What It Is: A fireball stew of tender beef or lamb shank, thickened with flour.
Eaten With: Chili, cilantro, ginger and lemon garnish. Hot, buttered naan. Lots of water.
Fact: The name nihari comes from the Arabic word nihar, meaning morning. In other words, you cook the shit out of this thing and it’s usually only available on weekends.
What It Is: Layered rice and meat flavored with the chef’s preferred spice mix. Can be made with lamb, goat, chicken, fish or vegetables.
Eaten With: Yogurt. All of your relatives at your cousin’s wedding.
Fact: Biryani has potential to bring unity to the Indian subcontinent.
What It Is: Squiggly pretzel-shaped rings of fried flour. Bright and exciting. Like Michelangelo of the Ninja Turtles if he was a donut. Or an overly-tanned yoga instructor.
Eaten with: Hot, dripping oil. Rose water syrup. Warm milk.
Fact: If you took a two-year-old’s drawing of an orange and made it three dimensional, you’d get jalebi.
6. Chana/Chole Masala
What It Is: Spicy chickpeas cooked with lots of onions, tomatoes, cumin and coriander.
Eaten With: Any type of bread except naan. Some Gas-X.
Fact: If you’ve never cooked desi food before, start with Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for chickpeas, substituting the amchoor for lemon added right before serving.
What It Is: Grilled chunks of lamb or chicken, seasoned with cayenne and lemon.
Eaten: On a hot day at the park. Like drumsticks. With naan.
Fact: The ‘masala’ in chicken tikka masala is generic and can be used to describe pretty much anything with sauce. Tikka refers to the meat chunks.
What It Is: A mixture of cooked yogurt, chick-pea flour and veggie fritters, sprinkled with whole cayenne and cumin seeds.
Eaten With: Rice or roti. People who are about to have their definition of ‘curry’ rocked.
Fact: In parts of North India, the word ‘curry’ only refers to this dish in particular.
What It Is: Fatty, gelatinous goodness in a bowl. Similar to nihari, but made from a cow or goat hoof.
Eaten With: Same as nihari.
Fact: Some people are turned off by this. This is an indication you need tougher friends.
What It Is: Fried bread. Sometimes stuffed with fenugreek, potatoes, radish, ground beef and more.
Eaten With: An omelette. Raita. Spicy pickle. Chai.
Fact: Perhaps the most versatile bread in the world. Will make you fat.
12. Tandoori Chicken
What It Is: Grilled chicken marinated in yogurt and lemon. Traditionally cooked in a massive stone tandoor oven. Turned red by mysterious means.
Eaten With: Tandoori naan. Fresh lemon. Stained hands.
Fact: Better when spicy and juicy. Don’t settle for rubber.
13. Kashmiri Chai
What It Is: Green tea oxidized and aerated so intensely it turns pink.
Eaten With: Milk-fat. Biscuits. Pistachios. Dudes wearing shawls to keep warm.
Fact: People never believe that this is actually made from green tea.
14. Halwa Puri
What It Is: Fluffy fried dough paired with sweetened, buttery semolina flour. Savory and sweet. Nearly always paired with chickpeas and potatoes.
Eaten With: Spicy pickle. Yogurt. People who are missing incisors.
Fact: If someone invites you for halwa puri brunch, you best go.
15. Karahi Chicken
What It Is: Savory and gingery bone-in chicken in a tasty sauce. Basic recipe which can vary from person to person.
Eaten With: Rice and bread to soak up sauce. A Pakistani mom.
Fact: Named for the massive wok-style pot that it’s made in.
16. Pani Puri/Gol Guppa
What It Is: Airy and flaky fried dough hand-stuffed with warm chick peas and sweet-and-tangy water. A popular street food.
Eaten With: Tamarind chutney. Yogurt. Delicate hands.
Fact: It’s safe in America, but the unfiltered water used overseas will give you the worst diarrhea of your life.
17. Butter Chicken
What It Is: Chicken tikka masala’s Punjabi cousin. Usually spicier and richer, but fairly similar.
Also Known As: Murgh makhani.
Fact: Moti Mahal, a famous Delhi institution, claims to have invented this food to use leftover Tandoori chicken. Chicken tikka masala is a British adaption of this modern classic.
What It Is: Lentils slow-cooked and seasoned with a garnish (called tarka) of hot oil, whole spice and onions. Not the same as lentil soup, but also kind of the same.
Eaten With: White Rice. A small serrano pepper if you’re brave.
Fact: The favorite food of brown dads everywhere.
19. Chicken Dopiaza
What It Is: Chicken cooked with onions added in two stages: first as a paste and then caramelized.
Eaten With: Onion-lovers.
Fact: The name literally means “Chicken Two-Onions.” Lots of other foods should have this naming convention. Example: Corned Beef Two-Bread.
What It Is: Indigenous ice-cream of the subcontinent. Dense and nuttier than what you’re used to.
Eaten With: A wood stick out the bottom. Vermicelli noodles. Pistachios.
Fact: Dates to the Mughal Empire. After all, who had access to ice in the steamy subcontinent before fridges? The Jay-Zs and Beyonces of the Old World, that’s who.
21. Shami Kabob
What It Is: Soft, crumbly meat patties stuffed with onions, cilantro and jalepenos.
Eaten With: Biryani and Pullao. Tandoori chicken. Basically more meat.
Fact: Comes from the Arabic word sham, meaning Syrian or Lebanese.
22. Baingan Bharta/Baghara Baingan
What It Is: Roasted or fried eggplant mashed with garlic, tomatoes and spices.
Eaten With: Daal. People who like baba ghanoush.
Fact: This dish’s body is baingan and comes with a free punny joke.
What It Is: Sweetened, spongy dessert made of cottage cheese
Similar foods: Gulab Jamun. Ras Malai.
Fact: South Asian sweets are probably several levels sweeter than you’re used to, so keep an eye on your dental health.
24. Chicken Manchurian
What It Is: Indo-Chinese dish. Tossed in flour and fried. Savory and sometimes sweet.
Similar foods: Chicken 65. Chili Chicken. Spiritual cousin of General Tso’s.
Fact: If Indo-Chinese food teamed up with chaat, they would take over the world.
27. Papri Chaat
What It Is: One of a massive variety of fresh, tangy, crunchy street food that usually involves fried dough, chickpeas, chutney, yogurt and more.
Eaten with: With other chaats — Potato Chaat, Bhel Puri, Aloo Tiki and more.
Fact: Chaat is criminally underserved at South Asian restaurants.
What It Is: Mustard greens or spinach, blended into a satisfying pulp. Can be cooked with lamb, paneer, peas or potatoes.
Eaten With: Punjabi Pop-eye. Excellent with corn flour roti.
Fact: Bollywood loves to film dance numbers in the middle of mustard fields.
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