Guest Post: Signature Dishes of India
Indian dishes are popular the world over. The inventive use of spices and other flavourings has made the cuisine one of our favourites. Here are some of the signature Indian dishes. Tandoori chicken is a much loved dish of Indian and also Pakistani descent, which gets its name from the tandoor, the cylindrical oven made from clay used to prepare the dish. It is said that a Hindu refugee restaurant owner, who moved from Pakistan to Delhi after the partition in 1947, created the dish. Kundan Lal Gujral (as the owner was called) wanted to create innovative dishes to attract customers. The first Prime Minster of India apparently loved the dish so much that he used it for official banquets for visitors such as Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. To this end, he experimented by using tandoors (previously only used to make naan bread) in a different way. Tandoori chicken is a dish of roast chicken, marinated in a tandoori masala sauce with yoghurt. The Western version is less piquant than the Indian version when ingredients such as cayenne pepper or chilli powder are used to give it a kick. Turmeric can be used to create the orange colour. Due to the success of the tandoori chicken, other derivatives have also become signature Indian dishes such as Chicken Tikka or Chicken Tikka Masala. In this dish, small pieces of chicken (tikka means ‘bits’) are cooked by using skewers, again in the tandoor oven and again, after basting in a yoghurt and spice marinade. Chicken Tikka Masala is a gorgeous dish in which chicken pieces are put under the grill after being marinated and served with a cream laden gravy. A usual accompaniment for this dish is coriander, onion rings and lemons and also tamarind chutney. It is normally served on a heated plate. A famous aromatic Indian lamb dish is Rogan Josh. It originates from Kashmir and was apparently brought there by the Mughals. The dish is red in colour (‘josh’ means red or hot), which is due to the use of Kashmiri mirch, a Kashmiri pepper. Despite its colour, the pepper is not the hottest of Indian peppers. Traditionally dried alkanet root is also used. Prepared classically, the dish is cooked slowly at a moderate heat over a long period with ingredients such as garlic paste, shallots and saffron. Modified versions of Rogan Josh add yoghurt to create Hindi Rogan Josh. There are many vegetarian dishes in traditional Indian cuisine. Malai Kofta is such an alternative. It has been described as a ‘vegetarian alternative to meatballs’. The dish is a good accompaniment to naan bread or to jeera rice.
Another popular vegetarian dish, especially in the Punjab region in the north of India and also in Gujarat, is chole. In the latter region, the dish uses tangy spices. Chole is a sort of chickpea curry and Chole Masala is very popular. The dish is said to be reasonably dry and also spicy but with a sour citrus flavour too. Other ingredients will often include onion, tomatoes, coriander seeds, dried mango powder, pomegranate seeds, chilli and ginger.