Your Guide to Indian Food

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.

George Bernard Shaw

Well that and Wanderlust !!! Don’t we all love travel, and where’s the fun if you’re starving and can’t relish local delicacies? Well, I would know ‘cuz HI there, I’m a Vegetarian. No, not Vegan, Vegetarian. (Click on the word and it will take you to the definition) As much as I enjoyed traveling across countries, I lived off breads and salads and rarely got a chance to try local foods because most of them contain meat. Also, being an Indian, I love spicy and piquant foods, so bland salads and breads didn’t really please my taste buds. Well I did enjoy some Totopos in Mexico and Chipotle in the USA and foods of the sort, but most of the times I would miss out.

I’ve come to realize that a lot of travelers undergo similar issues while traveling to India because the Food is too spicy or strong in flavor for their palate. It really bums me out when someone visits my country and cant enjoy local dishes and has to live off McDonald’s and Domino’s. I’ve seen so many asking for suggestions or ranting so here I am to put an end to your worries. In this blog, I’ll list some foods you can relish, some hacks and other tips so you can keep your tummy and palate, both happy.

The price range given below is an approximate. The price will differ according to states, taxes, areas, restaurants etc. The range of food flavor (Bland to Spicy) is also an average. Everyone has a different palate and something that’s bland for one could be very spicy for another. It is based on most people’s opinions but your’s may differ.

All Time eats

Always safe and go-to’s

  1. Idli Sambhar / Mendu Vada – Some sambhar’s can be spicy, but the coconut chutney isn’t. It’s a very healthy and affordable food option available all across the country. Made up of Skinned black gram and rice batter. Price – INR 60-120
  2. Dosa / Uttapa – Another famous South Indian delicacy. It’s also served with Sambhar and Chutney. There are many varieties, but I would suggest Plain (Sada) Dosa or Set Dosa. You can choose Tomato or Onion Uttapa. No spice, only good health. Price – INR 70-150
  3. Upma – Made of Semolina, some veggies and spices, a great breakfast dish but can be eaten at any hour. That’s the beauty of South Indian foods, they serve as Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Price – INR 60-90
  4. Poha – Made of Flattened rice, potatoes, onions and some other veggies depending on the region you eat it! Most of the times it’s not spicy, but best to ask. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and I love to add some Bhujia sev to make it a little spicy. Price – INR 30-50
  5. Parathas – There’s a huge variety of these and the most commonly available ones are Aloo ( Potato), Gobi (Cauliflower), Mooli ( Radish) etc. The parathas itself are rarely spicy, the sides ; pickle, dal etc are spicier. They’re also served with curd, so if the paratha feels a little spicy, the curd will balance it out. Price – INR 100-200.
    Please note : Pickle above doesn’t mean fermented cucumbers. Click on the word if you want to see what pickle is in India.
  6. Sabudana Khichadi : Made of sago, this makes for a great breakfast or mid – meal. It is usually consumed while fasting, but is available on other days too. You could also try Sabudana Vadas, which is made of the same stuff, just fried. Price – INR 50-130

Other western foods like Omelettes, Oats Porridge, Sandwiches etc are also easily available everywhere if these don’t work for you.

Lunch / Dinner

  1. Roti- Sabzi : This is the most common Lunch and Dinner across India, especially in the Northern and Eastern States. Roti is what you would call a Wheat Toritlla, and sabzi is vegetables. It could be dry, gravy, curry etc. You can always ask for a less/non spicy sabzi and relish it with roti. Common non spicy sabzi’s :
  • Sookhi Aloo Sabzi (Dry Potato)
  • Moong (Green)/ Chowli (Black eyed beans) Ki Sabzi (Sprouts)
  • Aloo Mutter (Potato peas)
  • Paneer Mutter ( Cottage cheese and peas, this ones an orangish gravy)
  • Dum Aloo Kashmiri ( Potato with white gravy, this ones sweet)
  • Karkari Bhindi ( Lady’s Finger / Okra )
  • Aloo Methi ( Potato w/ Fenugreek)

    There’s many more options depending on the restaurant and you can always ask them if they have specific non spicy ones. Price : Rotis – INR 10-70, Sabzi – INR 170-300
  1. Dal- Rice – By far the most fulfilling and satisfying food ever. It’s my comfort food 😋😍 ! It’s available all cross India and there’s a huge variety in Dals :
  • Gujrati Dal – Sweet
  • Marwari / Rajasthani Dal – Mildly Spicy
  • Dal Makhni – Non Spicy
  • Dal Tadka – Spicy
  • Dal Fry – Medium Spicy
  • Moong Dal – Medium Spicy

And there’s many many more, but these few are the common ones. Price – Rice – INR 70-150, Dal INR 130-200

  1. Gujrati/Rajasthani Thali – This is a great option for someone who wants to try an authentic Indian meal. A thali literally means plate, and all Indians traditionally eat in a steel thali, now we’ve china and crockery but thali is original. Every restaurant differs but usually a Thali consists – 4 -5 Sabzis, 2 Dals, 1 Kadhi, 2 types of rice / Khichadi, 2-3 sweets, 2-3 Farsan (Savoury items), Drinks like Buttermilk and Jaljeera, Rotis, Bhakris, and Puris.
    Some are limited while some are unlimited, so you can eat as much as you like for a fixed price. Price – INR 200-700

  2. Khichadi : There are many types of khichadi again, and it’s a mix of rice and different dals in a paste form usually.
  • Tur Dal Khichadi
  • Moongdal Khichadi
  • Bajra Khichadi
  • Kali Dal Khichadi
  • Kadhi Khichadi

They’re very healthy, filling and usually less spicy.

  • Curd Rice – This isn’t khichadi but just plain old rice with curd and some spices. Some people add pomegranate seeds and Cashews too. It’s not spicy, very cooling in the summers and very tasty.
    Price – INR 150-400

5. Chole Bhature – Another mouth – watering delicacy from the North. I won’t lie, this one is spicy, but some places make it non spicy. Surely give this one a shot ! It’s made of Garbanzo beans and onion/spices gravy. Price – INR 80-200

Street Foods

  1. Chaat : This includes Pani puri, Sev Puri, Bhel, Sev puri Dahi puri and so much more. All of these are spicy and strong in flavors, but ask for non spicy and at least try it. I promise you’ll love it. You can ask for Pani puri with little or no Spicy ( teekha pani) water at all, just stuffing and sweet water. Same with the other chaat items! I guarantee you wouldn’t have eaten something so piquant and flavorful before! Note – Pani puri has many different names across the country like Puchka, Patashe, Gol Gappe etc, different areas use different names. Price – INR 20-60 each
  2. Vadapav – It’s the cheapest, simplest and quickest food of all. You could call it a desi burger 😛 It’s a pav with a vada in it. The vada is made up of potato, onion and other spices stuffing. Don’t take the chutney, as it’s spicy. The vada by itself isn’t very spicy and the pav (bun) balances it. It’s a Maharashtrian delicacy but you can find it in other states too. Price – INR 10-30
  3. Missal Pav – Another Maharashtrian dish. Spicy curry, with Farsan ( some fried stuff, there isn’t an English equivalent I know. Click on the word and it’ll take you to images ) , onions and Pav. It’s not very hard to find non-spicy one though. The Kolhapuri and Nasik Rassa ( curry) are spicy, but they also make non-spicy rassa. Price – INR 50-150
  4. Dhokla – A very light, safe and non-spicy Gujarati Delicacy. There’s two types, Yellow and White. The yellow ones are more fluffy, and could be a little spicy sometimes because of the sauté! The White ones on the other hand are not at all spicy, unless they have red chilly powder on them, so ask for plain. They are mainly common to the state of Gujarat and Rajasthan but you will find it in other states too 😛 Price – INR 50-100 for a plate. Usually has 6-8 pieces.
  5. Thepla – This is another Gujarati dish. It’s like Rotis, but flavorful and can be eaten by itself , dipped in chai, or with curd, or pickle, or anyway you like it. They are not very spicy, and some are completely bland, last for 4-7 days w/o refrigerator and packs of 4-6 theplas are easily available in Sweet-shops or Local Grocery Stores. It’s wheat flour with fenugreek and other spices. Price – INR 20-40 for a pack of 4-6 theplas.
  6. Samosa – Filled with spicy tangy potato stuffing and fried until golden, these will fill you up and leave you wanting more and more. Goes great with Chai. Price – INR 15-30 each.
  7. Pav Bhaji – Oh boy! Spicy and tasty, this food is an absolute must try. Its red vegetable gravy served with crisp buttered pav. It will leave all your taste buds awake and dancing :p Price – INR 100-200
  8. Pakodas / Bhajiyas: Fritters as one would say in English, is another yum street food and not spicy. There’s Potato, Onion, Chilly, Bread and Cottage cheese! The most common one’s are Onion and Potato. Price – INR 40-80 per plate.

Desserts

Other than cakes, pastries, donuts and the likes; there’s a lot of traditional Indian desserts that you must try on your visit. Here’s a few.

  1. Kulfi : It’s like ice-cream but creamier and tastier. There’s many flavors and many ways of serving – On a stick, in a pot, on a plate etc. Price – INR 50-300
  2. MastaniMastani is a thick mango milkshake topped with pieces of cut fruit, dry fruits and whipped cream. This name finds its roots to the famous Peshwa ruler Bajirao and his lover, the gorgeous Mastani. Price – INR 70-90
  3. Falooda – A cold dessert. Traditionally it is made by mixing rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet basil (sabza/takmaria) seeds with milk, often served with ice cream. There are other flavors available. Price – INR 100-200
  4. Mango / Strawberry with Cream – As the name suggests, its cold cut fruits, with whipped cream and syrup, What a delish! It’s one of my faves! Price – INR 150-200
  5. Indian Sweets – There;s so many. Jalebis, Laddos, Barfi, Rasgulla, Gulab Jamun, Kheer etc. Do try some of these and you’re sure to crave more.
  6. Paan – It’s eaten as a mouth freshener at the end of a meal. A lot of people have it at other times too for flavor or refreshment. Its made of betel leaf with stuffings like fennel seeds, cherries, tutti-frutti, desiccated coconut etc. Some have betel nut, but please avoid those as if you aren’t used to it, it can cause dizziness or headache. Always ask for a meetha paan bina supari. ( Sweet paan without betel nut). There’s new flavors like chocolate, flaming, shot etc, but I would recommend trying the original before any others. Price – INR 20-60

There’s so many more foods and options but I would never finish writing if I went further deep! I hope this gives you an insight and helps you plan your meals well and feel good after eating.

I’d also suggest downloading an app called Zomato. It’s available for both iOS and App Store. The app has many features; it lets you order food online, search restaurants, make reservations, read reviews, check out photos and menus etc. It’s kinda like Yelp.

You can use this app and it’s filters to find restaurants around you based on distance, cuisine, ratings etc. Always look up a restaurant on Zomato and check it’s ratings and reviews before you eat there. The reviews are authentic and it’s widely used by many Indians. I use it too😊 You can find me under @gourmetschoice for reviews and suggestions on the app.

I hope this article is helpful to each of you reading. If you have any questions or need any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment or message me here.

There isn’t an exact equivalent for bon appétit in Hindi, but I like to say Khaao aur Khilaao ! 😛 It means Eat and Feed others too, because we Indians love eating and feeding others. If you ever visit a function or a dinner at an Indian’s, you’ll see manvaar. ( Lovingly serving more food, or feeding someone a morsel with your own hands) It May seem rude in other cultures, but that’s how we show love, and I Love it when my family and friends come around and feed me themselves 😝

So thanks for reading! Happy travels ! Khaao aur Khilaao ! 😋

 © Manali Jobanputra, All Rights Reserved 

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