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Indian Catering Menu – This Indian food guide is a cheat sheet for Indian restaurant menus. It covers India’s most popular dishes – what they are, how they are served and more!
I love Indian food. All Indian food. However, when I ask people what their favorite Indian food is, the answer is more often than not “chicken tikka masala”.
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In fact, if I had to pick one Indian dish to introduce someone to the cuisine with, it would probably be chicken tikka masala. But there is so much more to Indian food!
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The more I asked people, the more I found out that it’s not that they don’t like other Indian foods. They simply felt intimidated by the names and did not understand them. Ironically, the names of Indian dishes are quite simple. Foods are usually named after the main ingredients or where they come from. But given that fact, if I didn’t understand the language, I would also be confused.
Consider this my attempt to set things right. Here’s an overview of what you’ll normally find on the menu at a typical Indian restaurant. The next time you go out to enjoy a meal at your favorite Indian restaurant, use this guide to the most popular Indian dishes and order something outside of your comfort zone. There’s a good chance you’ll be surprised at how many goodies you’ve been missing out on!
If you want to enjoy Indian food at home, check out our variety of products like our curry sauces – a delicious shortcut to making amazing curries in just 15 minutes! Shop online or find our products in a store near you.
Since India is a land of foodies, food is scheduled for every time of the day and food is available at every corner. Appetizers served in Indian restaurants are typically popular Indian street foods.
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Bhaji: Bhaji (or pakoras) are crispy fried mounds of spicy chickpea batter served with a spicy condiment called chutney. Onion bhaji features thinly sliced onions that have been added to a chickpea batter and then fried to crispy perfection. Think of it as our version of onion rings! Other popular bhajis are cauliflower, potato and paneer.
Samosa: Another popular Indian street food is the samosa. Samosas contain a small amount of spicy potato or meat filling, which is then wrapped in dough and fried until crispy and flaky.
Vada Pav: Vadas are fried fritters or flattened potato patties and pav is just a dinner roll. Vada pav is basically a spicier vegetarian version of sliders, where a fritter or patty is sandwiched between two halves of a roll. Condiments such as onions, green chilies, garlic chutneys, and mint and coriander chutneys are often added to sliders.
Breads in India are mostly flat. It is the cooking method or the flour that determines what they are called.
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Naan: Naan is one of the most popular Indian flatbreads. To make naan, wheat flour dough is prepared either by leaving it to rise with yeast, or yogurt is added to the dough. This dough is then rolled into patties and baked in an Indian oven called a tandoor.
Roti: Naan is popular on Indian restaurant menus, but roti is a staple in Indian households. Roti is a no-fuss Indian bread, usually made from whole wheat flour that is kneaded into a soft dough, then rolled into thin rounds and baked on a tava (Indian griddle) on the stove.
Paratha: Paratha is a flat bread that is layered and fried in a pan. They are made from wheat flour and ghee or oil is spread between the layers of dough while rolling. But there are many ways you can make a paratha, especially a stuffed paratha. In a stuffed paratha, the filling is filled into a ball of dough and then rolled into a flatbread.
Poori: Poori are flat circles of dough that have been fried in ghee or oil until they puff up and become slightly crispy on the outside. It is usually served with aloo ki sabzi (potato curry) or chana masala (chickpea curry), a popular comfort food in North India.
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Chai (tea): The Indian name for tea is chai. Chai is made by boiling black tea in water, adding milk and sugar, and bringing it back to a boil before straining and serving. And yes, when you order a “Chai Tea Latte” at Starbucks, you are ordering a “Tea Tea Latte.”
Masala Chai: This is when you add some kind of spice (masala) to the mixture above and that makes masala chai. A typical masala chai has a mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger cooked in the chai. While regularly shortened to “chai” in cafes and coffee shops around the world, masala chai is actually a drink that many non-Indians have fallen in love with.
Lassi: A sweet yogurt drink traditionally made by diluting yogurt with milk or water and then sweetening it for more flavor. Cream is also added to the drink to make it richer. Lassi can be made into different flavors simply by adding different fruits, other flavors, etc. For example, mango lassi is made by mixing mango and yogurt, while strawberry lassi contains fresh strawberries, etc.
Chas: A spicy yogurt drink, similar to lassi, although a little thinner. Chas is infused with cumin, mint and rock salt acids. It is best enjoyed after a heavy meal to aid digestion.
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Gulab Jamun: If chicken tikka masala (or some may say butter chicken) is the king of Indian curries, then gulab jamun is definitely the king of desserts. Milk powder and wheat flour are kneaded with milk to make a smooth dough. The dough is then rolled into small balls, fried and dipped in sugar syrup until the balls absorb the syrup and become soft and mushy.
Halwa: Halwa is a pudding made from any variety of flour – such as chickpea flour, wheat flour, semolina or root vegetables – which is cooked with sugar, ghee and water/milk.
Barfi: Barfi has a fudge-like texture made from condensed milk with ghee and sugar and is flavored with nuts or spices such as cardamom or saffron. In this dish, a sweet dough is thickened, left to cool and cut into smaller pieces. There are many different varieties of barfi (also called mithai), with the dessert varying greatly from region to region.
Doodh Peda: Doodh is milk and peda is circular barfi. To make doodh peda, sweet milk is thickened and flavored with spices such as cardamom or saffron, then small portions are rolled into small discs.
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Curry: Often confused with the term “curry”, the word curry simply means sauce. There is no flavor associated with “curry,” but traditional Indian curries have very little in common with the Curry Chicken Salad at your local grocery store.
Masala: Any mixture of spices. One of the most common is “garam masala”, which translates to warm or hot. These are spices that warm the body.
Tandoor: A clay oven. Everything that comes out of the clay oven is usually preceded by a tandoori. (tandoori naan, tandoori meal, tandoori chicken, etc.)
Chutney: Spices. Most people are familiar with fruit chutneys like mango, but some of the best chutneys are herb-based like coriander and mint.
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Thali: Literally means a plate, but in the context of Indian cuisine it is primarily a way of serving food. Several dishes are served on the same plate and you basically start with an appetizer and end with dessert or a cool drink.
Fortunately, you don’t have to stick your nose in a book. Instead, your “lessons” can include visiting local Indian restaurants and browsing our extensive appetizers, naanwiches, dips and much more!
To delve deeper into the world of Indian food, browse our blog to learn more about the different types of curries and the difference between North and South Indian cuisine. FAQ Search Rewards Check Google Rewards Registration Yelp Reviews Location Picker Buy E-Gift Cards E-Gift Card Search
If you enjoy Indian and Pakistani cuisine at Charcoal Chicken, consider us catering your next event. Whether you’re hosting a small gathering or a large event with hundreds of people, we can help. Our food is 100% halal and we can accommodate many dietary restrictions. Our Indian and Pakistani caterers cover the Virginia, Maryland and DC areas and offer halal catering for weddings, graduations, corporate events, picnics, birthdays and many other events. Fill out the form below with some details and our catering manager will be in touch shortly to finalize the details.
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