Like the cuisine of many countries, Indian food is hugely varied and broad in concept. Indian cuisine has evolved over thousands of years and beautifully embraces the influences of other food cultures, while becoming uniquely its own. If you love to eat and are traveling to India, Indian cuisine will be a highlight of your trip. Our guide to Indian cuisine not only introduces you to some Indian dishes you may not have tried, but also describes the specialties you’ll find in each region of this diverse country.
Indian Cuisine Varies Widely By Region
Food in India is much more than chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken. Indian cuisine has a wide variety of vegetarian and meat dishes. The “great Indian Curry” is a misguided term. Not every Indian food includes curry and not every Indian dish is spicy. In fact, Indians usually do not use curry powder. When it comes to Indian food, there have been many misconceptions in the Western world.
Moreover, Indian cuisine varies widely depending on the different regions of the country and its food habits. Getting to know the specialties of a region can better help you decide what to try while traveling.
If you are a food lover traveling to India, our guide will help you decide all of the many dishes you’ll want to try on your trip!
Embark on a delicious food trail in Old Delhi which was once the heart of Mughal India. Old Delhi still speaks of its ancient tales with its crumbling havelis and narrow by-lanes. While walking through the streets, find yourself catching a whiff of frying samosas, kachoris (snacks filled with potato or lentils) and sweet-crisp jalebis (deep-fried flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes) dipped in sugar syrup. Delhi is the right place to taste some of the best street foods in India.
Traditional food is sumptuously cooked with secret recipes that have been passed through generations. Try the famous daulat ki chaat made from churned milk and saffron that instantly melts in your mouth. Go to Sitaram Bazaar for the creamiest fruit flavored kulfis (local ice cream). If you want to taste the yummiest butter chicken, go to Moti Mahal where this legendary dish was created.
Karim’s hotel, established back in 1913, serves the most delicious kebabs and mutton nahari (meat slow-cooked with spices.)
Also, visit the 17th century UNESCO World Heritage Site, Red Fort by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and a popular tourist attraction in Delhi.
Home to some of the most magnificent architectural marvels, Jaipur is not only big on tourism but also a food lover’s delight. Rajasthanis, the people of Rajasthan state, love for their food is evident in its preparation. Jaipur offers a multi-sensory cultural experience with its variety of delectable dishes.
Daal baati churma (wheat balls dipped in ghee with five types of lentils) and laal maas (mutton cooked with red chilies) are some of the most famous dishes in Rajasthan.
For a full-fledged Rajasthani cultural experience, visit the popular Choki Dhani. Choki Dhani resembles a traditional village, and meals are served on the floor, under the open sky. Experience a typical Rajasthani thali with starters, main course and dessert while enjoying traditional folk music and dance performances.
Famous for the spectacular Golden Temple, a significant place of worship for Sikh faith and an equally rich Punjabi food culture, journey to Amritsar is both spiritual and flavorful. Start your trip by visiting the temple to have langar, the ceremony of eating food, in the community kitchen that serves free food to more than 50,000 people. Must-eat dishes include Amritsari kulcha (potato-stuffed bread) and chhole (chickpeas cooked with a mixture of spices) at Bharawan Da Dhaba and chicken tikka from Beera Chicken Corner.
Enjoy a big glass of Punjabi Lassi, a thick, sweetened yogurt preparation, at Ahuja Lassi Shop and you are all set for the day!
The land of nawabs, or descendants of the Muslims who used to rule the area, Lucknow is known for its great hospitality and delectable Awadhi cuisine. From mouth-watering kebabs (a grilled meat dish) to yummiest biryanis, every food joint you find here offers amazing dishes. You never know which narrow alley of this old city takes you to food heaven.
Taste the delicious galawti kebab, a soft kebab prepared exclusively for nawabs. Enjoy a sumptuous plate of Lucknowi biryani, a dish made with rice and marinated meat infused with fresh spices and herbs. End your meal with a traditional gulkand paan made with betel nut, paan leaves and sweetened-rose petals.
Visit the spectacular Bara Imambara, an exquisite example of Islamic architecture, with its intricate carvings and perfectly manicured lawns. It is truly a photographer’s delight.
Often called the dream city, Mumbai is home to the Hindi film industry “Bollywood” and has a cosmopolitan culture. It is also an ideal place to enjoy an Indian thali (Hindi word for platter) and a great way to sample large number of dishes. Enjoy an array of breads, rice and cooked vegetable dishes with a variety of pickles and chutneys (spicy sauces). Rajdhani Restaurant is your best bet for a delectable thali. They also serve aamras (mango juice) during mango season (July to October).
If you are in Mumbai, visit the Gateway of India, one of the top-most tourist attractions of the city. It was built in 1924 to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary.
With its mesmerizing palaces and grand mosques, this ‘city of Nizams’ is the perfect place for a gastronomical adventure for food lovers. The best way to explore the city’s best culinary dishes is to go local. Explore the narrow by-lanes of the Old City to experience the old-world charm and to taste the authentic Hyderabadi biryani and most sinful haleem (meat & lentils slow-cooked with spices.)
Hyderabadi food is deeply influenced by Persian, Mughlai and south Indian cuisines. Must-eat dishes include nihari-kulcha and biryani from Hotel Shadab. Vegetarians should visit the Chutney’s at Banjara Hill road for amazing South Indian breakfast items like dosas, idlis and uttapams (various dishes made with a fermented batter of rice and black grams, a type of mung beans). Try the most savory confectioneries like puffs, pastries and stuffed bread with a hot cup of tea at the Iranian Café Niloufer.
Also, witness the landmark structure of Char Minar that has become synonymous with Hyderabad.
With a colonial past that includes having by ruled the Dutch, Portuguese and British, the trading port of Kochi is a melting pot of various cultures still visible through its, churches, buildings and other monuments. A walk through the fort Kochi area will let you experience this beautiful city in all its glory. Eat the freshest seafood and delicious fish curries with subtle spices and sweet flavor of coconut. Le Colonial and Fort Kochi restaurant are your best bets that offer great food at amazing prices.
A visit to India is a trip like no other. It is my hope that this guide to Indian cuisine makes your trip all the better.
- Indian Tourism, Incredible India: https://incredibleindia.org/
- On our site: Visiting India’s Pushkar Camel Fair
- On our site: Tiger On: Safari at Rathambhore National Park
- On our site: Five Snowy Hill Stations in Northern India
- On our site: 10 Best Places to Visit in India in 2018
– Cover photo is Daal baati churma (wheat balls dipped in ghee with five types of lentils).
Be advised that unless you ask for extra spicy , no hot chilli peppers will make it to your dish; Bulgarians do not like spicy food and the restaurant has adapted. We usually order Indian spicy to get the real deal. Important: do not miss out on the desserts!
For those of us who love spicy food–and can handle it–getting the real deal can indeed be a challenge. I know I go through great pains to explain that I enjoy their food spicy and won’t return the dish because it’s too hot. This is true for Indian food, Thai food, and other cuisines as well for me. Of course, there are those time when I’m sharing a meal with others who don’t like it spicy, and have to be satisfied asking for every type of hot sauce or dried chiles they can bring me on the side! LOL!