Indian for Beginners: Make Your Next Food Delivery the Tastiest Ever!

Posted by on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 with 2 Comments

Ordering Indian food for beginners can be a little intimidating… even if you’ve been to one of the ubiquitous buffets spread across the U.S. While Indian buffets can be wonderful — you get to try a lot of different dishes without committing to a whole portion of something that might turn out to be too spicy for your taste — you might not remember what your favorite dish is called, and have no idea how to order the next time you go to a non-buffet restaurant!

When it’s Indian food delivery day at the office, don’t default to the most familiar-looking item on the menu: the following list includes some delicious yet approachable dishes to broaden your horizons outside the buffet.

tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken may look hot, but it’s a milder Indian option.
Image source: Flickr user raymondtan85

But, let’s go ahead and start with the most familiar-sounding item on the menu! Tandoori chicken is marinated with yogurt and spices (usually some combination including turmeric, chile powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, or garlic) and cooked for a long time in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoor itself and the spices lend the chicken its vibrant red color, but this dish isn’t nearly as hot as it looks.

Ordering for a group of potentially picky eaters? Get things started with a crowd-pleasing round of samosas: delicious, triangle-shaped pockets of dough (usually fried, but sometimes baked) that are stuffed with peas, potatoes, and onions, and generally considered an appetizer. Samosas are usually served with dipping sauces like chutney (similar to an Indian version of salsa, chutneys are spiced fruit and/or vegetable-based sauces) or raita (a yogurt-based sauce that works beautifully to cool your tongue alongside spicier dishes).

samosas takeout box

Samosas are a crowd-pleasing Indian takeout staple.
Image source: flickr user Matt Biddulph

Just don’t get samosas confused with pakora — while both include fried vegetables, samosas are stuffed pockets of dough while pakora are more like vegetable fritters. Cauliflower, onion, eggplant, and potato are common choices, and again, these are a no-brainer for diners new to Indian cuisine.

More vegetable goodness awaits: don’t miss out on saag paneer. “Saag” indicates leafy greens like spinach, and saag paneer is cooked with bubbly cheese and (in most American restaurants) a “healthy” dose of cream. Saag paneer might also contain mustard greens, broccoli, or collards — not just spinach.

saag paneer

Saag paneer is full of bubbly cheese, greens, and cream.
Image source: Flickr user mike fabio

Chances are, if you’ve ever eaten Indian food before in your life, you’ve had naan. It’s ubiquitous, and delicious, a fluffy bread that can be used a side dish or a utensil — scoop up your entree with a piece of naan, sop up the juices left on your plate, or just take a bite alongside a spicy curry dish to take some of the heat off. Aside from naan, you might try roti or chapati, unleavened breads that are quite lighter and thinner than naan — in fact, roti is sometimes used like a tortilla to make a wrap.

You’ll certainly see quite a few “masala” dishes sprinkled throughout Indian menus, and the word merely indicates a spice mix was used in preparation. Chana masala is a vegetarian dish with chickpeas (“chana”) stewed in tomatoes, onions, and its namesake spice mix. Tikka masala includes chunks (“tikka”) of spiced meat cooked in a tomato-based sauce. Chicken tikka masala has a somewhat dubious level of authenticity, but it’s an incredibly popular dish and a great intro for beginners.

chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is another popular dish, and full of flavor without being overwhelmingly spicy.
Image source: flickr user leigh wolf

A biryani is a protein or mix of vegetables cooked into a curry with plenty of spices, and then mixed with pre-cooked rice and allowed to slow-cook in its own juices. Biryani may be often overlooked on menus by newbies, but are one of the most flavorful (yet generally not too spicy) dishes to try!

If you like spicy, madras curries will be right up your alley… but make sure to have plenty of rice or naan to pair alongside it. Another must-try for spice fanatics (and something to avoid if you have a sensitive palate!) are vindaloo dishes, traditionally made with pork, but now frequently made with lamb, chicken, and beef. Rogan josh is a traditional lamb or goat curry from Northern India, made with a special blend of spices and tomato-based sauce.

If you think you don’t like eggplant, you owe it to yourself to try baingan bharta. Mashed, curried eggplant mixed with tomatoes and other veggies, this dish just might make you a convert (and it’s a wonderfully hearty option to order for vegetarians).

baingan bharta

Baingan bharta is a mashed and curried (and delicious) eggplant dish.
Image source: Flickr user sarverr62

And finally, if you see thali on a menu, order it! This is sort of like an Indian sampler platter – a collection of small bowls with a variety of dishes, including rice, bread, pickles, and chutneys as well as heartier dishes. It’s a great way to try a variety of items, even if you’re stuck eating at your desk.

When it comes to Indian food delivery, makes it easy to discover your new favorite dish! Place a large order for a group and create your own makeshift Indian buffet in the lunch room, or simply grab a few coworkers and share a few items.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

2 responses to “Indian for Beginners: Make Your Next Food Delivery the Tastiest Ever!”

  1. Amy Winters says:

    As I was reading your article, you state that the best Indian Food for picky eaters are samosas. My daughter is one of the pickiest eaters I know, and she hates trying new things. If we get Indian food take out anytime in the future, I will remember to order samosas.