From remote tribal villages to frenzied capital cities, in India, food is life’s organizing principle. For our August/September 2014
special India issue, we traversed the massive subcontinent, dipping into restaurants, markets, and homes to discover dishes both classic and new. From chutneys to flatbreads to regional specialties like Goa’s pork vindaloo and Hyderabad’s unique biryani, here are all the recipes from issue #167.
Pistachios, cardamom seeds, and saffron are mixed into yogurt to make this cool and creamy dessert.
Khoya, a rich curd made by reducing milk for several hours, forms the base for these syrup-soaked confections.
Green, unripe mangos are simmered with cardamom and clove to yield this tangy, spicy condiment. Smita Chandra, who wrote about her mother’s homemade pickles in Preserving Culture, slathers it atop flaky paratha flatbreads. See the recipe for Aamba Khatta (Sweet and Sour Mango Pickle) » James Roper
This sweet riff on the Indian yogurt drinks known as lassis comes from Lingaraj Lassi, a popular refreshment stand in Bhubaneshwar in the east Indian state of Odisha. Its honeyed taste and caramel hue come from the sugars in the milk, which caramelize as the milk reduces, deepening and intensifying it in color and flavor.
This vegetarian Indian dish from the state of West Bengal features squash, potatoes, and gourds enriched with ghee and sweetened with grated coconut. Gently spiced with clove, cardamom, and cinnamon, it gets a touch of heat from green chiles. See the recipe for Ghanta Tarkari (Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry) » James Roper
Sweet shrimp are fried with fragrant spices and aromatics and then ground to create this homestyle dish from the east Indian state of Odisha. Fresh cilantro adds a zesty, herbaceous note.
In the east Indian state of Odisha, this lentil stew, fragrant with coconut and enriched with silky, thinly sliced onions and long-simmered sweet potatoes, is an everyday staple.
There are thousands of variations on garam masala, but Keralan versions tend to emphasize star anise and cardamom.
No Bengali meal is complete without maacher jhol, fish simmered in a tomato-based curry scented with mustard oil and the region’s distinctive mix of five spices: toasted fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, and fennel seeds.
A salt and spice cure transforms fresh citrus into tart, briny pickles that perk up many Indian meals. Smita Chandra uses them as a condiment to punch up soft naan flatbreads and steamed white rice.
Triangular deep-fried pastries stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas are an iconic Indian snack. Pair them with tangy tamarind chutney or herbaceous coconut-cilantro chutney for dipping. See the recipe for Samosas (Fried Potato-Filled Pastries) » James Roper
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Home cook Yamini Joshi gave us the recipe for this Punjabi dessert of cardamom-spiced milk bolstered by toasted vermicelli noodles, dried fruit, and nuts.
This classic Indian street snack flavors potato and chickpeas with an earthy combination of mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves, and chiles. The savory mixture is dressed up with sweet tamarind chutney and crunchy fried chickpea noodles. Add cooling yogurt and cilantro or mint chutney for tangy and herbaceous counterpoints. See the recipe for Aloo Chana Chaat (Potato and Chickpea Snack) » James Roper
Get the recipe for Vegetarian Potato and Cabbage Curry »
On the Indian table, where utensils are rare, flatbreads sop up soupy dishes and wrap morsels of food. The everyday flatbread is chapati, also known as roti, a pliant round made from whole wheat flour dough that is cooked on a dry skillet and then inflated and browned over an open flame. See the recipe for Chapatis (Whole Wheat Indian Flatbread) » James Roper
Ideal Corner, a restaurant in Mumbai’s Fort district, specializes in the cuisine of the Parsi, followers of the prophet Zoroaster who began emigrating to India around the eighth century from Persia. The cuisine still bears that ancient influence: meats and vegetables paired with sweet and sour flavors and lavished with diverse spices. In this Parsi chicken curry, the sharp, sweet notes of the fruit and the spices—chiles, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom—infuse the rich gravy and make for a complex interplay of sweet, sour, and piquant. See the recipe for Jardalu ma Marghi (Parsi-Style Chicken Curry with Apricots and Shoestring Potatoes) » James Roper
This zippy raita gets its punch from green Thai chiles and its sweetness from pineapple. A piquant mixture of black mustard seeds, dried red chiles, and curry leaves lends the sauce an earthy spice.
Get the recipe for Spicy Pineapple Yogurt (Kaitha Chaka Pachadi) »
This Indian chutney uses an array of ingredients, blending yellow split peas with coconut, cilantro, ginger, and chile.
This fragrant sauce is great with dosas, the fermented lentil and rice crêpes common in south India. It’s dead simple to make, using just a few vibrant ingredients to deliver big flavor: Fresh curry leaves form the base, with sweetness from jaggery (an unrefined sugar), spice from ginger, and sourness from tamarind.
This basic raita is a cooling counterpoint to fiery foods, thanks to its foundation of full-fat yogurt, cucumber, and mint. Plum tomatoes add a hint of acid, Thai chiles heat, and cumin a slight earthiness.
Descended from Persian Zoroastrians—followers of the prophet Zoroaster who began emigrating to India around the eighth century—Parsis in India have their own distinct food. This Parsi fish dish, commonly featured at weddings, is adapted from a recipe in Raghavan Iyer’s
660 Curries (Workman, 2008). White-fleshed fish is bathed in a spiced coconut-tamarind sauce and steamed until tender in fragrant banana leaves.
Goan Pork Vindaloo Curry »
In Goa, a tiny, palm-fringed state on the western coast of India, seafood is central to the cuisine. Beloved regional specialty sembharachi kodi, or shrimp in a coconut curry, is prepared a number of ways, but always with the freshest local shellfish simmered in a rich, chile-spiked coconut sauce.
Get the recipe for Goanese Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi) »
When author VK Sreelesh’s in-laws get together in the South Indian state of Kerala, they prepare traditional Keralan dishes such as this beet thoran, which his mother-in-law, Shyamala, and her cousin Jayanti make with tender ruby-red beets that are stir-fried with chiles, turmeric, and coconut oil. Shreelesh and his family devour the dish with rice, watching as the white grains turn a deep crimson red. See the recipe for Beetroot Thoran (South Indian Beet Stir-Fry) » James Roper
Cookbook author and cooking instructor Smita Chandra visited the SAVEUR test kitchen to help us develop the recipe for this classic South Indian soup, which is soured with tamarind and spiced with black pepper, coriander, cumin, and rasam powder—a toasted blend of chana dal, chiles, and whole spices, which can be made or purchased from specialty stores. See the recipe for Smita Chandra’s Rasam (Spicy Tamarind Soup) Ingalls Photography
In early spring, the first of the season’s unripe mangoes are eagerly anticipated in India. Green, unripe mangoes, with their tart flavor and rich pectins, are used to add tang to all sorts of dishes, from dals to desserts. Here, they are boiled until tender and blended with sweet jaggery, pungent black salt, asafoetida, and other spices in a thirst-quenching north Indian drink.
Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal)
Dosas (South Indian Fermented Lentil and Rice Crêpes)
In early spring, green, unripe mangoes are a featured ingredient in the daily menu at Raja Sulaiman Khan’s home in Lucknow, India. Here, amchoor—dried green mango—adds sour pungency to creamy lentils.
This richly spiced chicken dish is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s classic
Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). According to Jaffrey, “What gives this a very special southern flavor is the use of fennel seeds, curry leaves, and, of course, the pulse (legume) urad dal. This is definitely a dish you will want to make very frequently.” We couldn’t agree more. Get the recipe for Chettinad Pepper Chicken »
Sakkarai Pongal, Tamil-Style Rice Pudding »
Carved out of ten former districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangan officially became India’s 29th state in June 2014. For this eponymous dish from Telangana home cook Padma Reddy, the skin is removed from the chicken to allow the flavors of the marinade—coconut, lime, garlic, ginger, cardamom, mace and more—to penetrate.
Get the recipe for Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew »
This Mumbai street-food snack was inspired by a recipe from cookbook author and teacher Raghavan Iyer. Mashed potatoes are seasoned with cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger, and chile; balls of the aromatic mash are then coated in a turmeric-accented chickpea-flour batter and deep-fried until crisp and golden. See the recipe for Aloo Bonda (Indian Mashed Potato Fritters) » Ingalls Photography
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as strawberries or ripe mangoes. In the South India city of Hyderabad, the most popular lassi is made with Rooh Afza, a rose-scented syrup made with botanicals and sugar.
Writer VK Sreelesh’s in-laws live in the south Indian state of Kerala, along the Malabar Coast, where people’s diets are heavily influenced by the area’s abundant supply of seafood. One of his favorite dishes is this fried bullseye fish, seasoned with turmeric and chile powder and fried in coconut oil. While small bullseye fish or sardines are traditionally used, salmon, shrimp, or snapper, as we’ve used here, also work.
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as Rooh Afza, a scarlet-colored syrup tasting of rose petals and pine, or—for this recipe—ripe mangoes, resulting in a refreshing drink that’s as thick as a milkshake.
This extravagantly spiced black chai tea, infused with ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper, is a staple in Northeast India. It is often served on city streets by vendors, who hawk the hot steaming beverage from makeshift metal trays. See the recipe for Masala Chai » Ingalls Photography
Green mango and aromatic mint combine to delicious effect for this tart, refreshing Indian purée. Green Thai chiles lend a spicy note, while cumin and the garlic-like powder asafoetida give an earthy backbone to the condiment.
Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and crafted from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, but many home cooks make it on the stovetop.
In Lucknow, India, the hakims—local practitioners of Yunani medicine, derived from ancient Greece and focused on balancing the humors in the body—concoct cooling drinks to beat the heat. Called by the Persian name sharbat, the iced drinks often contain sweet and tart fruits and pungent and fiery spices. This refreshing cooler gets a carbonated lift from seltzer and a pleasantly saline tang from black salt and dried mango powder.
When writer VK Sreelesh visits his in-laws’ house in the south Indian state of Kerala, papaya thoran is almost always on the table. Thoran is usually a dried dish that is mixed and eaten with rice; its ingredients can range from cabbage to beans to carrots to beets. For this papaya version, minced green papaya is first steamed and then mixed with robust coconut and chile paste, and spiced with cumin seeds, garlic, and turmeric. See the recipe for Papaya Thoran (Keralan-Style Fried Green Papaya) » James Oseland
The foundation for this common Indian flatbread is the same dough that is used for
— chapati atta, or durum wheat flour, mixed with water. The key difference, which creates the paratha’s signature layers, is rolling and folding the dough in a triangle. The chewy flatbread is then dry-cooked in a skillet until puffy and golden.
Like chapati, puri is made from a simple durum wheat flour dough. But this flatbread incorporates ajwain seeds, which lend a lightly herbal, floral flavor, and is deep-fried in hot oil. It’s often eaten at breakfast or as a snack.
Get the recipe for Deep-Fried Indian Bread (Puri) »
This five-ingredient Indian condiment from home cook Yamini Joshi is a snap to make, thanks to flavor-packed tamarind paste and the spice blend sambar masala. Serve it with dosas. See the recipe for Red Chutney » Ingalls Photography
Smoky red Kashmiri chile powder and rich ghee are the foundations of the sauce for tender lamb shanks in this classic dish served as part of the Kashmiri feast called
wazwaan. Cooked for weddings and other auspicious occasions, the wazwaan is comprised of 36 dishes, the majority of them lamb. The wazas, or cooks, who prepare the meal come from long lines of chefs schooled in the art. Get the recipe for Kashmiri Chile-Braised Lamb (Rogan Josh) »
This fragrant spice mix made with fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and other aromatics is an essential ingredient in sambar, the ubiquitous split-pea stew of South India. See the recipe for Sambar Masala » Ingalls Photography
Cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey describes sambar as “a split-pea stew which is varied daily with the addition of, say, caramelized shallots or tomatoes or okra or aubergine (eggplant) poached in tamarind juice.” What we discovered in our test kitchen is that any combination of vegetables, such as yams, zucchini, or eggplant, can be added to this aromatic south Indian stew, which is often served with
For these simple bite-size confections from Bengal, milk is turned into homemade paneer cheese and then combined with sugar and cardamom to yield a dense, fudge-like treat.
Get the recipe for Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh) »
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as ripe mangoes or, as in this recipe, rose water and strawberries.
Get the recipe for Strawberry Lassi »
This simple but flavorful dish of fried eggplant and onions is served with a vinegar-spiked tomato sauce.
Get the recipe for Eggplant in Tomato Sauce »
Any firm fish, including snapper, trout, or salmon, will work in this green mango-infused south Indian curry, named for the Keralan coastal city of Thalassery and flavored with coconut, ginger, curry leaves, and turmeric.
For this Mumbai street-food snack from Raghavan Iyer, chunks of potato are dredged in a light chickpea-and-rice-flour batter that is spiced with turmeric and chile powder. The potatoes are then deep fried until a golden crust forms and served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys. The spiced batter can be also used for other vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli florets, sliced plantain, and eggplant.
These flavorful mashed potatoes are spiced with mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves, turmeric, and ginger, and mixed with peas.
Get the recipe for Aloo Masala (South Indian Potatoes) »
As cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey discovered while traveling through the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, palakoora vepadu, fresh spinach sautéed with aromatics such as cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and turmeric, is a staple in South Indian messes (mess halls). See the recipe for Palakoora Vepadu (Andhra-Style Sautéed Spinach) » Ingalls Photography
Studded with chopped nuts and flavored with aromatic cardamom and rose water, this sweet Indian pudding is made from a blend of nutty ghee, milk, cream, sugar, and grated carrot. It’s equally good served either hot or cold.
Get the recipe for Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa) »
In coastal South India, coconuts are used for a variety of dishes, including this sumptuous ivory-colored and nutty-flavored chutney. This version is made with yellow split peas, grated coconut, and green Thai chiles, and is traditionally served with , South Indian fermented lentil and rice crêpes. dosas See the recipe for Thengai Chutney (Coconut Chutney) » Farideh Sadeghin
Bananas and grapes are sweetened with jaggery—lump cane sugar—and seasoned with black pepper and sulphurous volcanic black salt in this spiced fruit chutney from the north of India. The Gupta family, Marwari Hindus from Mathura who are strict vegetarians, like to make it to go alongside dal, semolina breads, and vegetable masalas. See the recipe for Sonth (Marwari Masala-Spiced Fruit Chutney) » Ariana Lindquist
In the Indian city of Hyderabad, this dish is traditionally made using goat, but lamb makes an excellent substitute; including the bones adds an unmatched depth of flavor. While peeled muskmelon and watermelon seeds are usually used to thicken the dish, we’ve substituted pumpkin seeds in our version.
This brisk salad spiced with chiles and cumin comes to us from the Gupta family, Marwari Hindus from the northern Indian town of Mathura. Followers of Krishna, they observe a strict vegetarian diet; this simple, lively side dish makes a frequent appearance on their table. See the recipe for Marwari Radish and Tomato Salad » Ariana Lindquist
This Jain-style curry pairs airy chickpea fritters with a creamy, tangy sauce.
Cookbook author Madhur Jaffery describes these spidery-looking cabbage-and-peanut fritters as looking like little Medusa heads, “with the strands of shredded cabbage providing a crunchy, unruly halo.” A popular item in the mess halls of the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, they can be served as part of a meal or as a crunchy snack.
Okra is cooked until crisp for this dish flavored with garam masala. See the recipe for Bhindi Masala (North Indian Okra Stir-Fry) » Ariana Lindquist
Smita Chandra’s Daikon Curry
Cumin and salt add pungent flavor to this twist on a gin gimlet from chef Manish Mehrotra of New Delhi restaurant
Indian Accent, located in The Manor boutique hotel in New Delhi’s tony Friends Colony neighborhood.
This creamy spiced rice is a staple dish of the Pongal harvest festival in Southern India.
Get the recipe for Indian Curd Rice »
This creamy dish from Toronto-based Indian cookbook author Smita Chandra makes a phenomenal spread, with oven-baked naan bread on the side. It’s made with the fresh Indian cheese called paneer, peas, and whole peeled tomatoes, along with plenty of tangy fresh fenugreek greens, and it’s spiced lavishly with turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and more. If you can’t find fenugreek greens, kale, Swiss chard, or another green can be substituted.
Indian Lime Rice
Tender lamb simmers in a fiery sauce in this recipe from Adhoo’s in Srinagar, Kashmir.
Get the recipe for Kashmiri Lamb »
This bracing vodka drink gets its resinous, pungent aroma from a good dose of curry leaves, which are both muddled in the drink and floated on top as a garnish.
Flavored with sweet plum tomatoes and aromatic spices, this rice dish is perfect alongside roast chicken.
Get the recipe for Indian Tomato Rice »
Get the recipe for Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani »
Porous lotus root sops up spiced yogurt gravy in this Kashmiri specialty.
This syrup-soaked toast is slathered in a sweetened reduction of milk flavored with saffron.
Beef shanks or brisket may be substituted for short ribs in this version of a long-cooked Muslim Indian beef stew, a luscious dish traditionally cooked with trotters, which thicken the sauce. The recipe is adapted from Charmaine O’Brien’s
Recipes from an Urban Village: A Cookbook from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti (The Hope Project, 2003), a book highlighting the cooking of an ancient Delhi enclave.
The recipe for these kebabs, which can also be made with lamb, is adapted from Charmaine O’Brien’s
Recipes from an Urban Village (The Hope Project, 2003).
Hard-cooked eggs get a golden sheen from frying in bright mustard oil and are served in a rich, spicy sauce made from oven-dried tomatoes.
Dishes from the south Indian state of Kerala, along the Malabar Coast, are heavily influenced by the area’s abundant supply of seafood. In this Anglo-Indian recipe from cookbook author and cooking instructor Smita Chandra, mussels gathered from local waters are cooked with tomatoes in a richly spiced coconut broth.
A staple in restaurants throughout southern India, masala paal is a milk-based beverage that is sweetened with sugar and garnished with almonds and pistachios. We learned how to whip up a homemade version when cookbook author Raghavan Iyer stopped by our test kitchen and taught us this recipe.
Get the recipe for Steamed Milk with Pistachios and Almonds (Masala Paal) »
Among the most beloved dishes in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is the pesarattu, a savory pancake made with a batter of whole mung beans. The beans are soaked, blended, and spread thinly on a griddle. According to cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, the big, crisp, nutritious pancakes are best enjoyed with a creamy coconut chutney and some sweet, milky coffee on the side. See the recipe for Pesarattu (Whole Mung Bean Pancakes) » Ingalls Photography
Pigeon Pea Fritters with Yogurt-Tomato Sauce (Vadai Pachadi)
Often served in South India as thevasam, or memorial, food, this curry is flavored with a simple combination of sesame seeds and black peppercorns, instead of the more lively spice blends used in everyday cooking. See the recipe for Yellu Molaghu Vazhaipazham (Plantain with Sesame Seeds and Peppercorns) » Ingalls Photography
Pork and bamboo feature prominently in Northeast Indian cooking. One example is this braised pork belly, spiced with Thai chiles, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, from cookbook author Jyoti Das. It is inspired by an Assamese tribal dish. See the recipe for Baanhgajor Lagot Gahori (Pork Belly with Fermented Bamboo) » James Roper
There are countless varieties of this ubiquitous Indian snack mix, made with varying combinations of nuts, fruit, spices, and other ingredients. Cookbook author Smita Chandra’s version of the addictive nibble is the best we’ve had, with four kinds of nuts (cashew, peanut, almond, pistachio), plus sweet raisins, nutty coconut, and poha, dried flattened rice flakes.
While the Northeastern Indian state of Assam is best known for its tea, the food is equally notable. Like many dishes in the area, the one presented here relies on the banana tree—in this case, the flower. Traditionally, pigeon is used as a main ingredient, but we discovered chicken wings are a great substitute. See the recipe for Koldilere Rondha Paro Manxo (Assamese Pigeon with Banana Flower) » James Roper
At the Indian table, a variety of yogurt-based raitas mollify the tongue-searing effect of chiles. This version, made fruity and sweet with the addition of coconut and banana, is adapted from
Foods of the World: The Cooking of India (Time Life, 1969). Get the recipe for Yogurt with Banana and Grated Coconut »
This creamy yogurt-based chutney is made with cilantro, lime, and fresh green chiles.
Get the recipe for Cilantro Yogurt Chutney »
In northern India, where the thermostat can hit well into the 100s on a summer day, a whole host of drinks are sold on the streets and in cafés to beat the heat. Many of these include copious spice, which induces the perspiration that cools you down; this bubbly limeade gets a spicy kick from a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper. With its lip-smacking tang, it’s the perfect refresher to combat the summer heat. See the recipe for Nimbu Pani (Lime Juice with Seltzer, Black Pepper, and Sugar) » Ingalls Photography
Rajasthani White Chicken Curry (Safed Maans)
A seasoned coconut chicken curry is tempered with yogurt.
Crispy chickpea-battered vegetable fritters are a popular street-food snack throughout India. This recipe calls for potatoes and onion, but cauliflower florets, eggplant slices, or plantains can also be used. Pair them with tangy tamarind chutney or herbaceous coconut-cilantro chutney for dipping. See the recipe for Pakoras (Indian Vegetable Fritters) » James Roper
See the Recipe Ingalls Photography
See the Recipe Ingalls Photography