How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (2023)

How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (1)

How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (2)Guest post by Big Apple Curry co-founder Myna who is my sister, lives in Toronto, and works in the non-profit world helping girls and women

Many people are interested in exploring Indian food, but they don’t know where to begin. If you’re not familiar with the cuisine, an Indian restaurant menu can be overwhelming. Whenever I meet someone who feels this way, I take them to a good, reputable Indian restaurant and walk them through the experience. The great thing about Indian cuisine is there is something that everyone will like — grilled ‘tandoori’ meats and kebabs that give a whole new meaning to the word “BBQ”; plenty of vegetarian dishes like creamy tomato curries with as many as nine vegetables; and the tastiest vegan options you’ll find in any cuisine from cumin roasted potatoes to pan-fried okra. Tandoori chicken with a side of steamed basmati rice is basically ‘chicken and rice’ — every single cuisine in the world from Italian to French to Mexican to Chinese has some variation of ‘chicken and rice.’ You can order the heat level of Indian dishes as hot, mild, or something in between.So folks, ordering doesn’t have to be intimidating – you just need to know what to look for. This is where I can help!

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If you’re going to an Indian restaurant for the first time, I recommend you order the following.


For an appetizer, I recommend you order samosas, which are small deep-fried pastries with spicy fillings. Typically triangle-shaped, samosas can be made vegetarian (with potatoes, peas, and spices) and non-vegetarian (with ground chicken or lamb, and spices), and are often accompanied by a tamarind chutney. Deep-fried or baked and packed with flavor, samosas are a great way to start your meal.Similar to egg rolls in Chinese cuisine, samosas have become a very popular snack in North America. Even mainstream grocers have developed frozen packaged varieties. In India, many appetizers are commonly eaten as snacks at tea time or bought from vendors on the street — just like in other parts of Asia, street food is some of the best food in India.

How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (3)
Typically, Indian food is not individually plated — rather, it is served “family style” in large dishes for everyone to share. The best way to get a good taste of all that Indian food has to offer is order a few main courses. The following three dishes are great choices if you’re ordering for the first time:

Tandoori Chicken

If you’re a meat eater, Indian chicken dishes are the way to go for an inaugural main course. Tandoori Chicken is a particularly good option for people who like chicken wings and barbecue. Marinated overnight in yogurt and spices, anything made in a ‘tandoor’ is baked in a traditional Indian clay oven at more than 500F. The yogurt marinade makes the meat tender and the high heat of the oven seals in all the spices and juices. Tandoori chicken is a nice complement to other saucier curries, and is a dependable dish that won’t scare away an Indian cuisine newbie.

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How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (4)

Butter Chicken or ‘Murgh Makhani’

You can never go wrong with Butter Chicken. Ever. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t like it.As my brother-in-law Sean says, it’s a great dish to start for the novice as it’s fairly innocuous and mild in spice, low on the heat scale, but rich in flavor. When my friend Alison first tried Butter Chicken, she immediately exclaimed “where has this been all my life?!” She’s been hooked ever since.

Channa Masala or ‘Chole’

The unique variety of Indian vegetarian dishes is legendary. The earthy, flavorful, chick peas curry known as Channa Masala is always a winner – and not just among vegetarians and vegans! Last month I took my colleague Dave to an Indian restaurant for the first time. He’s a quintessential meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Dave ate Channa Masala and said it reminded him of his grandmother’s baked beans – just spicier. Even carnivores who don’t typically eat legumes or beans discover they love this dish.

How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (5)

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All Indian main courses can be eaten with rice and/or naan (Indian bread), of which there are many varieties. As well, there are numerous yogurt-based condiments and chutneys that complement everything on your plate. I recommend you order both rice and naan, as well as one condiment as follows:

Basmati Rice

Rice is a major staple in India, and there are many long and short-grained varieties. Basmati rice dishes are typically steamed or cooked in water. The flavor combinations are endless. Plain steamed basmati rice is satisfying on its own, while more complex rice preparations like biryaniprovide layers of flavor with slow-cooked meats combined with spices, saffron and roasted onions. Curries go particularly well with basmati rice — fluffy and fragrant, it compliments a range of dishes beautifully.

Naan (Indian bread)

Everybody loves naan! Seriously — if you like bread, you will like naan. Dough is slapped onto the inner wall of the tandoor oven and takes only seconds to fluff up to dreamy, pillowy flatbreads that go with absolutely anything. It is especially tasty when dipped into butter chicken sauce. Today you can find prepared naan in most mainstream grocery stores; some even use naan to make homemade pizza.Indian flatbreads come in all types including naan, rotis, chapathis, parathas, kulchas, and more.

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How to order at an Indian restaurant | Big Apple Curry (6)


Always order raita. This yogurt-based side dish is a great cooling agent to accompany any dishes with some heat. Its role is similar to that of tzatziki in Greek cuisine – a refreshing, cold accompaniment to the main dishes. This is also a must-have if someone has low tolerance for heat. When I first took my friend Meg to an Indian restaurant, raita was her savior as the food was much hotter than she anticipated. We still laugh about how she cautiously ate one chick pea at a time in a spoonful of raita.

In addition to these dishes, my advice is as follows:

  1. Unlikely favorites: curries with eggplant and spinach may not seem appetizing at first, but when prepared the Indian way, they make for delicious dishes. Consider dishes such as Palak Paneer – cubes of mild farmer’s cheese cooked with spinach in onions and spices; and Baingan Bhartha – roasted eggplant cooked with tomatoes, onions and spices.
  2. Heat Tolerance: always consider your tolerance for heat. Note that ‘spice’ is different from ‘heat’ — it gets confusing when the two terms are used interchangeably. While all Indian dishes are spiced (by a host of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom), not all Indian dishes pack a lot of heat (heat comes from things like cayenne, red chillis, and black pepper). If you can’t handle that much heat, then tell your waiter to make the food mild, just to be safe. Indian restaurants can generally make food that is mild, medium or hot and the waitstaff is typically good at asking diners what their preference is.
  3. Experiment: explore the menu and go for something unheard of! Indian food has a lot of variety, which means it’s good for sharing. Most restaurant menus are predominantly North Indian, but some offer items from India’s many culinary regions. You might discover something completely different that you love. Give it a try, see what you find!

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What is the best Indian curry to order? ›

10 Best Indian Curries You Need To Try
  • Chana Masala.
  • Macher Jhol.
  • Chicken Chettinad.
  • Palak Paneer.
  • Meen Molee.
  • Dopiaza.
  • Dhansak.
  • Rajma Masala.
Mar 16, 2022

What should I get my first time at an Indian restaurant? ›

Great Dishes for Beginners—What Should I Order?
  • Samosas are tasty and filling appetizers.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala is a great beginner's dish.
  • Indian chai or milk tea.
  • Chicken biryani.
  • Raita is a great choice to cool your stomach after spicy food.
  • Family style is the most authentic way to eat Indian food.
Oct 14, 2022

How do you order an Indian meal? ›

Tips to Order Like a Pro at an Indian Restaurant
  1. Know Your Spice Tolerance Level. ...
  2. Ask How Many Servings You'll Need. ...
  3. Understand the Flow of Food. ...
  4. Try Eating With Your Hands! ...
  5. Enjoy the After-Meal Snack. ...
  6. The Appetizers. ...
  7. The Main Course Dishes. ...
  8. A Sweet Finish.
Dec 15, 2021

What curry should I try first? ›

Kang Keaw Wan Kai (sweet green curry with chicken) is a great starting point for beginners. Red curry is usually made from dried red chiles, along with spices like coriander, cumin, and turmeric. It's very versatile and can include a wide range of proteins and vegetables.

What Indian curry has the most Flavour? ›

Malvani fish curry, Maharashtra

Made from a whole range of spices, like coriander, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, bay leaf and star anise, this curry is fiery and is loaded with flavours. If you want to taste one of the best curries in India, this is definitely one of them.

What should a picky eater get at an Indian restaurant? ›

What to Order at an Indian Restaurant If You're a Picky Eater
  • Samosas. PIN IT. Photo by Amanda Damon. ...
  • Chicken Tikka Masala. PIN IT. Photo by Eunice Choi. ...
  • Naan. PIN IT. Photo by Elizabeth Snyder. ...
  • Butter chicken. PIN IT. Photo courtesy of ...
  • Biryani. PIN IT. Photo by Kendra Valkema. ...
  • Mango Lassi. PIN IT.
Jul 12, 2016

What's a good Indian dish to try? ›

10 Traditional Must-Try Foods to Eat in India
  • 1) Masala dosa. Arguably South India's most renowned culinary export, masala dosas are famous the world over. ...
  • 2) Chaat. ...
  • 3) Dal makhani. ...
  • 4) Vada pav. ...
  • 5) Stuffed paratha. ...
  • 6) Dhokla. ...
  • 7) Barfi. ...
  • 8) Pani puri.

What should an American order at an Indian restaurant? ›

The Best Indian Foods For Americans
  • Tandoori Chicken. Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish in the United States. ...
  • Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken) ...
  • Chicken Vindaloo Curry. ...
  • Instant Pot Butter Chicken. ...
  • Rogan Josh. ...
  • Malai Kofta. ...
  • Palak Paneer. ...
  • Chole (Chickpea Curry)

What is a very famous Indian dish? ›

Curry. Curry is one of India's most popular and well-known dishes. Tomato-based curries are known as the ultimate comfort food in India, and countries all over the world have adopted this opinion too.

What is the most iconic Indian dish? ›

Here are few such popular Indian dishes that has made their mark all across the globe:
  1. Chicken Tikka Masala. This delicious charcoal burnt, clay oven-cooked chicken was firstly cooked in Lahore. ...
  2. Murg Makhni (Butter chicken) ...
  3. Tandoori Chicken. ...
  4. Biryani. ...
  5. Daal Makhni. ...
  6. Samosa. ...
  7. Chaat. ...
  8. Pani puri.
Sep 18, 2019

What is the creamiest Indian dish? ›

Malai Kofta is a popular Indian dish that hails from North India. It has a rich creamy texture due to the ingredients present in it such as cashews and fresh cream.

What to order at Indian If you dont like Indian? ›

A common misconception when it comes to Indian food is that the majority of the menu will be filled with spicy curries.
8 Indian Dishes To Try When You Don't Like Curry
  • Saag Paneer. takeoutkit. ...
  • Chicken Tikka. brumcraft. ...
  • Pakora. socialoffline. ...
  • Dal Makhani. tanusrecipes. ...
  • Aloo Tikki. ...
  • Dosa. ...
  • Papri Chaat. ...
  • Uttapam.
Sep 13, 2018

What does tikka mean on an Indian menu? ›

History of Chicken Tikka Masala, an Indian Curry Dish at The Colonial British Indian Cuisine. Did you know? The word “tikka” means small pieces of meat in Punjabi. And “masala” means mixture in the Punjabi language. These small pieces of chicken are marinated, traditionally and baked.

Is tikka masala curry spicy? ›

However, in very general terms, tikka masala is a tomato and cream-based sauce with a lot of spices added. It's slightly spicy and tastes earthy.

What type of curry is sweetest? ›

Massaman curry: Masaman curry is one of the sweetest styles of curry. It's a Thai style, but is also influenced by many varieties of Indian curry. Rather than spices, most of masaman curry's flavor comes from cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, according to Traveling 9 to 5.

Which curry is most spicy? ›

The red curry is also referred to as the “spicy curry.” The fiery dish originates from central Thailand. It draws its color from the excessive amounts of red chilis used, which are crushed with shallots, garlic, blue ginger, and lemongrass. The red curry paste is then mixed with coconut milk to produce a curry sauce.

What are the three types of curry? ›

The Difference Between Red, Yellow, and Green Curries

There are three main types of Thai curries—red, yellow, and green—which are categorized by the color of the curry paste. The color of the chilies and other ingredients gives each curry its distinct hue.

What curry is hotter than a tikka masala? ›

Rogan josh

The word rogan means “oil” in Persian while josh means “intense heat.” Typically made with lamb or mutton, this hearty and aromatic curry is known for its fiery red color and heavy dose of warming spices like whole clove, cardamom, and cinnamon.

What type of curry is sweet creamy and rich? ›

Kashmir. Kashmir, in the north of India, is home to the Kashmiri curry. Usually made with chicken, whole garam masala and dried fruit, this mildly spicy curry is sweet, creamy, and rich.

What is the dominant flavor in curry? ›

A curry mix has a warm, robust spicy taste as a result of combining roasted and grounded coriander seeds, turmeric, cumin and chili peppers. Other spices commonly found within the blend are fenugreek, clove, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg or ginger.

What are 3 main staples of Indian food? ›

What makes up the staples are rice, wheat, millets, pulses, dairy, vegetables, and fruits. However, carbohydrate consumption from wheat and rice is prominent in the north and south of the country, respectively.

What's the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala? ›

Butter chicken is mildly spiced, whereas tikka masala has more of a kick. Chicken in tikka masala sauce tends to be more tender and juicy than butter chicken due to its marinade-containing yogurt. Butter chicken also tends to have a creamier texture.

What is the No 1 food in India? ›

A traditional southern Indian dish known as masala dosa is popular throughout the country, made from a batter of soaked rice and lentils that is baked into a thin pancake and usually stuffed with potatoes, onions, and mustard seeds. The dish is often garnished with grated coconut and chopped coriander.

What is common Indian dinner? ›

The core of a typical Indian dinner (or lunch) is rice, or a flatbread, and a lentil stew (dal). There will also be a vegetarian stew, and if non-vegetarian, a meat, chicken, or seafood curry.

What to get at an Indian restaurant if you don t like curry? ›

So I, holding the responsibility to clear the doubt, am going to introduce you to 8 delicious dishes that don't have curry in them.
  • Pakora.
  • Samosa.
  • Tandoori Chicken.
  • Papri Chaat.
  • Dosa.
  • Biryani.
  • Aloo Paratha.
  • Saag Paneer.
May 17, 2016

Why does Indian food taste better in restaurant? ›

Indian food is lauded for its curries, mouth-burning spices and complex flavor pairings. With its use of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other pungent ingredients, the resulting taste combinations are unlike anything found elsewhere around the world.

What does Indian curry taste like? ›

Curry is quite varied, but often carries the flavors of Asian spices (think: cumin, coriander, red chili powder, turmeric, garlic, and ginger) It has a deep earthy, savory, and umami flavor, but there are a thousand variations depending on the ingredients.

What is trending in Indian food? ›

One trend that is expected to gain popularity in India and around the world is the use of ancient grains and ancient ingredients. These include millets, amaranth (Ramdana), and quinoa, which are rich in nutrients and have been used in traditional diets for centuries.

What do they eat in India for breakfast? ›

A typical breakfast in India varies depending on region, but is often quite similar to a lunch or dinner. A breakfast plate in India might include roti (flatbread), dosas (thin crepes made of lentils) or idlis (steamed rice-dough pancakes), and different dips and chutneys, as well as spiced potatoes.

What is the tastiest dish in the world? ›

The top 5 "Best Traditional Dishes" in the world by TasteAtlas' list 2022 are- Kare (Japan), Picanha (Brazil), Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato (Portugal), Tangbao (China), and Guotie (China), respectively.

What is the most loved dish in the world? ›

Pizza is the topmost liked food in the world. Today you can find pizza in almost every corner of the world. This traditional Italian dish is made of flattened round dough topped with cheese, and tomatoes, and additionally garnished with basil, olives, and oregano.

What is the most delicious dish in the world? ›

Rendang, Indonesia. Source Often called "the world's most delicious dish," Rendang is prepared by simmering beef with coconut milk with a mixture of the best of spices including turmeric, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, chillies, and galangal.

What are the 3 sauces at Indian restaurants? ›

The three sauces at Indian restaurants most commonly served are a green sauce, brown sauce and a red sauce. In order these are, mint cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney and garlic chutney.

What curry is similar to tikka masala? ›

Butter chicken will often look very similar to chicken tikka masala; the difference is that tikka masala has more of a complex, layered flavor from the spices, while butter chicken tastes like, well, butter, with a milder, sweeter gravy.

Which Indian curry is least spicy? ›

Originating in Northern India and Pakistan, the Korma is traditionally made up of yoghurt, coconut milk and almonds, making it one of the mildest curries available.

How do you show respect to Indian people? ›

When greeting elders, some Indians may reach down and touch the ground or the elder's feet as a sign of respect. It is advisable to address people by their title (Mr, Mrs, etc.) and last name until they have indicated that you may move on to a first-name basis.

What should you not do around Indian people? ›

12 Indian Etiquette Don'ts
  • Don't Wear Tight or Revealing Clothing. ...
  • Don't Wear Your Shoes Inside. ...
  • Don't Point Your Feet or Finger at People. ...
  • Don't Eat Food or Pass Objects With Your Left Hand. ...
  • Don't Be Offended by Intrusive Questions. ...
  • Don't Always Be Polite. ...
  • Don't Outright Decline an Invitation or Request.
May 16, 2019

What is considered most disrespectful and respectful in Indian culture? ›

Never touch anything with your feet, and don't point the bottom of your feet at religious altars or toward people. To avoid this, sit cross-legged or kneel on the floor while in a temple or holy place. If you must extend your legs, point them away from sacred icons. Never turn your backside to a religious statue.

What's the difference between tikka masala and vindaloo? ›

Tikka Masala: A slightly more complex sauce with Indian spices, tomatoes, onions and cream. Korma: A curry made with spices and coconut milk. Vindaloo: A spicy, sour sauce also made with a tomato base. Curry: Tomato and onion also are players here, but the darker sauce is usually heavy on cumin.

What does masala mean in Indian? ›

Masala is the Hindi word for spice. It can also be used to refer to a blend of spices which can be dry spices or a combination of dry and fresh ingredients (masala sauce or masala paste) used to flavor a dish. Indian spices are key to authentic Indian cuisine.

What is biryani in Indian food? ›

Simply put, biryani is a spiced mix of meat and rice, traditionally cooked over an open fire in a leather pot. It is combined in different ways with a variety of components to create a number of highly tasty and unique flavor combinations.

What is the main flavor in tikka masala? ›

Tikka Masala Sauce is basically a tangy spicy onion tomato sauce that has a dash of sweetness. It is frequently served with other dishes like paneer, chicken, chickpeas, and multiple vegetables in restaurants like Tikka's N's Curry's.

What's the difference between curry and tikka masala? ›

Recipes for both use the same seasonings, and appear pretty much interchangeable, except that curry often has coconut-something in it, and tikka masala is heavy on butter and cream.

What is the difference between Indian curry and masala? ›

Ultimately both curry powder and masala are blended spice mixes that can be added to food to pack a spicy and aromatic kick. In the end, the difference boils down to the different mix of spices, masala being more of a warming aromatic blend and curry powder being more of an earthy blend.

Which curry is the most popular? ›

Green curry is considered the most popular curry. With coconut milk as one of the main ingredients, there is a hint of sweet flavoring as well. Because the green curry paste is made with green chilis, it is far hotter than other curries. However, for most curry lovers, the spicier the better!

What should I order from Indian restaurant? ›

The 8 Healthiest Dishes to Order at an Indian Restaurant
  • Roti. This unleavened flatbread (meaning it is made without yeast) is made from whole-wheat flour and commonly accompanies other dishes. ...
  • Chana Masala. ...
  • Rajma. ...
  • Daal. ...
  • Baingan Bharta. ...
  • Aloo Gobi. ...
  • Raita. ...
  • 13 Delicious Fruits and Veggies That Are Perfect for Grilling.
Nov 3, 2021

What is the most popular Indian dish? ›

Curry. Curry is one of India's most popular and well-known dishes. Tomato-based curries are known as the ultimate comfort food in India, and countries all over the world have adopted this opinion too.

What is the popular type curry? ›

Some of the most popular types of curries are red, yellow, green, massaman, panang. These curries vary depending on region, but have some similarities in their makeup, like chilies, veggies, and spices.

What is a good curry to order? ›

10 Best Curries to Try
  • Goan. This dish is a combination of spices and flavors that are unique to the region of Goa in India. ...
  • Dhansak. Dhansak Curry is a popular Indian dish that originated in the state of Maharashtra in India. ...
  • Rajma Masala. ...
  • Bhuna Gosht. ...
  • Kerala. ...
  • Massaman. ...
  • Thai Red Curry. ...
  • Thai Green Curry.
Sep 20, 2022

Which curry is the sweetest? ›

Massaman curry: Masaman curry is one of the sweetest styles of curry. It's a Thai style, but is also influenced by many varieties of Indian curry. Rather than spices, most of masaman curry's flavor comes from cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, according to Traveling 9 to 5.

What color curry is spiciest? ›

Green Thai Curry is considered the hottest of all curries that will give you that burning but tasty flavor all over your mouth.

How do you eat Indian curry? ›

In lieu of forks and knives, tear long chunks of bread (in restaurants, that's usually naan) with your right hand, pulling with your thumb and forefinger while holding the rest in place with your other fingers. Wrap this around the food and gravy in your main dish and eat the whole morsel in one scoop.

Which is better butter chicken or tikka masala? ›

Chicken in tikka masala sauce tends to be more tender and juicy than butter chicken due to its marinade-containing yogurt. Butter chicken also tends to have a creamier texture. Both are tasty in their own right—it just depends on what you're craving! Try mixing them up if you want an exciting twist on your taste buds.

What is an ideal Indian dinner? ›

What should I eat for Indian dinner? Non-Vegetarian dinner ideas – Chicken curry / butter chicken/ chicken tikka masala with butter naan, roti, cumin rice or ghee rice. Vegetarian dinner – Dal makhani / Vegetable korma/ potato curry/ paneer butter masala with butter naan, roti, paratha, cumin rice or pulao.

Which is the most demanded dish? ›

CHENNAI: Biryani continues to rule India's taste buds as the dish sets new records in 2022. The classic and comforting masala dosa was the second most ordered dish on Swiggy.


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