If you’re interested in Indian food then this is something for you. Indian cuisine is quite extensive and this will just scratch the surface, but should still be somewhat informative. You might want to check out the spices glossary as well.
The staples of Indian cuisine include, but are not limited to: paneer, gravy, rice, roti, onions, ghee and spices, such as cumin (jeera), garlic, capsicum and coriander.
Many meals come in veg or non-veg variants. The non-veg is usually chicken but it can be mutton too. Fish isn’t that popular, except for some parts of the country (Goa, Kerala). Beef or pork is usually served only in tourist resorts and almost always in non-Indian meals.
In the restaurant
When ordering food you usually have to combine different dishes; not all items on the menu are complete meals by themselves. If eating in company it is customary that everyone gets a little of everything, and this is how the waiter will serve the food, unless told otherwise. A basic paneer and rice meal is enough for two.
The serving dishes are, after the initial portioning, placed on the table. In some restaurants a waiter will hover by the table and eagerly put some more food on your plate when it starts looking empty. If they’re awkward with the portioning – many are – it gets awkward for everyone, kind of like being with a stranger in an elevator that is half the size it should be; you don’t know if you should look at the plate, the waiter, the ceiling or your phone. Oh look I got a message! Ah, no I didn’t. Remember to be silent and not to breathe, otherwise they might take offense. I might be exaggerating a bit.
If you have a meal which can be eaten without cutlery, remember to use your right hand, since the left is generally associated with something else than eating. Once done with the meal, you’ll be served a so called finger bowl; it’s a cup with warm water and a piece of lemon in it. Don’t drink it – it’s not dessert tea! Clean your fingers in it and press the lemon for some added citric freshness.
You should also get a bowl filled with different colored tiny bits. Those are jeera seeds – some coated with caramel, some with mint and some just plain. There might also be a few chunks of sugar in the mix. These are breath fresheners and are meant to round off the whole culinary experience. Put some in your right hand – not the left one – and flip the whole load in your mouth. Enjoy – and don’t forget to pay the bill. Tipping is optional but it’s always nicer for everyone if there’s a little extra.