Indian Food Glossary
cookbooks on Indian Cuisine
Popular Indian Dishes
Achar: Any kind of
A fancy rice casserole, often containing meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables
Chapati/Roti: Thin bread cooked on the griddle
kind of legume--beans, peas, or lentils
Dosa: Crispy, crepe-like southern Indian specialty filled with potatoes or
Braised meats in a thick, mild creamy sauce
Kulcha: Tender, pita-like bread cooked in the tandoor
Lassi: A refreshing, creamy yogurt drink that can be sweet or salty
Masala: Spice blend
Naan: Flat, oval bread cooked in the tandoor
Pakora: Fritter dipped in a spicy chickpea batter; can be made with vegetables,
cheese, chicken or seafood
Pappadum: Spicy lentil wafers
Paratha: Flaky bread fried on the griddle
Poori: Airy, deep-fried bread
An aromatic rice pilaf
A yogurt-based condiment usually containing vegetables
Rasam: A thin, spicy broth
Saag: Spinach, but can also refer to other greens
Sambar: An extremely spicy broth popular in southern India
Samosa: Flaky, pyramid-shaped pastry stuffed with potatoes or ground meat; a
traditional Indian snack
Tandoor: A deep, clay oven that has very high temperatures
Any dish cooked in a tandoor
An extremely spicy curry dish that's a regional specialty of Goa
A to Z Glossary
Pickles are mainly made with vegetables and fruits like mango, lime, green chilies
etc. Made mostly during the summer in India, they are a spicy and delightful addition to
the Indian meal. One has to get aquatinted with the strong flavors of most pickles, so do
Appam: Wafer thin, round and flat. They are usually made out of rice, potato and/or
various lentil flours
A vegetarian dish using chickpeas, potatoes, and tamarind.
chur: Mango powder. A sour flavoring agent.
Appam: Wafer thin, round and flat. They are usually made out of rice, potato and/or
various lentil flours
(Atta): Chapatti flour. Fine whole meal flour used in most Indian breads.
Vegetable curry from the south of India
Bandai: Aniseed stars.
Bagar or Tadka
or Chounk: Spices and herbs are added one at a time to hot oil and this tempering is
either done as the first step in the cooking process, before adding the vegetables for
example, or as the last, pouring the tempered oil over a cooked dish. The oil extracts and
retains all the sharp flavors of the spices and flavors the entire dish.
Balchao as in
the Goan recipe Prawn Balchao where the shrimp is marinated in a brine sauce: a Goan
specialty where vegetables like aubergines or seafood like prawns are "pickled"
in sugar, vinegar and spices for a day or two before eating.
Barfi: A dessert made from milk that has been cooked slowly and reduced to a fudge-like
consistency. This sweet is flavored with either saffron, vanilla essence, cocoa, rose
water, etc. Sometimes nuts and fresh coconut is added. Eaten and served in bite-sized
pieces "Barfi" is a very popular after dinner dessert. Just like bringing a
bottle fine wine when you visit someone for the first time, a decorative box filled with
different kinds of "Barfi" is a traditional gift in India.
Basmati rice: Basmati rice is authentic Indian long grained white rice, which has unique
nutty flavor. Basmati rice is very popular in India and all over the world. A wide variety
of rice dishes are made with Basmati rice. They are: plain steamed rice, pulaos, pilafs,
biryanis or just different types of fried rice which include meat, vegetables,
nuts, and even fruits sometimes. Gourmet cooks prefer to use Basmati rice for its fragrant
flavor. Special occasion rice dishes are mostly made with Basmati rice.
Besan: Chickpea flour.
Bhaaji or Sabji: Deep-fried vegetable dipped in a seasoned batter usually made with
A spicy vegetable dish, with a pulp like consistency. A commonly made bharta is a
"baingan" (eggplant) bharta.
Bhel Puri: One
of Bombays favorite snacks. It is a mixture of puffed rice, "sev",
"puri", lentils, finely chopped onions, chopped coriander topped with two kinds
of chutneys; one is the sweet tamarind date chutney and the other is the spicy cilantro
Bhuna or Bhunao: is to sauté or stir-fry. Usually onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and
green chilies are fried in oil, but to make sure that this doesnt stick, burn or
cook unevenly, a small amount of liquid is added, repeatedly. After the oil separates from
the mixture, the main ingredient (meat or vegetable) is added and cooked.
dish made from spiced saffron rice cooked with pieces of lamb, chicken or vegetables. It
is usually made on special occasions since it takes a long time to make a biryani, but it
is surely worth the effort. It always tastes better the next day since the spices marinate
and flavor the meat and rice.
Bombay Duck: A smallish fish native to the Bombay area known locally as Bommbil. It is
dried and appears on the table as a crispy shallow-fried starter or as an accompaniment to
Bondas or Vadas: Round deep-fried savory snack made in different varieties usually from
lentils, potatoes etc. eaten with a chutney.
Boti Kebab: Marinated boneless cubes of meat cooked in a tandoor.
Cassia Bark: A corky bark with a sweet fragrance similar to cinnamon and is used
extensively in Northern Indian cookery.
Cayenne pepper: A type of chili powder.
Ceylon curry: Usually cooked with coconut, chili, and lemon.
Chakla Belan: A special rolling pin and board.
Chamcha: Spoon or ladle.
Chaat: Salty snacks served with an array of sweet and spicy chutneys.
Chai: Indian tea.
Chapatti: Unleavened Indian flatbread made with wheat flour, water, oil and salt. Usually
cooked on a "tava" or thick griddle and brushed with "ghee".
Chili: There are a great many species of chilies, which are the fleshy pods of shrub-like
bushes of the capsicum family. Chilies range from large to small and colors include green,
white, purple, pink, and red. Chilies are the most important heat agent in Indian cooking.
They vary in hotness from mild to incendiary-like potency. Most commonly used are the
small, fresh green or red chilies. Red chilies can be dried and used whole, and chili
powder is made from grinding dried chilies.
Fresh relishes made with fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
To Indians, the term curry means gravy or sauce, Curries are what made Indian cuisine
famous all over the world, the most famous of all is the Chicken Curry. Residents of the
rest of the world, however, have come to think of "curry" as simply a thick
creamy yellow sauce or any dish seasoned with a curry-powder blend, whether it has a sauce
or not. An authentic Indian curry is an intricate combination of a stir-fried wet masala
(mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes), various spices and seasonings with which
meat, poultry, vegetables or fish is prepared to produce a stew-type dish.
Curry leaves: (Not to be confused with the curry spice blend) The curry leaf plant is a
tropical tree of the citrus family. The long slender leaflets that look a little like bay
leaves are dark green on top and paler underside. The leaves have a strong, warm curry
(combination of nuts and lemons) aroma when bruised or rubbed.
Dal: Dal is
an Indian word, which includes dried peas, beans, and lentils that are red, yellow orange,
or pink, plus split peas and other legumes. Dal can also be used to describe a soup like
dish prepared with lentils. Dals are the primary source of protein in a vegetarian diet.
Dals are cooked whole or pureed, depending on the dish. Ground powdered dal is used in
unleavened breads and crackers, and even in spice mixtures
Dalchini or Darchim: Cinnamon
Dewa: Lentils. There are over sixty types of lentils. The most common types are masoor,
channa, and urid.
Dhansak: Traditional chicken or meat dish cooked in lentil and vegetable puree.
Dosa: A popular delicacy from southern India made from rice and "urad" dal. They
are usually made very thin and pancake-like and sometimes filled with a spiced potato
mixture. Served with chutney and "sambar".
Dum: A way to steam foods in a pot with a tightly covered lid or a sealed pot. A popular
spiced vegetable dish is "Dum Aloo". In the olden days, the utensil was sealed
with atta (dough) to capture the moisture within the food as it cooked slowly over a
charcoal fire. Some coal was placed on the lid to ensure even cooking. The food continued
to cook in its own steam, retaining all its flavor and aroma. Dum means, "to
steam" or "mature" a dish.
Ekuri: Indian version of scrambled eggs, which obviously means the addition of onions and
Feni: The Goan drink made from cashews or coconut is the perfect beach drink. It was
originally a very basic and local drink, much like toddy.
Masala: A North Indian spice blend, literally meaning, "hot mixture".
Goor or gur: Jaggery (palm sugar) or molasses.
Gram flour: Chickpea flour.
Gulab Jamun: Deep-fried cake balls served with aromatic syrups.
Haldi or Huldi: Turmeric. Haldi is a very important Indian spice. It is the basis for all
Indian curry spice blends.
Halvah: Indian sweet made from a variety of finely grated vegetables, milk, and sugar and
flavored with cardamom. The consistency is that of a thick pudding. Among the popular
halvah is the "Gajar Halvah".
Asafetida is the dried gum resin of an East Indian plant. It has a strong odor and the
flavor is a little like "spicy garlic. Usually just a pinch is used for cooking
mainly fish, vegetables and making "Indian pickles". It is available in a yellow
Idli: South Indian steamed rice cakes: a very popular snack from the south of India.
Generally eaten with "sambar" and "chutney".
or Taifal: Nutmeg
Jal frezi: Sauté or stir-fry.
Jalebi: These sweet crisp round whirls, made from plain flour and water deep-fried and
then dipped in sugar syrup, served hot or cold, make a favorite Indian dessert.
Jeera or zeera: Cumin.
Jinga: Prawns or shrimp.
Kachumber: Indian salad usually made with cucumber, tomatoes, and onions flavored with
salt, sugar and lemon juice.
Kabli channa: Chickpeas.
Kaddu kas: Grater.
Kadhi: Yogurt soup.
or Kajoo: Cashew nut.
Kala jeera: Black cumin seeds.
Kala namak: Black salt.
Kalongi: Nigella, similar to wild onion seeds.
Karanji: Pastries made out of whole-wheat flour and filled with a cooked mixture of
freshly grated coconut and sugar. It is a Maharashtrian delicacy.
Karela: Small, dark green, knobby vegetable of the gourd family.
Kashmir Chicken: Whole chicken stuffed with minced meat.
Katori: Small serving bowls which go on a thaali (tray).
Kebabs: Marinated and spiced small pieces of any meat, poultry, fish, ground meat,
vegetables, skewered and grilled in a tandoor/oven or over a grill. Kebabs can also be
shallow fried over a pan.
Keema: Ground meat, raw or cooked.
Kheer: Essentially a rice pudding, made with rice, milk and sugar flavored with cardamom.
Sometimes nuts are added. Served either hot or cold.
Khoya: Also known as "mawa" is made by bringing milk to a boil in a pot and
stirring continuously thereafter on a low flame. It is then reduced and thickened to the
consistency of soft cream cheese. Used widely in the making of many Indian desserts and
Khurzi: Lamb or chicken, whole with spicy stuffing.
Kish mish: Sultanas
Koftas: Spiced meat or vegetable balls deep-fried and served with a curry sauce.
Kokum: A variety of plum, pitted and dried. They are very sour.
Korma: Rich sauce thickened with yogurt, nuts or poppy seeds, fragrantly seasoned with
Kulcha: Flatbread often stuffed with onion or potatoes and seasoned with cilantro.
Kulfi: Sweet, aromatic ice cream made from cream, milk, and sugar flavored with mango,
pistachios, saffron etc.
Lassi: A tall cool drink made from yogurt and water and made either sweet or salty.
Maccchi or macchli: Fish
Makhani: A traditional dish. Tandoori chicken is cooked in ghee and tomato sauce.
Makke: Corn flour
Masala: Spices, herbs and other seasonings ground or pounded together. When wet
ingredients like water, vinegar, yogurt etc. are added to the spice mixture it is
appropriately called a "wet masala". Dry spice mixtures are also called
"Garam masala" or commonly known in the world as "Curry powder".
Indian cooks generally don't use pre-prepared curry powder (originally a British invention
to approximate Indian seasoning) but prefer making their own ever-changing blends.
Malaya: The curries of Malaya are traditionally cooked with coconut, chili, and ginger.
Mama: Puffed basmati rice.
Masala Dabba: Spice box containing the commonly used dry spices and is always kept near
the cooking range for easy and quick access. A spoon is included for ease of use.
Masoor: Red lentil with a green skin.
Mattar or Mutter: Green peas.
Mattar Paneer or Mutter Paneer: Curried peas with cubes of fried homemade cheese.
Mirch: Pepper. For centuries the most important spice, gaining the title king of spices.
It grows on vines that flower triennially and produce clusters of berries, which are
picked and dried which then become peppercorns. Green, black, and white are not different
varieties. All peppercorns are green when picked and must be bottled or freeze-dried at
once to retain the color. Black pepper is the dried berry. White pepper is obtained by
soaking off the black skin of the berry. Peppercorns are a heat agent and can be used
whole or ground.
Mollee: Fish dishes cooked in coconut and chili.
Moong: One of the more commonly used lentils. It has a green skin and can be used whole,
split or polished to make various dals.
Murgh Masala: A specialty dish of whole chicken, marinated in yogurt and spices for 24
hours then stuffed and roasted.
Naan: Indian flat bread made from wheat and baked in a tandoor.
Naan keema: Baked naan bread, stuffed with a thin layer of minced meat curry
Naan peshwari: Baked naan bread stuffed with almonds and or cashews and or raisins.
Nargis kebab: Indian scotch egg spiced minced meat around a hard-boiled egg.
Neem: Curry leaf.
Paan: Betel leaf stuffed with supari (betel nut), quick lime paste, kathechu paste,
gulukand (rose petal preserve), fennel seeds and dried grated coconut. Paan is eaten
usually after a meal and has known to aid in digestion. Paan connoisseurs always add
tobacco in their paan. The paan is garnished with edible thin silver foil called
Pakoras: Popular Indian crispy and spicy snack served usually hot out of the frying pot
along with coriander chutney. A popular teatime snack served with Indian tea. Slices of
different vegetables like potatoes, onion, chilies, spinach leaves, eggplant etc dipped in
a batter made out of chickpea flour and a few dry spices and deep-fried.
Palak or sag: Spinach or green leafy vegetable
Paneer: Cheese (aka Indian cottage cheese) made from bottled milk that can be fried and
Papdams (Papad): Thin
wafer like discs about 4 to 8 inches in diameter made from a variety of lentils, potato,
shrimp, rice etc. The discs are deep-fried or dry roasted on an open flame and served as a
crispy savory appetizer. Served in many Indian restaurants complimentary before a meal.
Paratha: Whole-wheat unleavened flatbread. It is sometimes filled with cooked ground meat
or a vegetable mixture. Slightly larger than a Chapatti and shallow fried to perfection.
Pasanda: Meat, usually lamb, beaten and cooked in one piece.`
Indian Five Spice Blend -
Piaz, peeaz, or pyaz: Onion.
magaz: Pistachio nut
Podina: Mint leaves or powder.
Poha: Pounded rice.
Pooris: Deep-fried whole-wheat flatbreads. They are usually around 4 inches in diameter
and puff up when deep-fried. Delicious when hot!
Pullao: Delicately flavored rice, sautéed in ghee and flavored with whole spices like
cumin, cloves etc. Just like the Indian cuisine there are many varieties of Pullao.
Pulses: Types of lentils.
Quas chawal or kesar chaval: Rice fried in ghee, flavored and colored with saffron.
Raan: Leg of lamb marinated in yogurt-based masala.
Raita: A cooling chutney of vegetables and yogurt.
Rajama: Red kidney beans.
Rassgulla: One of the most famous Indian sweets that originated from east India. The
walnut-size balls of semolina and milk are cooked in a light sugar syrup, flavored with
Rogan Josh gosht: Rich lamb curry, literally meaning "red juice lamb". It is a
traditional Northern Indian dish of lamb that is marinated in yogurt, then cooked with
ghee and spices and tomato. It should be creamy and spicy but not too hot.
Roti: is Bread in Hindi. "Tandoori roti" is bread that is baked in a tandoor,
"Rumali Roti" or literally meaning handkerchief bread is a kind of a thin and
flaky partha made up of many layers.
Ruh gulab: Rose water
Sag or saag: Spinach
Sagzi: The generic term for vegetables.
Sambhar or sambar: Lentil curry from the south of India. Served as an accompaniment with
Samosas: The celebrated triangular deep-fried pastry appetizers filled with vegetable or
Sarson ka sag: Mustard leaves
Saunf or souf: Aniseed.
Seekh Kebab or sheek kebab: The word "Seekh" in Hindi means skewer. Seekh kebab
simply means kebabs on a skewer. Kebabs are usually made out of ground lamb mixed with
various spices, cooked in a "tandoor".
Seenl: Allspice. Related to the clove family.
Sev: Thin string-like fried snack preparation made out of gram flour. Used in the
preparation of "Sev puri" and "Bhel Puri" or can be enjoyed just
plain. Nowadays there are many spicy and non-spicy varieties of "sev" available
in specialty Indian stores.
Shahi: means "Royal" in Hindi
Shami kebab: Round minced meat rissoles.
Shashlik: Cubes of skewered lamb.
Sonf: Fennel seed.
Sont or Sonth: Dried ginger.
Supari: Mixture of seeds and sweeteners for chewing after a meal. It usually includes
aniseed or fennel, shredded betel nut, sugar balls, marrow seeds, etc.
Tadka: A garnish of spices and fried onions.
Tadka dal: Fried lentils and spices garnished with spices and onions.
Tandoor: The traditional Indian clay oven is called the "Tandoor". A Tandoor is
a clay pot usually sunken neck deep in the ground. Charcoal is put on the flat bottom of
the pot. The heat generated by the hot charcoal in and on the sides of the clay pot is
used for cooking. Long iron rods, long enough to reach the bottom of the pot, are used in
the cooking process. It is probably the most versatile kitchen equipment in the Indian
kitchen. Barbecues, breads, dal, gravies made in them acquire a unique taste, very
different from the food cooked on the regular kitchen oven.
Tandoori Murgh: This is the bright red world famous Tandoori Chicken. Chicken marinated
with spices, dried red peppers, and yogurt, cooked in a tandoor.
Tej patia: Bay leaf.
Thaali: A tray that holds the complete meal served in individual bowls (katori).
Tikka: Skewered boneless meat cubes cooked in a tandoor.
Toor or toovar: A type of lentil.
Urid: A type of lentil
Varak: Fine thin edible silver foil used to decorate or garnish Indian desserts and
"paan". It has been known to aid in digestion.
Meat usually pork is used to make this very spicy and flavorful dish. Cooked in vinegar
and typically served 2 to 3 days after it is made.
Xacutti: A Goan dish using chicken and coconut.
or kesar: Saffron the worlds most expensive spice. Saffron is the stamen
of the crocus flower. It takes 70,000 stamens to give a recipe a delicate yellow coloring