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Local Dishes in India

Indian food

Background to Indian Food:

There are many misconceptions of Indian food and we try to dispel some of them here. Local dishes in India are incredible and suit any pallet. Indian cooking is generally thought to be based around onion and garlic. However the Jain religion does not use either according to their religious beliefs that these ingredients increase sexual desire, and so a whole strand of cooking is completely void of these ingredients.

Masala:

Masala literally means “spiced”. In the west Masala is generally assumed to involve tomato, but this is not always the case (Masala is tomato based in the Punjab, but not in other regions of India). There are two main types of Masala, but every region will produce a different variety depending on the kind of ingredients that are used in that region.  For example Goa and other south Indian states use coconut, while in the north-west where the Persians moved into the country more dried fruit has been introduced into the dishes.

Godha – This Masala sauce does not use chilli, but is highly pungent due to its heavy use of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. With good quality spices this Masala is hot in its own right!  It tends to be a shade of brown.

Tikha – This is generally a hotter masala due to its primary use of chilli as the main ingredient and so it is generally red in colour.

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“Fundamental Sauce”:

This is the key to a great Indian dish and what generally lacks in the western home to create genuine Indian food that has the depth of flavour achieved in India.

Everyone tends to have their own family recipe that has been passed down through the generations.  We liked one man’s recipe because it had a massive flavour and he cooked it over 26 hours, many people wouldn’t give up their recipe for their gravy, but bribed this man to give up his version! As a restaurant owner who has been cooking for over 20 years we trusted his version. It is more complex than other versions we have seen since, but this really is worth the extra ingredients and effort to make a ‘blow ya socks off sauce’. This is what is known in India as “gravy”, a dish will either have it or not.  Most of the ingredients are the same, but in different quantities that is down to the taste of that family, so if you first make this and like to add or subtract whatever- do so!  This is what Indian cooking is all about- making food to your taste. With this sauce you can make loads of different dishes by adding extra spices in different quantities and a variety of vegetables and meat. This fact makes this recipe the most important of all!

The recipe in the book will show you how to make the best and most authentic version of this amazing and versatile curry paste.

 

Goan Fish Curry:

South India is renowned for their use of coconut in their dishes and this is no exception. Goa is also well known for it’s hot dishes, like the Vindaloo, however Goans always add chilli and spice according to their own particular taste. As the guy who taught us this said “heat is not everything- taste is!”
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Ingredients:
Firm white fish or large prawns: 300gms
Onion: 2 small diced
Tomato: 2 skins removed finely chopped or puréed
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Chilli (dried is best): 2 finely sliced
Coconut cream: 1 cup
Coconut: 1/2 coconut flesh grated and roasted
Coriander (fresh): small handful
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Coriander powder: 2 tsp
Cumin: 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder (or whole to the same amount): 1 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Vegetable oil: 1 tblsp

How: First add the dried chilli to the coconut milk and leave for around 30 minutes if you have the time to infuse, if not no worries, but mix them together now.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil on a medium heat until they turn soft and start to brown for around 5 minutes. Add turmeric, coriander powder, cumin, cinnamon, tomato and salt and cook for further 5 minutes until everything turns into a brown paste and is well mixed together. Now stir in coconut cream/ chilli combo and the roasted coconut, then bring back to the boil. Simmer everything for 10 minutes stirring regularly until the consistency is a slightly thick sauce.

Add the shrimp or fish and simmer with this lid on for a further 10 minutes until the fish is cooked. Add the fresh coriander just before serving.

Dried Bombay Duck (or Dried Prawn) Curry:

This dish has its ingredients list taken from Goa, but has been adapted by the Maratis (from Maharastra) as their own dish, with the specific use of Bombay Duck (an ugly fish that is often dried for preservation).  This dish can also use dried shrimp instead of the fresh prawns used in Goa so that they can be transported to Maharastra without going off and also be prepared out of season, when fresh fish is a lot more expensive. Either of these two dried fish work well in this curry, but the fact they are dried makes it Marati as opposed to Goan as the fish taste is stronger here with more punch and less of a coconut element.

Timing in this dish is crucial to ensure all the elements are cooked well, have released their flavours and yet not overcooked so that the ingredients can still be tasted individually and the dish doesn’t turn into a curry of all the same flavour.

Ingredients:
Shrimp (dried): Full/ large handful or Bombil/ “Bombay Duck”: 5 dried with the heads cut off if they haven’t been.

Onion: 1 small diced
Potato: 1 medium cubed
Chilli (dried is best): 1 finely sliced
Coconut cream: 1 cup
Coriander (fresh): small handful
Water: 1/4 cup (hot)
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Vegetable oil: 1 tblsp

How: First add the dried chilli to the coconut milk and leave for around 30 minutes if you have the time to infuse, if not no worries, but mix them together now. Fry the onion in the oil on a medium heat until they turn transparent. Add potato, stir regularly and cook until brown. Add turmeric and salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add coconut cream/ chilli combo bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

At this point add a metal plate or a lid upside down to the pan so you can simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on, but add the water to this ‘well’ so you are also heating the water up at the same time. If you do not have something suitable (e.g. do not use a ceramic plate or anything that will crack under high temperature, then avoid this and just boil water.

Add the dried shrimp and simmer with the lid on for a further 15 minutes until the shrimp is still firm, but is not hard in the middle, so test them regularly by eating a few! Add hot water as needed by tipping it into the pan using a cloth ensuring that the sauce remains thin (so it doesn’t thicken into a gravy).

 

Vegetable Momos:

In Sikkim these are everywhere. Everyone agrees that they have made their way down from Chinese Tibet, although the difference here is that the favourite momo is considered pork momos. Although Sikkim is in India the Sikkimese eat a lot of pork and treat the animals well. You would not see pork on the menu in many other states but for the Sikkimese pork momos are a winning dish to eat for lunch and as many as 30 as an evening meal!

They are fairly tricky to learn how to make and in a restaurant you will be waiting around 30 minutes to have 8 made fresh, but it is worth it. From frozen they are not as good as the key is the fresh filling. We have given you the method to make them the ´proper´way, but many people love having a laugh with them and will make them into loads of shapes and sized as a fun party food- maybe try to make them pasty shaped, a cracker shape or any other you can come up with!

 

Tibetan Bread:

This stuff is great- a local dishes in India that was introduced from Tibet (duh!) and a fantastic breakfast alternative to the usual. It is filling and nice and warm, so it is great with butter added so it melts into the bread and also good for those winter days or if it will be a while until your next meal (collecting cow food from the jungle for example!).

Ingredients:
Wheat Flour: 500gms
Baking Powder: 1 1/2 tsps
Salt: 2 pinches
Water: 1/2 cup
Veg oil: 1 tsp for the flour mix and 1 tsp for frying

Mix everything except the water together in a bowl. Gradually add the water into the flour mix using your fingers so each time water is added the flour fully absorbs the water. Add water and thoroughly mix into the flour until the mixture forms a ball and the bowl is ´clean´with no remaining flour stuck to it.

Knead the dough by pushing the ball out with the palm of your hands, folding air into it and repeating. Add as much air as possible to make a light bread. Pull off 5 balls and pat down lightly to make a fat, flattened circle approx 1 1/2 cm in height.

Oil the bottom of a steamer and place on the balls, ensuring they have at least 3cm space between them. Steam for 10 minutes. Take them out of the steamer and fry them immediately in a medium hot frying pan with the remaining oil until the water on the outside has evaporated and they turn very slightly brown.

Indian Street Food:

It is everywhere in India and where most Indian people eat, other than their homes.

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Puran Poli:

This local dishes in India is specifically Marati (from Maharastra) dish uses jaggery (a sweetener) not generally found in the UK. This can be replaced with a half and half mix of dark brown sugar and Maple syrup, Molasses or palm sugar.

Ingredients:

2 cups chana dal, soaked in water for 4 hours
1 1/2 cups jaggery or replacement
2 cups white flour
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
3/4 tsp turmeric powder

Pani Puri:

6 small crispy containers filled one at a time with channa masala and two sauces (one sweet and one cooling with herbs) and served individually on a plate.

Ingredients:

Puri (crispy containers):
1 cup Semolina (Rava / Suji)
3 tblsp Fine Wheat Flour (Maida)
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
Oil to deep fry

Pani sauce:
1/2 cup Tamarind Pulp (or you can find tamarind fruit in Asian shops and grind your own, but the tinned version is fine)
2 cups Water
2 tblsp roasted Cumin Seed Powder
2 tblsp un-roasted Cumin Seed
handful of Coriander Leaves
3 Green Chilly
2 tblsp Mint Leaves 1 tblsp Black Salt
2 tblsp Jaggary or replacement (see Puran Poli)

How: coming soon! Yes you’ll have to wait. This local dishes in India is complex and uses a lot of exotic ingredients unheard of in the west.

Bhel Puri:

This is a complex “salad” that has numerous of different parts that are brought together when desired and mixed together vigorously.

Ingredients:
Puffed rice 4 cups (rice crispies will not work as they must be firmer!)
Onion:  1 finely chopped
Tomato:  2 finely chopped
Chilli powder:  1 tsp
Grated carrot 1/4 cup
Cucumber: 1/2 cup finely chopped
Coriander leaf (fresh):  1/4 cup finely chopped
Salt: 2 pinches
Chilli: 1/2 finely chopped

Green chutney:
Corriander 1/2 bunch
green chillies 6 finely sliced
lemon juice 1 tsp
Salt: 1 pinch

Sweet/sour chutney:
Tamarind extract 1 cup, tamerind juice in a can
Dates: 5 without stones
Brown sugar 1 Tbsp.
Lemon juice 50 ml
Cumin Powder 1 tsp.
Chilli Powder 1 Tsp.
Salt according to your taste, I suggest none!

How: Simply blend all the green chutney ingredients together in a blender or using a pastel and mortar to a fine paste, then reserve for blending with the above. Add the puffed rice and dry ingredients into a bowl, add the herbs and chilli. Then add the sweet/sour chutney and green chutney while stirring vigorously. Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of fresh coriander on top.

Chilli Omelet:

Here because you see them everywhere. It also shows how local dishes in India can also be simple and familiar. The key to an Indian omelet is finely cut onion and chilli (of course)

Ingredients:
1 egg
2 small sweet shallots finely sliced
1/2 green chilli crushed
dash of lemon/ lime juice
10 coriander leaves crushed
salt to taste

How: Mix the crushed coriander and chilli with the lemon/ lime juice and pound together to make a paste. Scramble the egg well and add the shallot and salt to taste. Add mixture to a hot frying pan and add a smear of the chilli paste according to how hot you want your omelet. Serve in a white bread roll. Simple, cheap and yummy!

Vadapav:

Ingredients:
Coming soon!

Kacchi Dabeli:

Ingredients:
coming soon!

Goan Fish Xacuti

South India is renouned for their use of coconut in their dishes and this is no exception. Goa is also well known for it’s hot dishes, like the Vindaloo, however Goans always add chilli and spice according to their own particular taste. As the guy who taught us this said “heat is not everything- taste …

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Indian Cheese Kofta

Cheese Kofta is fried balls of Indian paneer cheese in an aromatic gravy that originates from northern India and is typically rich in character for the region. Cheese kofta is perfumed with rose water and “kasoori” or dried fenugreek leaves, while being rich with cream and cheese.  A dieters nightmare but a foodies dream! Paneer …

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Dry Powdered spice of the Indian Fundamental sauce

Indian gravy: The Fundamental Sauce

“Fundamental Sauce”: This is the key to a great Indian dish and what generally lacks in the western home to create genuine Indian food that has the depth of flavour achieved in India. Everyone tends to have their own family recipe that has been passed down through the generations.  We liked one man’s recipe because …

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Indian Thukpa

Indian Thukpa is a delicious and yet cheap to make soup that is readily available throughout the Himalayas. This dish can also be found in a similar form in Tibet and Nepal, but the Sikkimese people who mostly originated from Tibet and Nepal call it their own, or Bhutanese, which, although sounds like they are …

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Indian Vegetetable Jalfrezi

Vegetetable Jalfrezi in India tends to be far away from what is served in the west. It is ultimately left over vegetables that are fried to be used up This is in a similar way that in the UK we have “bubble and squeak”, which is also left over vegetables fried. Vegetable Jalfrezi is a …

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Indian Bhel Puri

Indian Bhel Puri

People walk around trains or emerge at around 5pm on carts selling Bhel Puri as a snack. The combination of spices, fried carbs and fresh coriander/ tomato is so addictive. The beauty is that you can make it as described below, which clearly shows how much effort and ingredients goes into even the most daily …

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4 comments

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  1. Gill

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