Home Food & Drink Food A Guide to Ordering Indian Food: Indian Menu Terms & Dishes (Part-II)

A Guide to Ordering Indian Food: Indian Menu Terms & Dishes (Part-II)


Continued from A Guide to Ordering Indian Food: Indian Menu Terms & Dishes (Part-I)

Indian Breads

These Indian breads as they are known are perfect for scooping up some gravy and meat dishes. Some of them make meals in themselves and make great appetizers or snacks.


While the word Roti is generic for bread in a number or countries and cultures, when on an Indian Menu it usually refers to Tandoori Roti. Tandoori Roti is an unleavened flat bread usually round in shape and is cooked in a tandoor. It is traditionally made using whole wheat flour but some places use refined flour. Ind restaurants you often have a choice of plain roti or butter roti in which butter is smeared on the roti after cooking.


Chapati is a staple flat bread of North India and Western India. It is rather thin, unleavened cooked dough. It is a type of roti. It is cooked on a flat or slightly concave iron griddle called a tawa. If the chapati is held for about half a second directly into an open flame,it causes it to puff up with steam and is known a phulka which feels lighter than a flat fried chapati.

Naan: Tandoori Naan is made in the same way as a Tandoori Roti but is leavened (with yeast) bread that is shaped oblong or triangular kind of like an ear. Typically, the naan will be served hot and brushed with ghee or butter with an option of having it plain.

Poori or Puri

Puris are deep fried puffed whole wheat breads. Poori’s are perfectly golden colour and puffy. They are small around coaster sized and is best eaten if it is served immediately. A person can easily east as many as 5-8 of these with a meal. It’s best eaten with vegetables dishes potato masala and veg korma.

Batura or Bhatoora

A variant of the puri is the batura which is made using refined flour rather than whole wheat flour, and is leavened with yeast resulting in a soft and fluffy Indian fried bread. A Bhatura is thrice as big as a regular puri and thus a single batura, served with chole (spicy chick peas), often constitutes a full meal called Chole Bhature.


A paratha or parantha is a flatbread whole-wheat flour, pan fried in ghee or cooking oil. It is often stuffed with vegetables, such as boiled potatoes, radishes or cauliflower and/or paneer (Indian cheese)to make a stuffed paratha. A paratha (especially a stuffed one) can be eaten simply with a blob of butter spread on top but it is best served with pickles and yogurt or thick spicy curries of meat and vegetables. The paratha can be round, square or triangular. The dough used is the same as chapati dough, but it is rolled thicker and oil, butter or ghee is drizzles on it while frying. The most common parathas on Indian Menu’s are Aloo Paratha(stuffed with flavored potato and onions), Gobi Paratha (stuffed with flavored cauliflower and vegetables), Paneer paratha (stuffed with cottage cheese), Lachha Paratha (A layered plain paratha)and Keema Paratha(stuffed with flavored minced meat).


Baked flat bread like the roti made with refined flour and leavened with baking powder and whole milk yogurt. A kulcha is smeared with butter and usually topped with either onions, croiander, sesame seeds, garlic or paneer. A Kulcha can also be stuffed instead of putting topping much like a paratha. The only difference between a Kulcha and Paratha is that a Paratha is unleavened and made using whole wheat flour then fried whereas a Kulcha is leavened and made using refined white flour and can be baked or put in a tandoor.

Rice Dishes

Indians almost always have to have a bit of rice to complete a meal. While North Indians could probably do without rice for a meal, South Indians absolutely cannot. Rice is the central dish in South India and everything else is made to compliment it.

While ordering a rice preparation in a Restaurant you can take a simple rice dish or even plain boiled or steamed rice and a Dal to go with it. The more elaborate rice dishes like biryanis or Pulaos can be eaten without a dal.


This is a truly one-dish meal! Biryanis can range from medium to very hot and have veggies, meat, chicken, fish or seafood based. The vegetables or meat is marinated then cooked into a curry (with medium gravy) in a variety of spices and then layered in a large dish with pre-cooked (half cooked), fragrant, long-grained rice. A garnish of caramelized onions, mint, ghee and saffron is then added and the dish is sealed. The contents are then slow-cooked (for several hours sometimes) in their own juices! Though Biryanis don’t have much gravy once cooked, the rice is saturated with the juices from the meat or veggies it is layered with making it a complete meal. There are lots of different varieties of Biryani in India, almost every region has it’s own kind.

Pulao/ Pulav

Pulao as it is known in India is also known by different names around the world like Pilaf and pilau. It is is rice dish browned or fried in oil with whole spices, vegetables or meat and then cooked in a seasoned broth.

Jeera Rice

It is a plain rice tempered and fried with whole cumin seeds called Jeera and other spices garnished with fresh coriander. It is sometimes prepared like a pulao and is called Jeera Pulao.


While Dal is the word for lentils, it has become a generic word for dishes prepared using lentils especially the lentil soup called Dal which is a staple in Indian Cuisine. India has a variety of lentils it uses in day to day cooking in different ways. In restaurants however, dal is mainly of two types-

Dal, Peeli Dal

This is the most common type of dal found in India it is simply called Dal or Peeli Dal which means Yellow Dal. It is made of either Chana dal or Tur dal which is boiled in water with with garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin and coriander and then Tarka/ Tadka which is tempering of spices like cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, red chillies and garlic in oil added to it and fried. This is called Dal Tadka

Kali Dal or Dal Makhani

Dal Makani also called Kali dal which means black dal is made with a varety of pulses, lentils and beans which are soaked overnight and then cooked slowly, for hours on a low flame or charcoal fire. This gives it a creamy texture. It is further thickened and made rich with dollops of fresh cream and butter. It is also garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves and fresh cream/ butter. It’s a thick gravy dal and can be eaten with both Indian flat breads or rice.

Indian Desserts and Sweets

Indians have a sweet tooth and it’s no wonder with the number of varieties of desserts and sweets it has from every region of the country. Indian sweets are known as ‘Mithai’. They rely heavily on sugar, milk and condensed milk and frying, however the bases of the sweets vary by region. They more intense and sweeter than western sweets and desserts and quite a bit heavier since they’re made mainly in Ghee which is clarified butter.


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