There is so much Indian food to try which varies from state to state that you will never get bored of it. I wanted to have other travel bloggers who are based in India or are Indian tell their favorite food in India so that you can look for them on menus and try all the best Indian dishes.
People do worry about the food in India (I get a lot of emails about it), but there’s nothing to worry about. It’s not as spicy as you think and you don’t always get sick! When I first came here it was just “green goo” and “red good” in my mind. I ordered palak paneer over and over. But, once I branched out while eating with locals, I realized I was missing some amazing food. Don’t make that mistake because food is the best in India so you should try it all.
If you’re going to South India, check out my article about how food down there is different. You can also read up on my post for how to eat street food in India and not get sick. If you’re wondering if you are really going to be eating with your hands here, the answer is yes, and it’s the best! These are some favorites (3 from me) from some bloggers here in India so that you can try the best food. As you read my blog each destination I also share the food I tried there and photos, like this amazing set up in Mysore.
Top Indian food you should try while traveling India
I am going to share my favorite things first! In all coastal places, there will probably be some kind of fish or prawn thali. In Goa, I get this a lot! I love thalis in general because it’s a plate that has a little bit of everything: usually, a couple curries, pickle, bread, papad, rice, chutneys, and it will change from state to state. You can also go for “rava fry” seafood which is when the prawns, fish, or mussels are coated in semolina and some spice and fried.
Malai Chicken Tikka
I live for this meal! This is chicken (always leg meat, so tender) marinated in a creamy cheese sauce then cooked in a tandoor. I love to actually wrap this up with the curd salad into a cheese naan and have a wrap! It’s great when you don’t want something spicy (chicken tikka kebab) and want something almost a little like flavors you would eat in the West.
Chili Pork Ribs and Pork Coorg Style (Pandi Curry)
Okay, the last one from me is all about PORK. I love Pandi curry, which is a pork curry from Coorg. When I had it in Coorg, it was so spicy, but elsewhere it has never lived up to that. I love it at Gunpowder though (a restaurant in Goa) who also do chili pork ribs with similar flavours. Also pictured in this photo is from veg curry (coconut based, very South Indian), some Andrah Pradesh style prawns with fried onions, and do you see that flakey bread? Malabar paratha is THE BEST bread in the entire world and it a south Indian style of paratha (not healthy) that when you see it on a menu, you must order it. (For more, check my top things to do in Coorg here)
Gol Gappa / Pani Puri
If there was the last wish I was asked for – my answer would be Gol Gappa without a doubt. Gol Gappa or Pani Puri is the most ubiquitous street food in India. It is known by different names in different parts of the country like Pani Puri in Maharashtra, Puchka in Kolkata and Pani Batashe in Madhya Pradesh. In North India, we call Gol Gappe. Like a true representative of Indian diversity, It changes flavors with every city and town. In North, the filing is potato and chilled water flavored with mint, tamarind and various spices including mango in season.
In South, it goes with mashed boiling hot green peas and in Kolkata just the flavored water. You can identify a Gol Gappa vendor when you see these fluff crunchy puris piled on top of each other next to spiced water container. The Puri is picked up one by one filled with stuffing and then water is added before serving it on your plate. You can customize the taste on the go. To have the real taste of Gol Gappa – you must eat it at a street vendor. Upmarket places have just not managed to replicate the taste of India’s best-loved street food. Let me assure you-you can never have just one Gol Gappa. -Anuradha, Inditales
Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Ki Roti
As much as I truly love Indian food – and the spicier the better! – I don’t really consider myself a foodie. Except for one dish: the Punjabi classic sarson ka saag and makki ki roti. There is something about the fragrance, taste, and heartiness of this meal that gets me salivating in seconds. The saag is made from mustard greens, cooked with spices and ghee, and the roti is made from makki, corn flour, and yes, also slathered with ghee. It’s also often served with chunks of gur, which is basically just jaggery and very sweet. This is not a dish for the diet conscious! Mostly eaten in North India in winter, when the mustard greens are harvested and people feel the need for warming and hearty foods, it’s almost a rite of passage in Delhi. Dilli ki sardi (Delhi in winter) would not be the same without it. You can get it in just about every Punjabi restaurant in winter, and probably most Punjabi dhabas (roadside stalls), too. Of course, like most Indian food, if you can get sarson ka saag and makki ki roti in a Punjabi family home, that will be the best of all. Along with being tasty and filling, there’s another great thing about sarson ka saag and makki ki roti: it’s naturally gluten free if the roti is made from pure corn flour, or corn flour mixed with another non-gluten containing flour like besan (chickpea flour) or lentil flour. Mariellen, Breathe Dream Go
Kochuri-Aloor Dum food is one of the most sought-after, authentic street foods in Calcutta. This is also known as ‘Kachori’ in other parts of India, particularly the Hindi speaking states. The hot, piping, fluffy Kochuri which is essentially made with flour and has a couple of variants. You would find this with stuffed peas and without it.
The Kochuri with stuffed peas brings out the essence of the recipe and takes it to an ultimate gastronomical delight. The Aloor Dum is rich, hot, spicy (well, not that spicy after all), juicy and tangy potatoes with a thick gravy that accentuates the taste of the dry Kochuri. When the two comes together, it’s an explosion inside your mouth. It’s a common sight in quite every neighborhood of Kolkata. Long queues of office goers grabbing a plateful of their favorite Kochuri and Aloor Dum during the morning hours of the day – weekdays or weekends.
It is a magical foodies delight. And the best part of this ultimate foodie experience – it’s way too cheap for a quick bite that fills up your belly till you have the next full meal. Most eateries of Kolkata will sell this inimitable dish within a price range of Rs. 20 – 40 for a piece of Rs. 5 for each Kochuri. The Aloor-Dum gravy comes complimentary with the Kochuri. That’s easy on the pocket. Isn’t it? -Amit, Black Board
There are sweets and then there is Jalebi the quintessential desi mithai that represent the deliciously functioning anarchy called India. No stenciled perfectly cut square like Barfee for Jalebi, and no sir every Jalebi has a mind of its own and flows freely to form her own shape and style. You may love Rosgulla for all its juices but it has been canned, It is the Jalebi that remains 100 % desi at heart and soul and you need to walk up to the tiny shops in the old part of cities like Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Varanasi and Hyderabad to get piping hot fresh from her dip in simmering desi ghee followed by a lazy rendezvous with thick sugar syrup that gives her the finger licking awesomeness.Forget fork and knife you are not even allowed to use a spoon to enjoy a jalebi. If you want to enjoy a Jalebi desi style roll up your sleeves, pick up the one you fancy from the just filled plate by the Halwai and quickly take it to your mouth. You will miss on the taste if you let it get cold by even one degree, for a jalebi is like an affair best enjoyed steaming hot, you know you are sinning but you want more and more and more. And let me warn you no matter how careful you are just like your affair a Jalebi will leave tell-tale signs on your clothes and on your palette. Go ahead visit the smallest hole in the wall shop in Chandni Chowk in Delhi or the Jalebi Chowk in Amritsar to get the best Jalebis in town, enjoy and send me a thank you note for you have just enjoyed the queen of dessert that only true Indophiles can enjoy. – Prasad Np, desi Traveler
Parsi Bun Maska
My favorite ‘Indian classic’ food is Parsi Bun Maska. Although it’s a simple breakfast dish with a bun and butter, it’s special for the feeling it evokes. There’s a kind of Iranian fun and off-the-cuff attitude that comes along with their dishes, which is interesting to taste and savor.
Bun Maskas are served in Irani cafes in Mumbai and also in various places in South Asia. Irani cafes were originally started by Zoroastrian Irani immigrants to India and Pakistan in the 19th century. In the present age, Hyderabad has the maximum number of Irani cafés, which are renowned for Irani chai.
So, if you ever happen to visit an Irani café or a restaurant, make sure you ask for a ‘Bun Maska’ with a cup of Irani chai. It’s not just a good breakfast option, but you can have it anytime of the day – late afternoon or in the evening while you hang out with your friends.It’s a great way to soak in the Parsi way of life because it’s their typical style of having bread with butter. To try a Parsi breakfast or any of their authentic dishes, you can visit Kayani Bakery in South Mumbai. – Renuka, Voyager for Life
Mirchi ke Pakode and Dry Fruits Samosa
These two snacks are basically two different items and largely available in Rajasthan. They are to be consumed at tea time or as cocktail or bar snacks, with or without chutney. There is an undeniable relationship of their consumption to monsoon season.
Mirchi ke Pakode: Pakoda (plural pakode) is a generic Indian name for the many types of fritters. These may be sliced, diced vegetables or mashed vegetables, breaded using a batter made of chickpea flour. Mirchi, here, is a large sized green pepper (Chilli) which is stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes. This is then breaded and deep-fried for a mouth-watering and probably eye-watering (for some) snack. These are generally available in roadside stalls and many of the restaurants throughout Rajasthan.
Dry Fruit Samosa: Samosas are generally made with mashed potatoes and sometimes cooked vegetables are added to it, which are filled into a triangular shell of rolled dough and fried. Dry fruit samosas are different because they are smaller in size and the major ingredients of the filling are cashews, almonds and sometimes raisins. Although it goes by the same name, dry fruit samosa is never found on street carts or snack shops. In fact, these are generally served as cocktail snacks in parties and are also available in sealed packs in stores. You also get baked samosa if you want to check on your calories. Nisha, Lemonicks
Mumbai like most of India is an onslaught to your sense. If you find the sights and sounds overwhelming, you’ll find comfort in the food. Mumbai proudly boasts of a popular street food culture that is largely vegetarian in nature. All worth indulging in, but I find that there’s one dish that in my opinion represents the real essence of Mumbai style food and that is Pav Bhaji.
It literally translates to Bread ( pav ) and Vegetables ( bhaji) , this is a concoction of cooked vegetables, (mainly boiled potatoes, peas, carrots, capsicum, ) and spices mashed down to an almost watery pulpy consistency with generous dollops of butter along with a toasted pav. Served with a garnish of freshly cut coriander, chopped onions, a squeeze of lime and another dollop of butter for good measure. This calorific dish is hearty and substantial since it was invented by Mill workers in the late 1800’s. It was meant to be a poor man’s dish that would keep them full during grueling work hours in Mumbai once flourishing Cotton mills. The addition of excess butter was not in the original recipe but over the years Mumbaikars have learnt to relish it and the more buttery, the better.
You can find this on any street , at Juhu Beach or Girgaum Chowpatty Beach but if you’re skeptical to eat off the road, most hotels or restaurants serving Indian food have it on their menu. –Roxy, Tiny Taster
Dall baati choorma is the traditional dish from the state of Rajasthan. It is essentially a lentil curry (mixture of dalls) and wheat flour balls baked by burying into burning embers. There are two different types of baatis as well – steamed and fried and all three are served at festivals. Choorma is a sweet dish that is made by smashing the baati and mixing it with ghee, ground sugar and almonds.
Among other accompaniments to the dall baati choorma (Rajasthani Thali) is gatte ki subzi (ground bengal gram vegetable), and a fiery-red garlic chutney. The more elaborate and authentic thalis also have a smattering of kair and sangri (desert plants and beans). The dish is eaten by mixing the baati with ghee and dall.
Dall Baati Choorma is available across the entire state of Rajasthan as it is the staple food of the masses. Every region has a different flavour though and the dhabas of Jodhpur are popular. One can sample dall baati choorma at eateries located near the railway stations and bus stands in Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Bundi etc. Among the top recommended places for the best dall baati choorma in Rajasthan are the dhabas at Mangalwad Chouraha near Chittorgarh. -Shubham, Travel Shoe Bum
This Maharashtrian staple looks brown and watery until it is plated. That’s when it comes into its own – after being topped with generous handfuls of besan chivda, chopped onions, coriander and a dash of lemon juice.
The gravy consists of pulses and sprouts which makes for a healthy base. It’s another matter altogether that they are cooked in enough red chilli powder to last a British family an entire year! Just kidding, although spicy, missal pao is our favourite quick meal while travelling anywhere around Mumbai.
It’s available almost everywhere and Puneri missal is in a league of its own. While studying there for two years, Ankita tried it at numerous places but the most authentic one was served at the little shanty at the back of her college, FLAME Institute of Communication.
The missal at small tapris comes closest to the ones cooked by Marathi women in their own homes. All that awesomeness is mopped up with plain pav. Unlike pav bhaji, here the pav is rarely roasted or buttered unless you ask for it. If you ask us, the softness helps appreciate the missal better.
A healthier and kinder version of this dish is usal, which can also be had as a side dish with lunch or dinner. We love the missal served at Kamat restaurants across the state as well. In Panchgani, one of those came to our rescue when we were seeking a late lunch, having lost all track of time in our sight-seeing. – Ankita and Mohit, Trail Stained Fingers
If you like stories, here’s one about the legendary Tunday kebab Lucknow. Once a Nwab wanted to eat his favourite kebab but had no teeth left anymore. To satisfy his royal cravings, a new kebab was invented which was so soft that it would melt in your mouth – and that’s the birth of the Tunday kebab. Made only in the erstwhile city of Lucknow, the most famous Tunday kebab is Galawati Kebab which basically comes from the term ‘gala’ or soft. The recipe uses papaya as a softening agent and also includes about 150 different ingredients in it’s preparation. It’s also a popular kebab with many Bollywood personalities who have been patrons of the food here for decades, including Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan.
The recipe of the kebab is a closely guarded family secret, and even the cooks who make it everyday don’t know anything more than the basic ingredients. The kebab is simple in taste and beautifully retains the original taste of meat and is best served with Sheermal paratha (saffron bread with a but of saffron) and sprinkled with lemon juice. The best way to complete a meal of kebab would be to top it up with steaming hot gulab jamuns – the quintessential north Indian sweet made in a shop right opposite the one which makes the kebab. -Sid, Sid the Wanderer
Idlis, Dosais, and Vadais
There are many Indias in India and you can see this diversity in food. Think South Indian cuisine and the most common food is a plate of idly and vadai or masala or plain dosai. This is the staple breakfast of every South Indian in the country, irrespective of which state he comes from. They are however synonymous with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka . The idli is perhaps the healthiest as its a steamed preparation of batter which includes rice and lentils that has been fermented overnight. The softer, fluffier and tender the idli, the more delicious it is. Dosai looks like a pancake and is made with a similar variety of batter . However it is not steamed but cooked with oil on a hot plate. It is served plain or with a spicy curry of potato and onion. Vadai , shaped like a doughnut adds variety to the breakfast. Prepared with lentils , it is deep fried and is served crisp and hot. All the dishes are served with chutney and sambar, a spicy curry made with lentils and tamarind paste and spices. Although the trio is synonymous with South India, you can get it anywhere in the country today but the preparation may not be very authentic. They are ideally served for breakfast but you can have them any time of the day. -Lakshmi, Lakshmi Sharath
If there is one go-to breakfast, lunch or dinner the Punjabis in North India have, chhole-bhature it is. Chhole-Bhature (pronounced CHHO-LAY BH-TOO-RAY) is a two-part combo, served with chopped onions and pickles. While ‘chhole’ is a white gram curry preparation, Bhatura (plural: Bhature) is deep-fried bread made with the dough of Maida – also called all-purpose flour, Maida is bran-free flour that is refined and bleached.
Chhole are a semi-gravy preparation that is the mandated ‘side’ for the bread called Bhature. The white gram are boiled, allowed to simmer on slow fire with spices and basically cooked till its aroma is good enough to entice you from reasonably far away. While chhole are prepared in advance, bhature are deep fried till they are a perfect shade of golden-brown, fresh on order. This dish is normally available in any eatery that serves Punjabi food.
While you could order chhole-bhature anywhere, and while I could share some interesting places where you may try them, I am a believer of teaching you how to fish, rather than giving you a fish. That would suitably arm you to wade the convoluted and complex world of Indian Eateries and help you land a tasty meal on your table. So, for that, here are the tips:
Look around to see if others around are also ordering chhole-bhature in that eatery. Check if they make fresh bhature. Ask if they serve chopped onions. Find out if they have mixed vegetable pickle. If it is a Yay for all of the above, go ahead and take the plunge!
Once the dish is served, depending on your personal liking, break a piece of bhatura (the Maida bread), add a bit of pickle to it, ladle up some chhole on to it and pop it in your the mouth. Soon as you do that, shove some chopped onions also into your mouth. And then, allow the tastes and textures to burst forth – the spicy yet tasty chhole, the sour pickles, the crunch of raw onions and the crispy-soft texture of the bhatura. Then on, don’t stop. Just go on.
A word of caution: It is a calorifically rich dish. No matter how strongly you are urged by the sins of greed and gluttony, exercise moderation. For some not used to spicy food, the morning after is the time for retribution, as some other orifice will pay back for the sins of the orifice called ‘mouth’. -Ajay, the Travelure