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  • Writer's pictureTeam Bombay

5 Words to Know on an Indian Menu

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Indian food has officially become one of the fastest growing segments of the culinary world in recent years. More Americans have had some sort of exposure to the cuisine known for its diverse range of ingredients; tongue tickling flavors, and health benefits.

If you are new to the world of Indian cuisine, looking at an Indian menu at your local Indian curry house could seem a bit overwhelming & confusing.

There is lots of unfamiliar lingo or phrases that are incredibly synonymies with Indian menus which can often make you not knowing where to start.

From London to Dubai, Bangkok to Brunswick, you can find an Indian restaurant just about anywhere these days. Bombay Mahal in Brunswick, Maine has been cooking up some of India's most famous dishes for its customers for over 30 years.

Here are 5 phrases you should memorize for your next venture into an Indian restaurant:

1. Masala

Masala in English simply a spice mixture. Technically masala can refer to any ground spice mixture, however in Indian cuisine a masala spice blend includes some combination of garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. Several popular dishes have also adopted the masala name into their titles to include, chicken tikka masala, chana masala, masala dosa, and masala chai.

2. Tikka

Tikka, as in chicken tikka masala or a tikka kabab refers to a piece of meat, cut in a small cube, marinated in yogurt and spices, and grilled on a skewer.

3. Punjabi

Punjabi refers to the region, people, and language located in the northern western part of India near Pakistan. If a food lists “Punjabi” in its title, it means it originated from the Punjab region of India. Most Indian restaurants across the United States find their menus to be heavily influenced by North Indian cooking where Punjabi food holds a massive stronghold and influence.

4. Vindaloo

Vindaloo refers to an Indian gravy dish made famous from the Portugees occupation of the western Indian beach state of Goa. The dish is known to be spicy and tangy, and from the Portuguese name of vinha d’alhos, or ‘marinated in wine & garlic.’

5. Tandoori

Tandoori refers to a style of cooking found in a tandoor clay oven. Brought to India via the Persians via present day Afghanistan, a tandoor clay oven is a cylinder shape often dug in the ground and filled & lit with charcoal or wood. It is how many of India’s famous flatbreads such as naan & kulchas are made, and also how its cuts of meat are baked to allow fat to drip onto the charcoal to give a delicious flame grilled aroma.

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