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Explanation for Indian Food! Just to make your life Easier!

Love Indian food but sometimes struggle with the menu? Set your spice radar with Arabian Suites’ glossary of 50 culinary terms associated with Indian food.

You could spend a lifetime studying Indian cuisine and still be surprised by every mouthful. From the elegant dining and rich foods of the Mughal Empire to the simple Mumbai street food of today it is impossible to summarize simply Start to learn more about the food, and get a better understanding of menus in Dubai’s restaurants with this glossary.

Aloo: Potato

Ayre: A white fish much used in Bengali cuisine

Baingan: Aubergine

Bateira, batera or bater: Quail

Bhaji: Vegetables dipped in chickpea-flour batter and deep-fried; also called pakoras

Bhindi: Okra

Brinjal: Aubergine

Bulchao or balchao: A Goan vinegary pickle made with small dried prawns (with shells) and lots of garlic

Chana or channa: Chickpeas

Chapatti: A flat wholewheat griddle bread

Chaat: Various savoury snacks featuring combinations of puris, diced onion and potato, chickpeas, crumbled samosas and pakoras, chutneys and spices

Chai: Indian tea.

Dahi: Yoghurt 

Dahl: A lentil curry similar to thick lentil soup. Countless regional variations exist

Dhansak: A Parsi casserole of meat, lentils and vegetables, with a mix of hot and tangy flavours

Dhaniya: Coriander

Dum: A method of steaming food in tightly covered or sealed pot.

Ghee: Clarified butter used for frying

Gobi: Cauliflower

Gosht: Meat, usually lamb

Gram flour: Chickpea flour

Jal frezi: A sautéd or stir-fried dish.

Kachori: Crisp pastry rounds with spiced mung dahl or pea filling

Keema: Ground or minced meat.

Kulfi: An aromatic Indian dessert made from frozen cream, milk and sugar

Lassi: A yoghurt drink, ordered with salt or sugar, sometimes with fruit. Ideal to quench a fiery palate

Machli: Fish

Masala or masaladar: Mixed spices

Methi: Fenugreek, either dried (seeds) or fresh (green leaves)

Murgh: Chicken

Matar, mutter, muter or matter: Peas

Naan: Teardrop-shaped flatbread cooked in a tandoor

Palak or paalak: Spinach; also called saag

Paan or pan: Betel leaf stuffed with chopped ‘betel nuts’, coconut and spices such as fennel seeds, and folded into a triangle. Available sweet or salty and eaten at the  end of a meal as a digestive

Paneer: Indian cheese, a bit like tofu in texture and taste

Paratha: A large griddle-fried bread that is sometimes stuffed (with spicy mashed potato or minced lamb, for instance)

Parsi: A religious minority based in Mumbai, but originally from Persia, renowned for its distinctive style of cooking

Pilau: Flavoured rice cooked with meat or vegetables

Puri: A disc of deep-fried wholewheat bread; the frying makes it puff up dramatically, like an air-filled cushion

Popadom or papad: Large thin wafers made with lentil paste, and flavoured with pepper, garlic or chilli

Raita: A yoghurt mix, usually with cucumber

Roti: A round, sometimes unleavened, bread, thicker than a chapatti and cooked in a tandoor or griddle. Roomali roti (literally ‘handkerchief bread’) is a very thin, soft disc of  roti

Samosa: A deep-fried pastry. Often filled with vegetable or mince.

Tamarind: The pods of this East African tree, grown in India, are made into a paste that imparts a sour, fruity taste – popular in some regional cuisines, including Gujarati  and South Indian

Tandoor: The traditional Indian clay oven

Thali: Literally ‘metal plate’. A large dish with rice, bread, containers of dahl and vegetable curries, pickles and yoghurt relishes

Tikka: Skewered boneless meat cubes cooked in a tandoor.

Vadai or wada: A spicy vegetable or lentil fritter; dahi wada are lentil fritters soaked in yoghurt, topped with tamarind and date chutneys

Vindaloo: Originally a hot and spicy pork curry from Goa that should authentically be soured with vinegar and cooked with garlic. In Britain, the term has been  misappropriated to refer to any particularly spicy dishes

Xacuti: A Goan dish made with lamb or chicken pieces, coconut and a complex mix of roasted then ground spices

The food names may vary slight in each place in India.. But these are the general name used in Northern part of India mostly. The Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines among both the international tourists and local tourists alike.

The video below is a simple 3 minute documentary just to give you an idea of the Indian spices….depicting the brief history of spices, and how it became so popular worldwide. A film by Maaz Kazmi and friends.

Comments (5)
  • John Doe

    WOW! Fantastic.. I am a frequent traveler and always had confusions in , which food contained what, as the names are all different..I really think this would be helpful in the near future as I will be travelling to India via Dubai and will be in Dubai for some time too. I am goin’ to keep a print out of this…. As this is very handy wen it comes to the matter of Indian Food. :) Thanks a lot for this post. Keep it up.


    This is not everything john… there is a whole lot more… and its not here… :D. But I am sure if u are a fan of Eastern food.. you wil soon learn all the names by yourself.

    • John Doe

      Hi No Comment, I can understand that.. After all everything cant be posted here.! :P Yeah some items I already learned from my experience.  Hope you are not making fun of me.

      • NO-COMMENT

        No no.. I wasn’t making fun of you… but was just saying… Keep travelling.. this world is so interesting. God Bless.

    • Spider Man

      That's done men. Party ends.

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