Best foods and drinks to try in India

Sebastien

India has a variety of many many tasty foods.

So many, that we could spend months…years trying to blog about it!  Instead we decided to shout about our favourite and most memorable Indian foods and drinks.

#1 CURRIES AND INDIAN THALIS

Thalis are popular throughout India and are an inexpensive foodgasm of various small pots of different curries and other treaties.

The curries are usually vegetable, dal (lentils), meat or fish. The other treaties include curd (yoghurt) and spicy chutney or pickle and it is usually served with rice and sometimes roti bread.

Indian Thali is similar to Nepalese daal bhat and Sri Lankan ‘rice and curry’.

A fish based thali in Kochi, Kerala, South India
A very spicy fish based thali in Kochi, Kerala, South India

Thalis kept us very very happy during our travels in India.  And, as there is no universal way to cook them, each one always tastes different meaning you will never get bored with them.

A happy Sebastien with two Thalis
“Are you REALLY going to eat all of that by yourself Sebastien???!!!!”

#2 TANDOORI AND CHICKEN TIKKA

The tandoor oven is a cylinder like clay or metal oven in which food is cooked over an intense fire.

Tandoor cooked foods are popular in North India, in particular two of our favourite Indian foods: tandoori chicken and chicken tikka.

An Indian tandoor oven
Tandoori chicken cooking in an Indian tandoor clay oven

Tandoori chicken and chicken tikka are bright red/orange dishes, which have been marinated with yoghurt and spices like garam masala (a blend of various ground spices like peppercorns, cloves, cardamon, nutmeg etc), garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and red chilli powder (which gives it its colour).

Tandoori chicken is cooked with the bone on and is usually marinated over night.

Tandoori chicken selfie in Delhi
“OI! Hands off my tandoori Sebastien…get your own!” cries a hungry Stefan

Chicken tikka is boneless and cooked as skewers.

In the UK, the tikka was developed to be served with a spicy sauce and hence the famous “chicken tikka masala” was born (yup you read right, this famous Indian food dish is in fact born in the UK not India!)

Stefan with chicken tikka
Stefan with red tikka on forehead about to go face down on a plate of red tikka chicken – see what he did there? ๐Ÿ™‚

#3 PANEER, HEAVENLY INDIAN CHEESE

Paneer is another yummy favourite of ours, popular in north India.

Paneer is a soft white fresh cheese, which doesn’t melt (Stefan compares it to a softer version of the Cypriot halloumi cheese).

Stefan with paneer curry dish
Stefan about to go face down in to this delicious paneer curry

Paneer is used to make a variety of tasty curries, popular with vegetarians.

Amongst the many different types of paneer dishes, we particularly liked mutter paneer (with peas), palak paneer (with spinach) and kadai paneer – so named because it is cooked in a “kadai” pan, similar to a Chinese wok but with more depth:

A kadai - popular in Indian cooking
A kadai is similar to a Chinese wok but with more depth

South Indian food

South Indian food is unique because of the use of coconut as a base for almost every dish.

The spices used are differ a little bit from North Indian cuisines, for example, cumin is more popular in north India whereas in the south, tamarind and mustard seeds are preferred.

#4 SOUTH INDIAN BREAKFAST CURRIES

A curry for breakfast?  Yup, and they’re damn tasty!

South Indian breakfasts commonly comprise ‘wet’ based dishes like sambar (a fragrant vegetable soapy daal lentil broth) and coconut chutney.

They are usually served with dosas (rice/lentil based pancakes) and idlis (small cylinders of pressed rice, like savoury cakes), which are used for dipping.

South Indian breakfast of sambar and idli
South Indian breakfast of sambar lentils broth with idli rice savoury cakes for dipping

Another popular breakfast dish, particularly in Kerala, is puttu (or pittu).

These are steamed cylinders of ground rice layered with coconut and served with side dishes like chickpeas curry.

Freshly made puttu by Sebastien
Sebastien showing off his freshly made puttu during our cooking class in Kochi, Kerala in South India

Puttus are made in a specifically designed phallic shaped steamer:

A puttu steamer and one nomadicboy
Sebastien posing with phallic shaped puttu steamer

#5 BARFI, INDIAN SWEETS

India is an awesome place if you have a sweet tooth.  Barfi are small square or diamond shaped Indian treaties made from condensed milk and sugar.

 

Different types of barfi include badam (almonds), pista (pistachios) and kaaju (cashew nuts).  Fruits are also used to enhance the flavour, like mango and coconut, as well as spices like cardamon and rose water.

Barfi are delicious and completely captivated us, especially in this barfi bakery in Jaipur:

Barfi bakery in Jaipur
Stefan posing with staff of this barfi bakery in Jaipur (selling his favourite barfi treaties)


Our favourite Indian drinks

#6 LASSI

Lassi is the popular yoghurt based drink in India, which can be salted or sweet.

The traditional salty lassi is more popular in North India and flavoured with spices like ground cumin.  They reminded us a lot of the salted yoghurt drink, ayran, popular in Turkey and Arabic countries.

Stefan enjoying a salted lassi in Jaipur
Stefan enjoying a salted lassi with this group of girls from Gujurat who were also touring Rajasthan, North India

Sweetened lassis are flavoured with fruits instead of spices.  The most popular is banana and mango and taste more like smoothies or milkshakes.

Sebastien enjoying a tasty sweet lassi in Varanasi
The Blue Lassi shop in Varanasi is popular and serves up some of the tastiest lassis we’ve tried in India

Another popular lassi is “bhang” lassi, made from cannabis buds and leaves mixed into a paste with milk, ghee and spices.  And yes, it’s apparently legal in most parts of India.

#7 CHAI, INDIAN TEA

India is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea along with China and Sri Lanka.  Chai is the Indian (and also Greek!) word for tea.

An Indian chai is usually served milky and very sweet.  Even more special is the delicious Chai Masala, which is milked tea flavoured with lots of spices like cardamon, cloves, cinnamon and many others.

Chai Masala is delicious and we highly recommend it.

Stefan's chai selfie
Stefan’s chai selfie – Indian chai masala is delicious!

FOR MORE FROM OUR TRAVELS IN INDIA, CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO:

 
Sebastien

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what itโ€™s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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