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 summarise simply.
Start to learn more about the food, and get a better understanding of menus in Dubai’s restaurants with this glossary.
Ayre: A white fish much used in Bengali cuisine
Bateira, batera or bater: Quail
Bhaji: Vegetables dipped in chickpea-flour batter and deep-fried; also called pakoras
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.
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
Dum: A method of steaming food in tightly covered or sealed pot.
Ghee: Clarified butter used for frying
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
Masala or masaladar: Mixed spices
Methi: Fenugreek, either dried (seeds) or fresh (green leaves)
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
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