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Here's Solid Proof That Indian Food In America Looks Nothing Like Actual Indian Food

What are "Jaipur Vegetables"? What is "Rajmah Dal"?

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1. This is the American version of "Indian vegetable korma."

A frozen meal of Indian vegetable korma
Cooking Light / Via

Well, this is what vegetable korma, or navratan korma, is supposed to look like.

A bowl of creamy navratan korma, garnished with almonds and coriander and served with parathas
Getty Images

Vegetable korma or navratan korma is a rich and creamy curry that is prepared with nine different vegetables, fruits, and nuts, because the word "navratan" basically translates to "nine gems." It goes well with tandoori roti or naan.

2. In America, this is a "kofta curry with channa masala and spinach basmati pilaf."

A frozen Indian meal of kofta, chana masala, and spinach basmati pilaf
Pinterest / Via

In India, however, kofta, chana masala, and P̶i̶l̶a̶f̶ pulao are standalone dishes that may or may not be consumed together.

Getty Images

Kofta, in many cultures, is the equivalent of a meatball, but in India, it is often prepared with mixed vegetables, potatoes, and/or cottage cheese and tossed in a creamy cashew or tomato-based gravy.

Chana masala or chole masala is a spicy (and incredibly popular) North Indian curry that is made with chickpeas and is eaten either with rice or a deep-fried sourdough bread called "bhatura."

And finally, pulao is a one-pot rice dish that contains vegetables, spices, and herbs. It can be eaten with any curry or a yogurt "raita," or simply on its own.

3. In America, these are what "vegetable pakoras" look like.

A frozen vegetable pakoras meal.

However, the picture that you see above is that of "kadhi pakora," which is basically pakoras tossed in a yogurt and chickpea flour-based sauce. Vegetable pakoras actually look like this:

Vegetable pakora or onion bhaji served with salad and chili sauce.
Paul_brighton / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vegetable pakoras, also known as bhaji, are similar to fritters, as they are fried in the same way and have the same texture. They're prepared with an array of vegetables such as potatoes, onions, cauliflower, and even eggplant. These tasty and spicy treats are usually served with a cup of tea or coffee.

4. Here's Trader Joe's, offering something called "Jaipur vegetables."

A packet of a ready-to-eat dish called jaipur vegetables
Aldi Reviewer / Via

Which I am not entirely sure how to feel about, since there's no such Indian dish as "Jaipur vegetables." Jaipur is a beautiful city in the Indian state of Rajasthan and there are many wonderful traditional dishes that one can enjoy while visiting the state.

Pradeep Mohanta / Getty Images, Getty Images

There's a meal of "dal baati churma" which contains dal or lentils, along with baked wheat balls (baati), and coarsely ground wheat cooked with sugar and ghee (churma).

There's also "ghatte ki sabzi", which is a curry that contains dumplings made out of gram (chickpea) flour. It is either eaten with roti (flatbread) or rice.

And finally, "laal maans" is a spicy meat curry that is popular because of its rich red colour. It is usually prepared with lamb.

5. Here’s how an American prepared butter chicken.

But this is what Indian butter chicken actually looks like.

A bowl of creamy butter chicken garnished with cream, butter, and coriander
Getty Images

Well, butter chicken is one of Northern India's most popular dishes wherein grilled pieces of chicken (tandoori chicken) are tossed in a sweet and tangy tomato gravy that contains oodles of butter and cream. It is eaten with naan, or sometimes with rice.

Here's an interesting story behind the origins of butter chicken.

6. Americans think this monstrosity is "uppama."

Ummm, sorry to break it to you, but this is what upma looks like.

A bowl of vegetable upma, a savoury semolina based dish, that is sometimes topped with a little bit of sugar to bring out the flavours
Getty Images

Upma is a popular South Indian savoury breakfast dish that is prepared either with semolina or coarse rice flour. And no, there's absolutely no ketchup involved.

7. How the US eats "palak paneer," "aloo chat," and "pav bhaji."

What palak paneer, aloo chaat, and pav bhaji actually look like in India.

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Palak paneer is, yet again, a North Indian vegetarian dish and contains cubes of cottage cheese (paneer) tossed into a spinach-based gravy.

The sweet, spicy, and sour aloo chaat, on the other hand, is an extremely popular street food in India. Deep-friend potato chunks are tossed in a multitude of spices and garnished with green chutney, coriander, and pomegranate seeds.

And finally, pav bhaji is basically a thick (and spicy) vegetable curry that is served with soft, buttered buns. It originates from the Indian state of Maharashtra.

8. This is the American version of an instant chicken curry meal.

A frozen chicken curry meal with naan bread. / Via

Sorry, but that chicken looks SO dry!


In India, however, this is what it's supposed to look like.

A bowl of chicken curry garnished with coriander and a stick of cinnamon
Mtreasure / Getty Images

A traditional chicken curry consists of chicken stewed in an onion and tomato-based gravy while getting its flavor from various spices such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric. It pairs well with both rice and roti. 

Fun fact: Outside of South Asia, this dish is usually made with a pre-made spice known as curry powder instead of the vast array of spices mentioned before. If you ask an Indian, however, they'll tell you that there's no such thing as "curry powder."

9. The US also apparently eats palak paneer with "rajmah dal."

A frozen Palak Paneer meal.

Well, there's no such thing as "rajmah dal" in India. It's just rajma, and it's delicious!

A bowl of rajma or kidney bean curry served with a side of basmati rice, garnished with a sprig of coriander
Subodhsathe / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Yet another vegetarian curry from North India, rajma is essentially a spicy kidney bean curry. It's usually served with rice, onions, coriander-mint chutney, papad, and yogurt. Since it is mostly eaten with chawal (Hindi for rice), the dish is popularly known as "rajma chawal" and feels like a warm hug from grandma.

10. Here's a plate of chicken biryani, I guess???

A Chicken Biryani frozen meal.

But here is the real deal in all of its delicious glory!

Chicken biryani, served in a copper bowl with a side of raita
Kriangkrai Thitimakorn / Getty Images

Chicken biryani is a popular mixed rice dish that can be served with meat, but is often substituted for more vegetarian options such as eggs and potatoes. While the frozen meal doesn't look too bad, you can practically see the flavors jumping out of the picture of the freshly made dish.

11. Finally, I am sorry Americans, but what is "chicken tandoori with spinach"?

A frozen meal of tandoori chicken with spinach

This is what tandoori chicken actually looks like. And no, it is never served with spinach.

Spicy, roasted chicken wings marinated in an authentic Tandoori sauce
Sstajic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tandoori chicken is often eaten as an appetiser in India, especially North India. Chicken pieces, which have been marinated in yogurt and spices, are roasted in a "tandoor" or a clay oven and served with mint chutney and lemon wedges. Some people like to consume this dish as an entrée by pairing it with naan.