If you are nurturing a blossoming love for all foods Indian, it won’t be long before you’re keen to branch out from just the ‘usual’ order from your local curry house. You might decide to pay a visit to one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants and try out the range of exotic and innovative dishes on offer, or decide to check out that new Indian brasserie serving up authentic, traditional recipes.
However, in some establishments, Indian menus can be a little hard to decipher unless you are familiar with the common terms and ingredients. Although waiting staff are always happy to help, you might feel a bit awkward attempting to trawl through the whole menu with their assistance, resulting in an accidental, panic order of a dish so spicy it leaves you crying for a korma.
Well, never fear! Take a peek at this guide to decoding the Indian menu and in no time at all you’ll be ordering with confidence:
This word crops up throughout the Indian menu as it is a key ingredient in many side dishes and mains.
Achaari comes from the word for pickle and refers to dishes spiced with tangy flavours and not much gravy. Choose a delicious daal or cooling raita to balance out the spice and add a little moisture.
Balti: Bucket (or pan).
This style of cooking refers to a particular style of pan which is similar to a wok. A balti dish tends to involve both meat and vegetables and is traditionally eaten straight from the pan with warm, Indian flatbreads such as chapatis or naan. However, on the Indian restaurant menu it is likely to indicate a dish containing plenty of stir-fried, green peppers and coriander leaves.
A method of cooking which allows the fragrant spices to roast in the pan, releasing tantalising aromas. The meat or vegetable element cooks in its own juices and forms a minimal amount of thick sauce. Check the spice factor as bhunas can be both mild and super-hot.
Biryani: Rice based dish.
The tasty biryani needs no additional side order of grains as the vegetables, seafood or meat of your choice is cooked along with fragrant, spiced rice.
Dhansak: Lentil dish.
Actually, the word ‘dhansak’ split in two translates as rice and lentils. However, if you spy this name on the Indian menu you can expect a mild, meat and lentil dish flavoured with spices and a hint of sweetness.
Dopiaza: Double the onion.
The clue’s in the name: this dish features onions. Characterised by an onion-based, spiced gravy with plenty of Indian spice, this dish is typically served with flatbreads or rice pilafs.
Dum: Pressure cooked.
A North Indian cooking technique, this dish is cooked in a sealed environment that allows it to slow-cook in its own liquids, causing meat to tenderise and produce a thick gravy that works very well with Indian bread.
This is the carnivore’s choice on the Indian menu and generally refers to lamb or beef.
To be continued with ‘A Guide To Decoding The Indian Menu Part 2’…