We have tried to demystify some of the confusing terms used in Indian restaurant menu by explaining what individual items are and how they vary from each other. It is worth bearing in mind that spellings are not definitive as all the translations into the English language and alphabet have been done phonetically. If you have any specific questions or would like to learn more about the indian food feel free to ask us using the form available in the Contact us page.
- What is a Tandoori style dish?
Tandoori dishes derive their name from the Tandoor oven that they are cooked in. Tandoor ovens are traditionally clay ovens fuelled by charcoal in the bottom. Today, in the Indian restaurant, they are a little more high-tech, and can be fuelled by charcoal, gas or electricity. It is probably the heat generated in the Tandoor that give Tandoori dishes their unique taste, rather than the particular fuel used to fire them. Meat, kebabs and breads are cooked in the Tandoor. Meats are lowered into the oven on skewers and bread (Naan) is stuck to the side with the aid of a good slap and asbestos fingers.
- What is a Vindaloo?
The widespread belief is that Vindaloo owes its origins to Portugese colonial India, where it was traditionally a Potato, Pork and Vinegar curry from Goa. Vin related to Wine or Vinegar and Aloo is Indian for Potato. In Indian restaurants today, the term Vindaloo is really indicative of the strength or heat of the curry. It usually has diced potatoes in the sauce along with the chosen meat or chicken. However, I can’t ever remember seeing pork as an option. I wonder why? Vindaloo is ‘hotter’ than a Madras.
- What is the difference between Tikka and Tikka Masala?
Tikka is prepared in a similar way to a Tandoori dish. However it is usually a piece of fillet meat, chicken or fish that is cooked on a skewer, whereas Tandoori dishes are usually a whole portion of meat such as a Chicken quarter or half.
Tikka Masala has the same chicken chunks used in tikka but the difference lies in the gravy that is prepared for it. The curry is indeed thick and red or brown in color with lots of spices and oil having gone into making it. Lots of tomatoes and butter is used to prepare the curry. Tikka Massala is Britains No. 1 favourite dish, allegedly.
- What is a Nan or Naan?
Nan bread is a leavened bread traditionally baked in the Tandoor Oven. It is baked from a dough containing flour (usually wheat flour or wholemeal), yogurt, milk, sugar, yeast and ghee (clarified butter). They obtain a distinctive teardrop shape from being stuck to the side of the Tandoor and baking whilst gravity is stretching them. They are served piping hot, often spread lightly with melted butter or ghee and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
- What is Garam Masala made up of?
Garam masala (garam (“hot”) and masala (a mixture of spices) is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to “heat” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, meaning “to heat the body” as these spices, in the Ayurvedic system of medicine, elevate body temperature.
The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with many recipes across India according to regional and personal taste, and none is considered more authentic than others. The components of the mix are toasted, then ground together.
A typical Indian version of garam masala contains:
- black and white peppercorns
- Cinnamon or cassia bark
- nutmeg and mace
- black and green cardamom pods
- Bay leaf