food vocabulary
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India > Entertainment and Food in India > Community Forums > Indian Cooking and Cuisine
#1
| Member

food vocabulary

Can anyone please give me a short description of the most common indian food/drinks you get in restaurants so that i will be able to order quickly without having to study the menu card for an hour? I'm going to visit india next month for the first time and i only know what a chai and a lassi is so far. Thanks for any info.

121 Replies

#2
| MK
Which part of India are you visiting? The words could be different depending on the state in which you are in. Unless you are travelling to interior villages, you should be able to communicate in English within the restaurants.

For your quick ref

Chaaval - Rice
Roti / Naan / Chappaathi - Indian Bread varieties
Daal - cooked Lentils
curry - all encompassing word for all Indian curry varieties
Neembu paani - Lime juice

In most of the restaurants, you would find "Thaali" - A complete meal with assorted Indian food items including rice, roti, curry and sweet.

Tea (Chai), Coffee and juices could be found everywhere.
#3
| Maha Guru Member

Its simple

If u r in south India

Break fast :

Idly - Flat cakes made of rice batter
Dosa - Flat flakes made of rice batter....
( Idly and dosa are sumptuous...try it )
Upma - podrige made of broken rice
Kichdi - podrigde made of broken rice with vegetables.
Vada - fried batter balls..

Side dishes for above
Chutney - paste made of grains / coconut / mint...can be any ingredient
Sambar - dhal preparation...

In North India

apmk has already explained above...

Lunch will be easy...in South India order for Mini Meals...has every thing in small quanitites.

order....Lassi - which is sweetened butter milk..good to beat the heat, no matter which part of the country u r in.
#4
| Senior Member
best of the curries will be :
paneer butter masala
matar paneer
malai kofta
chana masala
dal makhani
dal fry
alu mutter
paneer tikka

order any of these alon with indian bread and you'll enjoy ...
#5
| Account Closed
To expound some:

alu = potato
matter = peas
ghobi = cauliflower
saag = spinach
paneer = soft cheese
brinjal = eggplant
bhindi = okras
channa = chickpeas
paani = water
curd = yoghurt
chai = tea
chini = sugar (chini ney = no sugar, tora tora chini = little sugar; I've been told these are incorrect but people will understand you. Likewise, "ki paisa?" is incorrect for "how much is it?" which is more like kitne paisa or more complicated but it will be understood. You need to know some counting to catch the answer of course.)
parotha = another bread
puri = deep-fried puffy doughy balls
sabji = any little curry-like vegetable extra

Hence, in the above you have

paneer butter masala = soft cheese in butter with spices (masala = mixed spices)
matar paneer = peas + soft cheese
malai kofta = (kofta = baked little balls in a rich sauce, usually veg., can be meat)
chana masala = chickpeas curry
dal makhani = lentil curry, slightly buttery/creamy I think, very nice
dal fry = ditto, but not so buttery ;)
alu mutter = potatoes + peas
paneer tikka = soft cheese curry

alu ghobi (potatoes + cauliflower) is a personal favorite. Bon appetit!
Reading tips, all picked up at IndiaMike :bunny: : INDAX's A Comprehensive Guide To India / ITHVC on Culture Shock & Travel Health / JetLag Travel Guides For the Undiscerning Traveller / India Travel Links
#6
| Senior Member
Thanks for the help Machadhina !!
#7
| Senior Member
Machadhina is confused in dal fry and dal makhanai.... its not the same..... both are made of different dal. Dal fry will be usually yellow dal and dal makhani is black dal(masoor)
#8
| Account Closed
I stand corrected Spitze. Thanks! It's the way I remembered the dhal concoctions. I'd usually leave it up to the cooks to decide how I get my dhal anyways ;)
Reading tips, all picked up at IndiaMike :bunny: : INDAX's A Comprehensive Guide To India / ITHVC on Culture Shock & Travel Health / JetLag Travel Guides For the Undiscerning Traveller / India Travel Links
#9
| Senior Member
i am impressed with your knowledge of indian food (i hope you were not using a food guide while writing above reccomendations :rolleyes: ) cool:
#10
| Account Closed
Haha no thanks Spitze, it's just what I picked up on my way and/or before I came, but mostly there really. I could think of some more but would have to think harder and/or look up some notes, the basics have been covered by the previous posters anyway, enough to get you going I'd say. To me it was the difference between pretty bland food in overpriced places or a wholesome cheap meal at the local's, where ordering in English wouldn't get you as far. Of course a lot of mime was involved all the same, plus the waiters would always be flabbergasted if you'd stick around for another cigarette and one more coffee etc., I remember the bills just piling up (as you know at the simpler places they'll put the bill down after your meal and you're expected to leave).

For the dhal it struck me that what with the dozens if not hundreds of varieties us Westerners stand little chance of ever learning all the ins and outs of the matter ;)

Cheers!
Reading tips, all picked up at IndiaMike :bunny: : INDAX's A Comprehensive Guide To India / ITHVC on Culture Shock & Travel Health / JetLag Travel Guides For the Undiscerning Traveller / India Travel Links
#11
| Senior Member
You seem to have enjoyed India to its best ! I think we are missing non-veg food here ! I would have loved to mention best of the non-veg dishes but i would like you to do the honours cool:

In case you miss on something i'll definitely make it up.... cmmon ..... recall your knowledge of non-veg food .....

Skinner are come the non-veg food recommendations ;)
#12
| Account Closed
Hehe I'm a vegetarian so no help there... sorry :)

I eat fish and ate plenty of it down south but it was usually at "meals" type of places where you eat what's on the menu, the banana leaf and all (that's what it's served on, not for consumption folks) (-- anecdote time: timewarping from the deep south to Calcutta one time you should have seen the look on the restaurant folks at a westerner eating with his hands) so you'd just get fish, I don't know the words for it.

As a kid lamb curries were one of my favorites but I have no idea what to call them in any Indian language. You fill it in Spitze!

btw In Kerala they would serve sweet deep-fried big doughy dark balls for snacks, anyone know what I'm talking about? Delicious, I'm sure I've got it noted down somewhere. They would also do a terrific coconut dish, dryish I think, not so much like a curry, you could get it for breakfast or lunch. Damn I forgot.
Reading tips, all picked up at IndiaMike :bunny: : INDAX's A Comprehensive Guide To India / ITHVC on Culture Shock & Travel Health / JetLag Travel Guides For the Undiscerning Traveller / India Travel Links
#13
| Senior Member
okay... here is the list of chicken specialities...
Dry :
Tandoori chicken
Roomali kabab, tangadi kabab, reshmi kabab, hariyali kabab.... and other varities of kababs...

Gravy:
Butter Chicken
Chikken Tikka Masala
Kashmiri Chicken
Patiala Chiken ( My favourite)
Chicken Hyderabadi....

Dont fogget to have Chiken Biryani.....

The list goes on... but mentioned above are some of my favourites.

Machadhina... i wont be able to help you in finding out name of dish u had for your breakfast.....
#14
| Member
I'm going to visit North India. Thanks to everyone for the replies. Now i'm going to be able to survive. What do you eat when travelling longer distances by train? I would prefer to buy my own snacks before the trip instead of eating the stuff which is offered on the train.
#15
| Maha Guru Member
Spitze ,

U have missed sea food completely...pls. include that as well...

In south India

fish - meen
prawn - yera
sear fish - vanjiram
carb - nandu

If you in kerala, don't miss the Kerala fish curry.....curry meen in particular.

North India

Fish - machi

U can get tandoori fish, tandoori prawn and tandoori crab also.