Are you in an adventurous mood? If you haven’t eaten at an Indian restaurant before, this just might be the excitement you’ve been looking for. Indian food, especially the way it is cooked at restaurants, is quite far from anything you may have eaten before. The preparations are rich and greasy and high in calories, but the combination of curries, spices, vegetables and meats that you will experience, belong to a diverse family of tastes that cannot simply be dismissed as ‘spicy.’ However, unless you have the dough and the patience to gamble on a total surprise, it is best to go in with a few tips.
The first thing to do is hope for a friendly server who can talk you through some of the specialties of the restaurant, and guide you on the best combinations and spicy v/s non-spicy menu items. Naturally, if you eat meats, you will have a much wider variety at your disposal, and the main meats in the Indian cuisine are chicken and mutton. Sea food generally figures only in coastal cuisines. Vegetarians can take heart, though, because vegetarianism is a common practice in India, and they will probably find more choice than they are used to.
Typically, an Indian meal starts with a serving of roasted meats or vegetables, served with a series of condiments and without breads. Usually the server will even give you the option of a spicy or non-spicy preparation for your starter. Tandoori chicken is a very popular starter. The chicken is roasted in a traditional Indian oven known as a “tandoor,” and is served dry. Vegetarians should go for Paneer Tikka, which consists of cubes of Indian cottage cheese, known as “paneer.” In fact, paneer is considered the most special ‘goody’ for vegetarians in an Indian restaurant.
The main course menu consists of different preparations of chicken, mutton, paneer or vegetables, usually cooked in gravy. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that the gravy in each dish is more or less the same. The gravies can be very different from each other. Here you will need to get some help from your server. Try out the restaurant’s specialty first.
To complement the flavors of a main course dish, people will generally also order a Daal Makhani, which is essentially a curried preparation of black pulses and beans. These main course dishes can either be served with an accompaniment of steamed rice or various kinds of Indian flatbreads. The fluffy Garlic Naan is a good choice amongst the breads, although it is very large and heavy. Roti is the lightest bread, and is both dry and crisp. Parantha is greasier, but it is extremely soft and has such a special flavor of its own that it can be enjoyed by itself too.
Well, you are now ready to take the plunge. I envy what you have in store for you!
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