6 Tasty Indian Dishes & A Local’s Tips to Stay Healthy

India is delightfully chaotic, and it’s only fitting that the food follows suit. Nainaa, a Bengaluru local and one of our 2016 Travel Writing Scholarship winners, shares her top 6 dishes you must try on your trip, and a few tips to keep Delhi belly at bay.

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The mysterious ‘Land of Spices’ lives up to its name by adding unique ‘masalas’ (a creative assortment of spices) to every dish.

If your tastebuds aren’t accustomed to chilli, we’ve got the flavors mapped on a scale from 1-10.

Quick Eats

Pani Puri

Pani puri is India’s most popular street-side chaat (tangy snacks that literally mean, ‘to lick’.)

A pani puri is a wafer-thin, hollow ball, with a little hole in the middle, stuffed with potatoes and sprouts.

Here comes the fun part – just before you pop it into your mouth, pour in some pani (minty water) and gulp it whole.

Don’t worry about being clumsy – it’s all part of the experience!

In a new twist to tradition, cities like Bangalore are now replacing the minty water with a shot of vodka.

Spice Rating: 7/10 (You can ask for the pani to be sweetened.)

Dahi Vada

The dahi vada is a welcome relief if you have a low tolerance to spices.

It’s a lentil ball, soaked in cold yogurt, and topped with a spicy-sweet sauce.

It’s great as a standalone snack while shopping on the streets of Delhi, or as a cooling side dish with your meal anywhere in India.

Spice Rating: 1/10

Dhokla

A dhokla is a light snack from Gujarat.

Made from gram flour, it’s like biting into a fluffy, savory sponge. It’s usually accompanied with a mint, or tamarind chutney.

Most Indian sweet or chaat shops offer them, but it’s best experienced in Gujarat – the state of its origin.

Spice Rating: 3/10

Main Courses

Masala Dosa

Give an Indian anything, and they’ll add some ‘masala’ to it!

A masala dosa is a mouth-watering crispy pancake with squashed potatoes and onions.

Eating a masala dosa is an art by itself.   You start with tearing a piece of the dosa, and use it to scoop up some of the potato stuffing.

Dunk the piece first in the chutney, and then in a cup of sambhar, before finally taking a bite. 

Spice Rating: 5/10

The Great Indian Thali

The thali or ‘plate’ is a culmination of the proverbial rice, spice, and everything nice.

A thali comes with little bowls of curries, pickles, breads, rice, and sweets –almost like a crash-course on Indian food.

While every state in India has its own version of a thali, the most exotic of them is the South Indian thali – it’s served on a banana leaf!

Spice Rating: Ranges between 4 to 7, depending on the thali.

Indian thali. Photo credit: Peter Teys

Biryani

The biryani is the crown jewel of Indian cuisine.

Made from long, slender Basmati Rice and succulent pieces of meat, the biryani has found many avatars (including chicken or vegetarian versions) around the country.

It’s usually paired with its faithful sidekick – raitha, made from yogurt and onions.

The Hyderabadi biryani, once reserved for the Royal Nizams, would win the ‘Battle of the Biryanis’ – if there ever was one.

Spice Rating: 7/10

Desserts

The falooda is an Indian dessert that you can both eat and drink. Iced milk is poured over strands of vermicelli, pistachios, and almonds – all topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Made from a betel leaf, a paan is the ubiquitous Indian dessert, digestive, and mouth freshener – all rolled into one. A must-try!

Tips on Food Safety in India

  1. Try only the vegetarian food – the meat on the streets can be dodgy.
  2. Avoid ice creams from carts – stick to the ones at restaurants. 
  3. Cooked food, tea or coffee is generally hygienic anywhere.
  4. Eat at the most crowded stalls – they’re famous for a reason!

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Watch the sun rise and set in the south, or find solitude in the far northern Himalayas. Our local insiders show you how to find peace among India’s chaos.

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