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Glossary of Indian Food & Cooking Terms 

           The list of Indian Food Terms can be exhaustive, since there are 15 official languages in India and 1568 dialects. We have put together a list of food names that are widely recognized and commonly used in Indian cooking. These are mostly in "Hindi" which is India’s national language, except for a few.  " *"

This glossary of Indian food terms will make it easier for you to decipher what the recipe is all about. Knowing what the Indian food terms mean will help you visualize the recipe and almost taste it. Hoping too that this list will make it easier for to order your favorite Indian dishes at an Indian restaurant!

Want to know what an ingredient is called in another Indian Language .......  Click Here to go to an  Easy Ingredient Finder

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Aachar: Indian 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 try one. Some of the brands of pickles to look for are "Bedekar Pickles" and "Nirav pickles".  Top
Appam *: Wafer thin, round and flat. They are usually made out of rice, potato and/or various lentil flours.  Top
Avial *: Vegetable curry from the south of India.  Top
Baghar 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 flavours of the spices and flavors the entire dish.  Top
Balchao as in the goan recipe Prawn Balchao where the shrimp is marinated  in a brine sauce. A Goan speciality where vegetables like aubergines or seafood like prawns are "pickled" in sugar, vinegar and spices for a day or two before eating.  Top
Bhunao or Bhuna is to saute or stir-fry.  Usually onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies are fried in oil, but to make sure that this doesn’t 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.  Top
Bukhara Dum Pukht cuisine in India is over 200 years old. When Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah was building the Bara Imambara during the famine of 1784 to provide work for his starving people, huge quantities of food was cooked in large vessels, degs, in massive double-walled ovens called bukharis. He tasted the food one night and loved it so much that bukhari cooking was incorporated into the royal court.  Top
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.   Top
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.     Top
Bhel Puri: One of Bombay’s favorite snack’s. 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 onion chili chutney.    Top
Bhaaji or Sabji: : Any vegetable.    Top
Bharta: A spicy vegetable dish, with a pulp like consistency. Originally a muslim dish which is served with a Khichadi or Pulao. A commonly made bharta is a "baingan (eggplant) bharta.   Top
Bondas or Vadas : Round deep fried savory snack made in different varieties usually from lentils, potatoes etc. eaten with a chutney.  Top
Biryani: Elaborate 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.  Top
Boti Kabab: Marinated boneless cubes of meat cooked in a tandoor.  Top
Chappati: Unleavened Indian flat-bread made with wheat flour, water, oil and salt. Usually cooked on a "tava" or thick griddle and brushed with "ghee".  Top
Chaat: Salty snacks served with an array of sweet and spicy chutneys.  Top
Chai : Indian tea.  Top
Chaval: Rice.  Top
Chutney: Fresh relishes made with fruits, vegetables, and herbs.   Top
Curry: To the 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.Top
Daal: Daal is an Indian word, which includes dried peas, beans, and lentils which are red, yellow orange, or pink, plus split peas and other legumes. Daal can also be used to describe a soup like dish prepared with lentils. Daals are the primary source of protein in a vegetarian diet. Daals are cooked whole or pureed, depending on the dish. Ground powdered daal is used in unleavened breads and crackers, and even in spice mixtures.Top
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 flavour and aroma. Dum means, "to steam" or "mature" a dish. Top
Do Pyaza: A mildly flavored creamy dish made with onions; usually twice cooked onions with meat. Do-Piaza Mullah Do-Piaza, all children in India are told, was the legendary cook at Akbar’s court. One of the navratnas , it is said he could conjour up culinary delights using only two onions. For example mutton cooked in that particular style is called Ghosht do piaza.Top
Dosa*: A popular delicacy from southern India made from rice and "urad" daal. They are usually made very thin and pancake-like and sometimes filled with a spiced potato mixture. Served with chutney and "sambar".Top
Ekuri *: Indian version of scrambled eggs, which obviously means the addition of onions and spices. Delicious with a hot Paratha.
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; recently it has been commercialized.Top
Gulab Jamun: Deep-fried cake balls served with aromatic syrups.Top
Halva: Indian sweet made from a variety of …….believe it or not… finely grated vegetables, milk, sugar and flavored with cardamom. The consistency is that of a thick pudding. Among the popular halvas are the "Gajar Halva" and "Doodhi Halva".Top
Idli *: Steamed rice cakes. A very popular snack from the south of India. Generally eaten with "sambar" and "chutney".Top
Jalebi: These orange sweet crisp round whirls, made from plain flour and water deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup make a favorite Indian dessert.Top
Kachumber: Indian salad usually made with cucumber, tomatoes, and onions flavored with salt, sugar and lemon juice. As it goes with any Indian dish the varieties can be endless.Top
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.  Top
Kababs: 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.  Top
Kalvan *: Curry  in Marathi ( an Indian language from the state of Maharashtra)  Top
Kheer: Essentially a rice pudding, made with rice, milk and sugar flavored with cardamom. Sometimes nuts are added. Served either hot or cold.  Top
Khichadi: Mildly spiced rice and daal preparation. Popularly made when you want to eat a light meal, when suffering from a stomach disorder since it is not only nutritive but can be easily digested. Top
Kheema: Ground meat, raw or cooked.  Top
Koftas: Spiced meat or vegetable balls.  Top
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 sweet meats.  Top
Korma: Rich sauce thickned with yogurt, nuts or poppy seeds.  Top
Kulcha: Flatbread often stuffed with onion or potatoes and seasoned with cilantro.  Top
Kulfi: Sweet, aromatic ice cream made from cream, milk, and sugar flavored with mango, pistachios, saffron etc. Among the most popular are the Mango Kulfi, Pista kulfi and the Malai Kulfi.  Top
Lassi : A tall cool drink made from yogurt and water and made either sweet or salty. To be enjoyed with a fresh dollop of yogurt on top on a hot summer day.   Top
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.     Top
Masala Dani : ( 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.    Top
Modak: Cone shaped dumplings made from rice flour filled with a cooked mixture of freshly grated coconut and sugar. Made exclusively during the festival of "Ganapati".    Top
Mutter : Peas     Top
Mutter Paneer: Curried peas with cubes of fried homemade cheese.   Top
Murgh : Chicken   Top
Murgh Masalam: Curried chicken…world famous!Top
Naan: Indian flat bread made from wheat and baked in a tandoor. Top
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 "Varak".   Top
Pakoras: Popular Indian crispy and spicy snack served usually hot out of the frying pot along with coriander chutney. A popular tea time 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.   Top
Paratha: Whole-wheat unleavened flatbread. It is sometimes filled with cooked ground meat or a vegetable mixture. Slightly larger than a Chappati and shallow fried to perfection.   Top
Papad: Thin wafer like discs about 4 to 8 nches 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.   Top
Pulao: 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 Pulao.    Top
Puris: Deep-fried whole-wheat flatbreads. They are usually around 4 inches in diameter and puff up when deep-fried. Delicious when hot!   Top
Raan: Leg of lamb marinated in yogurt-based masala.   Top
Raita: Vegetable and yogurt salad.   Top
Rassgulla: One of the most famous Indian sweets that originated from east India. The balls made from milk are cooked in a light sugar syrup, flavored with cardamom. Served chilled.
Rogan Josh: Rich lamb curry.   Top
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.    Top
Saag Curry: Aromatic curried dish made from greens (saag).
Sambhar: Lentil curry form the south of India. Served as an accompaniment with "idli"and "dosa".   Top
Samosas: Deep-fried pastry appetizers filled with vegetable or meat mixtures.    Top
Seekh Kabab: The word "Seekh" in Hindi means skewer. Seekh kabab simply means kababs on a skewer. Kababs are usually made out of ground lamb mixed with various spices, cooked in a "tandoor".   Top
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.   Top
Shahi: means "Royal" in Hindi   Top
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, daal, gravies made in them acquire a unique taste, very different from the food cooked on the regular kitchen oven. 

You will not find "tandoors" in Indian homes /  kitchens today. Most use the gas or the electric oven. Nowadays Tandoors are found mainly in restaurants, although a new outdoor tandoor is available for the outdoors.    Top

Tandoori Murgh: This is the bright red world famous Tandoori Chicken. Chicken marinated with spices, red color and yogurt, cooked in a tandoor. Try making it as described in the cook book or at your favorite Indian restaurant.    Top
Tikka: Skewered boneless meat cubes cooked in a tandoor.   Top
Upma: Spiced semolina cooked with or without tiny cubed potatoes, peas, and sometime shrimp and garnished with freshly grated coconut and cilantro.   Top
Varak: Fine thin edible silver foil used to decorate or garnish Indian desserts and "paan". It has been known to aid in digestion.    Top

Vindaloo: 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. A great dish to make when entertaining as it can be made ahead of time.          Top




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