Being of Indian origin, I’m very often questioned about Indian food and the restaurants that serve it. While it is very interesting to note its popularity all over the world, there are also people who are almost afraid to eat it, as they find it too hot and spicy. As a gastronome, a lover of fine foods, before trying new dishes, I find out as much as I can about them, and also the eating practices related to them. I have found, however, most people don’t do this and end up having less than satisfactory experiences. This is true of Indian food. Many people find it too hot, chilly-wise, when in fact they don’t eat it the right way.
For geographical and historical reasons, Indians use a huge range of spices in their food. It’s important to note that spices are not the same as chilies , which add heat to the food. Spices, on the other hand, lend it perfume. With this clarification, the next time you visit an Indian resto, do ask your waiter to tell the cook to modify the ‘heat ‘ by adjusting the chillies. I always do this, in Indian and Schezwanese restos, as I don’t have a high tolerance for hot food, even though I spent most of my life in India. The spice box on the left is a part of EVERY Indian kitchen!
Back to the original reason for the post, which is to share some tips to help you enjoy your meal at an Indian resto:
- Unlike most other cuisines, Indian dishes are not eaten one dish at a time, separately. spooned into the mouth. Instead, the sauce-based dishes, and the vegetables are added to the rice by spoonfuls, and eaten thus mixed together. This also cuts the ‘heat’ and it is thus easy to control the amount of the ‘hotness’ 🙂
- Always order a side dish of yogurt. Add to the rice separately or to the above mixture, to tone down the ‘heat’. Or simply eat some alone if the mouth feels on fire ;)! This is better than drinking gallons of water and filling your stomach up with it.
- The Indian bread is broken into pieces, and these are wrapped around the vegetables or dipped in sauce and then eaten. Again, this too tones the ‘heat’ down.
- Feel free to eat the starters of ‘samosas’ and the pakoras/onion bhaji’ as served in most restos, but please do know that an authentic Indian meal doesn’t begin with starters or aperitifs. Samosas and pakoras are teatime snacks. The trangular pieces in the picture on the right are ‘samosas’ and the others are ‘pakoras’. also called ‘bhajis’.
- Traditionally no alcoholic drinks are served with Indian food, but this custom has slowly changed. Beer is a popular drink in India, and many people drink it with Indian food, but through my experience as a wine-lover, I have discovered that light to medium-bodied wines pair well with Indian food. Therefore, I would recommend merlots and pinot noirs for perfect pairings!
Before an Indian meal, there’s no tradition of saying ‘ Bon appetit’ or raising a glass and saying ‘santé’ or ‘cheers’, but it is completely appropriate to say ‘Dhanyavad’* (Hindi), and/or ‘Shukriya’ (Urdu, Arabic) to your host/hostess after the meal to thank them for their hospitality!
Dhanyavad, for reading my post! 🙂
*Dhanyavad is pronounced dan-ya-vaad, and is the closest I can get to the correct pronunciation of the word since some sounds from Indian languages don’t exist in English!