The rich spices and creamy sauces of Indian cuisine have been steadily rising in popularity over the last decade but for anyone still uninitiated, follow this simple guide of what to order at an Indian restaurant: 10 dishes. Almost any good main course in an Indian restaurant begins and ends with naan: a round, fluffy, crunchy bread. It tastes great and is ideal for picking up every last bit of the super flavorful Indian sauces.
When trying to figure out what spice level to order it's good to note that, since Indian food is inherently spicy, many Indian restaurants will be spicier than expected. For instance a "medium" spice level might equate to a "hot" at any other restaurant.
- Samosas are an appetizer of fried turnovers filled with peas and potatoes. The filling is fluffy—kind of like stuffing—which is a great contrast with the pleasant crunch of the outside.
- Pakoras are an appetizer of either vegetables or balls of cheese battered and deep fried. They are similar to Japanese vegetable tempura but more savory and even more deep fried. They could also be compared to batter-dipped onion rings—but not made of onions.
- For feeding multiple people an appetizer of Dosa goes a long way. It's a giant (non-fried) crepe usually filled with potatoes, peas and nuts. Don't go overboard with the Dosa, though. Ordering one per person will likely result in no entrees or a lot of leftovers.
For the curry curious, Chicken Tikka Masala is never a mistake. Chicken is simmered in a sweet tomato and curry sauce that is ideal for sopping up with that delicious naan. It's rich and flavorful but the flavors themselves are very simple and easy on the tongue.
For more spice go with a lamb or chicken Vindaloo. Be warned that in this case "more spice" means "likely the spiciest thing on the menu."
- Malai Kofta is quite nice as a curry-based vegetarian option. It features a mild, sweet curry sauce and croquettes of vegetables and cheese. The dish isn't as sweet as the masala, but it's creamier.
- If curry isn't in the cards for the night Tandoori Chicken is a very tasty dish. It stars legs and thighs of chicken roasted with onions and smoky spices. The bright red color of the meat is hard to miss and the flavor juiciness of the chicken is hard to forget.
- Alternately, choose the vegetarian-friendly (and naan-friendly) Saag Paneer. It is similar to creamed spinach with bits of cheese mixed in. The greens might be off-putting to the children but the taste is very friendly to the adults.
- For dessert, if Mango Custard is on the menu for it's a must-order. The creaminess of the custard perfectly accents the fruitiness of the mango and this dish is an ideal finisher for any meal.
- For the serious sweet tooth, though, Gulab Jamun cannot be ignored. If fried food is a great way to start a meal, it's also a fantastic way to finish it. These balls of dough are deep-fried and then soaked in syrup mimicking the taste and texture of pancakes, but amplified by about a hundred times.
After getting a handle on the flavors of Indian food it gets easy to start venturing into other parts of the menu. The dishes listed here, though, will please any palate and ensure a tasty and filling meal.