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Indian Food

Pappadums- Dip them into chutney

Chicken curry- butter chicken is popular

Kulfi- Indian-style ice cream dessert




Indian restaurants range from casual to very fancy- know ahead of time which type you are going to and whether your kids are OK in a fancy restaurant environment.  Even the fancy places will usually have staff there who are happy to see kids, so long as they aren't screaming and hanging from the chandeliers.  Food-wise, most kids who like chicken will like tandoori chicken (this is Indian-style BBQ chicken), plain papadums, rice, and some of the vegetable dishes.  Even lamb skewers are not that spicy.  Butter chicken is a good dish to begin with when introducing kids to Indian curries.  If you're in a South Indian restaurant, a dosai (sometimes spelled 'thosai'), will probably also be something kids will eat. 

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Basic Indian Food Terms


Pappadum:    A flat, round cracker made from lentil gram flour.  Served at the beginning of the meal in the same way that buns would be brought in an American restaurant.  Break them and up with dip.

Samosa:  Potato and pea-filled pastry pockets.

Pakora: Breaded, deep-fried vegetables; these are an appetizer.

Lentil Soup:  A thick soup, made with lentil beans.

Raita:   A yogurt condiment.  You can dip naan into it, or mix a little into your curry.

Mango chutney:  A dip for your pappadums.

Naan:  Flat wheat bread, a bit like pita.  Use it to scoop up your curries.

Tandoori Chicken:  Chicken that's roasted in a tandoori oven.  Indian's version of BBQ, sometimes other items are available, such as tandoori fish or shrimp.

Dosa: Also spelled 'dosai' and 'thosai', this is a dish made up of one giant 'crepe' that is stiff, like a freshly formed waffle cone except shaped into a big tube on a plate.  Inside the crepe tube is a mildly spiced potato filling.

Aloo Palak: Potatoes in a creamy spinach sauce.

Saag Paneer:  Cheese cubes in a creamy spinach sauce.

Murgh Mahkani:  Chicken in a smooth butter-tomato sauce, also called Butter Chicken, sometimes.

Rogan Josh:  Lamb in a 'red' curry sauce.  It's typically not too spicy as the red color comes from paprika, not anything spicier, though ask the waiter if you're worried, as some people add lots of cayenne.

Biryani Rice:  Rice with saffron and other flavorings added.  As popular a choice with an Indian meal as plain basmati rice.

Dal:  Split yellow lentil beans served slightly saucy, the same way that Heinz beans are a bit saucy.

Gulab Jamun:  A 'pastry' dish made with milk and honey.

Kulfi: India's version of ice cream

Mango ice cream: a popular ice cream flavor

Rasmalai:  Cardamom and rose water-flavored sweet cottage-cheese dumplings.


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The Food Virgin's First Time

My first time eating Indian food is really a bit of a misnomer, because in truth, I really didn’t eat that much. It was not only far spicier than my tongue could take, but also involved a dish called ‘Fish Head Curry’, in which a whole huge fish head in a bowl of curry sauce is served at the table.



Critical Do's and Definite Don'ts




  • Wash your hands before and after the meal or use the towelette provided.
  • Use your fingers to eat papadums, naan bread, and dosa.  In some parts of India, it is normal to eat whole meals involving rice and curry with your hand (right hand only!), but this is harder than it looks! 
  • Order a mix of meat dishes, dishes with curry sauces and those without (like tandoori chicken), and vegetables.  Always be sure to order rice.
  • Use your side plate for your naan or papadums, as you would with regular bread.
  • Feel free to switch between using your naan and fingers to eat, and using your knife and fork.
  • Pass serving dishes around the table, but be sure they're not too hot to touch.  This way, everyone can try everything, and no one person can hoard something yummy.


  • Forget to order at least one tandoori dish.  If anyone at your table is afraid of spicy food, then they can definitely fall back on this to eat-- plus it's delicious!
  • Order too much food.  Ask your waiter if you're not sure whether you've ordered too much or too little.
  • Leave food on your plate, especially if you're eating in someone's home.  It is considered bad manners to have the hosts deal with it.
  • Don't use pappadums to scoop up your main dish foods in the way that you would use naan.
  • Don't worry too much about strange table manners or customs.  For the most part, there is nothing unusual to know.
  • Lick your fingers, especially if eating with your hands.
  • Forget that you are sharing the food with other people; try to leave enough of each dish for everyone to have some.


Restaurants We Like

Eat where The Food Virgin eats:  

In Singapore-  Song of India, 33 Scotts Road, Singapore  +65 6836-0055

In New York-  Dawat, 210 E. 58th St.  New York, NY  (212) 355-7555


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