The Rough Guide to Indian Food

So, this is a general rough guide to Indian food types, it isn’t exhaustive, but will help you identify food on a menu. As a general rule, the further south you go, the hotter and spicier the food gets. Northern Indian food has lots of influence from Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine, while the further south you go, the more Iberian influences you get. The British and Americans tend to like their food spicier than most Indians.

So that said, here’s a rough run down.


This is a baked rice dish, heavily flavored, with lots of influence from Persian cuisine, found predominantly in the Muslim cultures of India. It is essentially a baked rice and meat layered thing where the meat has been heavily spiced and marinated in yogurt. It can range from mild to spicy, but will be flavorful. This is your “Its Christmas Day!” meal


Tikka usually refers to well, a piece of meat. If you encounter this in a restaurant, you’re going to get either grilled meat (Meat Tikka), or bite sized pieces of meat in a sauce (Meat tikka masala). These tend towards medium spicy.


Tandoori is a method of cooking. Generally a tandoor is a clay oven that reaches temperatures of about 900F. Meat is marinated in a spicy yogurt and then cooked over coals. The yogurt will drip down onto the coals, and the smoke generated there also helps give tandoori food its distinctive flavor. There’s a lot of prep work involved in this, so this gets wheeled out on special occasions.


This is a general term, introduced mainly by the Brits. It is basically meat in gravy. It’s designed for a western audience and spiced accordingly.


This is a rich, creamy dish of Mughal origin. Lots of North Indian flavors with Persian influences. Its opulent, and very mild on the heat scale.


This is a dish that originates in Bengal. As such, it tends to be spicy, and not as heavily “sauced” as curry or korma


This, honestly, is one of my favorites. The original form of this is a spicy (really spicy), vinegary, garlicy, tamarindy, Goan dish, that’s based on the Portuguese vinha d’alhos. The version you get in restaurants is a pale imitation of the original (recipe can be found here), but the original version is delightful in all its flavors.


Cheese. Delicious delicious cheese. This is an acid cured cheese, generally made with cow’s milk. It can be pressed to remove as much moisture as possible and then used in curries or fried.



If you’ve found this, then I’m assuming you’re interested in food and cooking. This is pretty much a place holder page, but what I’m planning to do is post about Indian food, Indian spices, the cooking hacks I’ve learned, and the fusion food that comes out of my home kitchen. Enjoy!