients for making a sweet milky dish called Payasam. The seeds are blended with jaggery, cashew and almond and mixed with milk to boil until a thick consistency is topped with fried cashews. For sure, you are going to sleep and snore for an hour after having a glass of this Payasam.
Lassi in a huge steel tumbler at Amritsar

This is probably 10% of the Indian food that we love to eat. In every state’s detailed post, we have mentioned the best foods of that state.

Did you drool while reading our Indian food guide? Let us know in the comment section below.

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