India is a vast country with numerous regions–and regional cuisines. Each of India’s 28 states is like its own country, with its own cooking style.

The Indian food served in the U.S. is mostly divided into the food of the North or the South. There are commonalities, like basmati rice or reliance on vegetarian dishes. (The test of a good Indian restaurant is how well they prepare vegetables.) Spices, condiments, sauces, and bread are equally important, and the variety will seem dizzying.

Boogiebaby has supplied a terrific listing of dishes to get you started:

North Indian:
Dal Makhani–black lentils cooked with kidney beans and butter
Chicken Makhani–chicken in tomato/butter sauce
Palak Paneer–Spinach with Indian cottage cheese
Aloo Gobi–Potato and Cauliflower
Bengan Bharta–mashed eggplant
Raita–yogurt with cucumber (usually, could be other types as well)
Saag Gosht–Lamb cooked in spinach
Malai Kofta–vegetable dumplings in cream sauce
Shahi Paneer–Indian Cottage Cheese in a cream sauce
Biriyani–Veggies, chicken, or lamb slow cooked with basmati rice, onions, and sometimes nuts and raisins

South Indian:
Dosa–rice/lentil crepe
Masala Dosa–dosa stuffed with spiced potatoes
Sambhar–lentils cooked with tamarind and veggies
Upma–semolina cooked with veggies
Uttapam–pancake type with tomatoes and onions
Rasam–tamarind water with spices (good for digestion)
Idli–steamed rice/lentil patties
Vada–fried rice/lentil donuts
Coconut chutney–served with dosa, idli and vadas

Board Links: Please educate me regarding Indian cuisine

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