Best Mild Indian Dishes?
Help! I am going out to eat with friends this weekend to a local Indian neighborhood restaurant, and I don't know what to order. I usually avoid Indian because I can't eat spicy food, and everytime I ask the waitstaff for recommendations, the dishes they recommend turn my mouth on fire and cause acid reflux. (I personally find curry to have a kick -- I'm looking for 100% mild here.)
Besides chicken vindaloo and masala, what are dishes you recommend I try? Only once, I had a sweet vegetarian dish in a sauce -- but it was during a business meeting and I have no clue what it was called.
I would really like to enjoy Indian food, but my knowledge about the best dishes to order is very limited. Your help is appreciated!
I would just tell the waiter "I can't eat spicy, please make ____ (creamy yoghurt based dish of choice like qorma, etc.) with no spice." You can add that you have acid reflux or if the waiter doesn't speak English very well say "I have gastric problems," because "gastric" should register in desi (South Asian variety) English. Eat with plain rice and bread and plain yoghurt or raita.
All of the dishes mentioned above could potential come out spicy chile hot (except the idli or a plain dosa but that isn't meant to be eaten alone anyway) so I wouldn't trust just ordering a dish without specifiying that it must be mild.
northern indian specialties will be the best bet. i second the kormas and mughal-type dishes (yogurt based sauces-- ordered mild, it's kinda like "indian alfredo sauce" & therefore good for neophytes. if the place happens to have kashmiri-style dishes on the menu, you might luck out with milder dishes (at least try the salted tea). otherwise, take plenty of plain rice and plenty of raita to cool off & dilute any spiciness in the dishes. the posters who recd a mango lassi on the side are brilliant.
i also second aloo matter/aloo gobi/matter paneer (mild preparations intended for elderly folks with no teeth and sensitive digestive systems-- seriously! matter/mutter is the affectionate transliteration for "mother," or more likely "grandmother"). in general the veg dishes at u.s. indian restaurants seem to be (inauthentically) very mild. i also second malai kofta--very mild! southern indian specialties are your enemies, as are tandoori dishes. look out for "madras-style," "hyderabad/hyderabadi," kerala, vindaloo, etc-- these can all be hotter than you might like. if you have problems with acid reflux, the tomato-based curries of south india (often called "___ masala," may be acidic in addition to well-seasoned, and therefore give you a hard time. look for the veg dishes, or the korma/mughal preparations. hope you can find something you enjoy.
I'll second the butter chicken, and also an aloo gobi, or saag paneer or maybe another paneer, or a korma. One thing you should probably do, if you do not want ANY chile spark, is to make this clear with your server. You might want to ask your server up front which dishes they recommend that do not have any (or much) chile in them. Some places will make things differently than others, that's just how it is. ASk the server what dishes they do without a lot of (or any) heat. Their saag paneer might be fiery, but their aloo gobi might be just what you are looking for. Ask.
Edit - just re-read, and saw that you have asked. Speak to a manager. It's possible that the servers just don't care, and are not asking the cooks? I'd speak with the manager first. I think the word for chile is mirch, or mirchi, so you could try a firm "No Mirchi" w/ the manager.
Consider some Punjabi dishes, such as classics like aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) or other vegetable dishes. Also stuff from the tandoori oven.
Although some Tamil dishes are very spicy, various Tamil starches e.g. masala dosa (or dasa in its many forms), puttu, iddili, koothu etc. some of them served with a tangy sambar (a curried vegetable broth with tamarind). Or fried vadas and bondas, made from lentil flour. I kinda like bananized bondas. Nice with yogurt and various chutneys.
iirc, thakkals are yogurt based curries from Kerala, and having lots of yogurt make it easy to wash away the heat. Curry leaves are a common flavouring here, simple vegetable curries may be best. (Do watch the fish curries, from Kerala, can be on the spicy side.)
Consider bryanis from Hyderabadi, also sour and sweet are more prominent in dishes of this region as well.
Order the lentil dishes - dal makhani, "dal" anything.
Avoid vegetable dishes because those will inevitably be spicy. Palak paneer might be too spicy for you, kofta/korma dishes, other dishes with cream sauces will be mild but maybe not mild enough for you. Butter chicken might be ok with you, as might chicken tikka masala. I consider those dishes to be very mild, but then again I am Indian and biased.
If you are at a South Indian restaurant, you might have it easier. Dosas, idlis, and utthapams are authentic but contain no curry so are very mild.
I second some of the above suggestions--if you're worried that your dish will be too spicy, arm yourself with a mango lassi, an extra side order of plain white rice, or a basket of bread (naan, chapati etc.)
very simple, but tasty, chicken: chicken tikka, and for a savory gravy, chicken tikka masala. (or if that is not there, murgh makhani, butter chicken.) you can always go with tandoori chicken, but for tastiness, i'd recommend the chicken tikka. aachari chicken or boti kabob are nice chicken and lamb dishes, respectively, without "gravy". shammi kabob or seekh kabob are spiced ground meat, but not hot. have a look at some recipes on the home cooking board, and you'll get an idea of ingredients.
if you don't like spicy, steer clear of "vindaloo", or "madras".
as to daal, i love indian food, but have not yet found a daal i like. esp. the black daal. tastes like dirt. oh, if you love spinach, like i do, try saag paneer or palak paneer (either mixed greens, finely choped and mildly spiced, or spinach, the same way. also done with lamb (lamb saag) or with chicken (murgh saag). imo, lamb is better. not hot, but subtly spiced and darned tasty.
in breads, be sure to try some paratha, or puri, or a stuffed naan (keema nan is stuffed with minced "keema" lamb).
Vindaloo is one of the spiciest curries there is! If you want a meat, korma is your best option as it is a cream and nut based curry. Pasanda is a close variation, but has the addition of a little chili. Tandoori or chicken tikka will also typically avoid using chilies. Biryani is often mild and if it has a kick to you, drown it in raita which will moderate the heat.
Vegetarian-style foods can be mild as mentioned previously. Among dals, dal makhani tends to be mildest. Dahi puri will also be mild as it is covered in a yogurt sauce. Malai kofta has a cream sauce, so you should be safe there as well. Matar paneer as mentioned also is good (usually less spicy than palak/saag paneer). The only sweet vegetable dish I can think of is gobi manchurian, but that is Indo-Chinese and not always available. Kutcchi bhindi (sweet-and-sour okra) might be close, but it is usually served rather dry.
Either way, keep a glass of sweet mango lassi at hand and order some ras malai and you will be well equipped to tolerate a chili or two.
If you want something delicious - packed with flavor - but mild, I suggest ordering one of the most simple but elegant Indian staples - Daal. It's "just" lentil soup, but can be ohhh soo wonderful. My mom makes it for me when I have a tummy ache, so it really can be mild and soothing.
Also, you may like mutter paneer (stewed peas with cubes of homemade cheese). The cheese (paneer) has a lovely spongy quality, almost like Wisconsin cheese curds. I've never encountered this dish with even a tiny amount of heat, so you should be fine. The peas (mutter) aren't supposed to be overcooked, and take on the nice rich flavour of the broth.
I can empathize with a sensitive stomach. My recommendation is to grab a little bowl of raita (say, if you're at a lunch buffet; if not, order some) which is a cold, cucumbery yogurt sauce. Remember, bases tend to extinguish spiciness (especially dairy), much better than water. A sweet mango lassi (mango yogurt shake) will also serve the same purpose.
Q: How do peas talk to each other?
A: Mutter, mutter!
I'll be here all night, folks. Try the murgh masala.
Have fun and don't be afraid. :) Do report back on what you try and what you think.