Like most huge countries, Indian cuisine is incredibly diverse and varied from region to region. Indeed, they even vary within those regions, each region supports its version of localised flavour profiles, ingredients and cultures. To simplify things for home cooks not native to India, it's possible to split the food regions broadly along a north-south divide.
Southern Indian cuisine favours rice, rice flour, lentils, coconut, seafood and vegetable-based dishes. Northern India, on the other hand, favour wheat-based foods like roti, naan and paratha, tempered chilli powder oil, ghee, meat dishes and tandoor cooking. You might be familiar with plenty of Northern dishes as they are most common in restaurants around the world. Southern cuisine is a little harder to find - but you can try your hand at home!
We have collated six authentic Indian recipes, ranging from simple to challenging for any level of cooking experience. Before you get started, head to your local Indian grocer and stock up on the essentials.
- Basmati rice
- Wheat flour
- Toor dal (yellow split lentils)
- Moong dal (Mung beans)
- Ghee (Clarified butter)
- Vegetable oil
- Black mustard seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Fenugreek seeds
- Dried red chillies
- Turmeric powder
- Coriander powder and seeds
- Garam masala
- Bay leaves
This Hari Ghotra recipe is the perfect way to dip your toe into Indian cooking at home. Masoor dhal or red lentil dhal is one of the most basic dishes in India, used as both a main in a pinch and a side dish for a full-scale feast. Lentils, onions, garlic, tomatoes, ghee, chilli and spices all simmer down to create one of the healthiest, cheapest and most heartening dishes you will ever taste.
Jeera aloo is another basic dish for your Indian home cooking adventure. Jeera aloo translates to 'potatoes and cumin', so it's the perfect way to both bulk up and spice up a midweek dinner. This version simply calls for boiled potatoes that are cubed and sautéed with flavour-elevating spices and served with dhal or flatbread.
If hot, crispy, crunchy fried snacks are what you are after, onion bhaji is your new best friend. Veg Recipes of India has an incredible kanda bhaji recipe that is simple, delicious and versatile. Bhaji is also known as pakora. It is a fun method of frying various vegetables in flavoured batter, quite similar to Japanese tempura. Serve with hot chai and a savoury dipping sauce for best results.
If you’ve ever eaten paneer, you’ll know how addictive it can be… but it’s not that great for your waistline. Luckily all that salty delicious cheese is balanced out by piles upon piles of spinach in the classic, vibrant dish that is palak paneer! Cook With Manali offers a home-style recipe that will take you right to India, with blended spinach, garlic, ginger and tomatoes acting as the simmer sauce for chunks of thick paneer. Serve with naan and rice.
Garlic naan is not too difficult, but it can be a little bit of a challenge for those who have not worked with bread before. Luckily, flatbreads are much easier to cook than loaves of bread as they don’t need a great deal of time to rise! This naan recipe from Cook With Kushi is perfect to satisfy those garlicky cravings, just be patient with the dough, and don’t skimp on the ghee.
Malai kofta is a dish that is adored both within India and within its diaspora. Combining the winning charm of paneer, potatoes and fried snacks, malai kofta is a rich and decadent dinner you will never forget. Veg Recipes of India has a great step-by-step for this rather elaborate recipe, which includes a whopping 23 ingredients. If you’re up for a challenge, this one will pay off.
After trying these recipes, you should be well-versed in Indian home cooking and very ready for travel to India when the time comes!
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