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Nov 11, 2008 10:26 AM

new to indian food

My granddaughter wants to try Indian food which I am very happy to do for her. I've been to India twice but I really remember that I loved the Tandoori, curries and some of the cucumber salads. What would you all suggest we try to introduce her to first. I'm in Orange County California and I want her to have a memorable experience even though I don't remember the names except the tandoori. Thanks.............

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  1. Most people I know start to love Indian food because of thir first taste of Chicken Tikka Masala.

    1. Most Indian restaurants will offer an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for around $8 - $14, with a wide variety of things to try. They'll usually have at least one curry, chicken tandoori, rice, pakoras, naan bread, chutnies, and an assortment of meat and vegetarian dishes. This is the absolute best way to introduce a newbie to Indian food, if you ask me. A good place will keep everything in the buffet trays fresh and hot, and some will offer the buffet for dinner as well (usually at a higher price). Don't forget a refreshing lassi drink too, especially if she tries anything spicy!

      2 Replies
      1. Depends on what you guys like. I'd ask the server to explain the dishes, and order what seems like a good idea for your tastes. I'm in the midwest, and the usual palate pleasers for introductory stuff are:

        Chicken tikka
        Tandoori meats
        Boti kabobs (usually a marinated grilled meat with a hit of chile along with Indian Spices)
        Butter Chicken (mildly spicy chicken in a tomato, cream sauce)
        Your standard dal dishes (lentils)
        aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) in a masala (spice mix)
        naan - (the bread) although I MUCH prefer paratha (a grilled wheat tortilla of sorts that has oil in it - yum, yum, yum)
        saag (spinach) dishes.
        Oooh! Paneer (Indian cheese cubes) in some kind of curry (gravy)
        Chicken korma - usually a mild yogurt curry (gravy)
        pulao or biryani (rice dishes)
        Just some thoughts for you.

        3 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          Thank you for your thoughtful response. I've written everything you written about, made my list and will go from there. I am so excited than I have a 17 year old that desires to learn about other cultures food. We've tried other cultures she is not familar with and it is so fun to intoduce her to those especially since I'm a chowhound and traveler that I think I have another chowhound in the making. Thank you again and I'll follow up with a report.

          1. re: gordeaux

            Those are pretty universally beloved dishes. Initially I had not inherited my father's genes and turned my nose at Indo-Pak food mainly because I could not tolerate spice. But the flavorful introduction of chicken tikka opened my palate to new flavors. Soon my brother and I begged for saag paneer (greens with cheese) or rogan josh (lamb in a yogurt curry). Our favorite snacks came in the form of flaky samosas or at the very least a juicy boti kabob. Parties opened our eyes to the world of Mughlai cuisine with mutton biryani (lamb and rice casserole) and shahi korma (lamb in a cream and groundnut sauce) served with elaborate color and style. Now I find myself regularly craving those same rich foods that opened me to Indian cuisine while also exploring the foreign world of South Indian sambars, idlis and utthapams with the same exhilaration as when I first tried raita.

            1. re: JungMann

              I was about to recommend South Indian food. Curries tend to be spicy but the breakfast foods of the South are mild. And dosas are always impressive in restaurants...those big crispy cones always enchanted me as a kid!

          2. SInce she is 17, she's probably eaten enough Tex-Mex food that she'll handle the more complex spice blends of Indian cuisine in style. Avoid dishes labeled Vindaloo or Manchurian for the first go-round as these are on the hottest end of the spectrum. Order a mango lassi - which is like a yogurt smoothie and will take away the burn from the hotter dishes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              Mango lassi is a good call, although my favorite flavor is rose. As for Manchurian, those dishes are usually sweet, not spicy.

              1. re: JungMann

                Huh...good to know. I've only seen Manchurian as the label on buffet dishes at The Pongal, a highly-rated pan-Indian place in Billerica MA. They are always very spicy. Last time I was there, my friend tried the Manchurian veg dish and the lamb vindaloo. A little spice goes a long way with me, so I'd never dared try anything vindaloo. But he remarked that the vindaloo was atypically mild, and the Manchurian dish far hotter. So I got to try the lamb vindaloo, which was terrific but which I'd still be afraid to order off the menu! The suggestion of mango lassi was in consideration of the OP's DC being a 17-yr old. Plain, or rose, sweet lassi might not be her "cup of tea", as it were.

            2. Try a buffet since you can sample as much or little as you want. I've introduced people to Indian food and always recommend the tandoori chicken since it;s such a staple in most Indian restaurants. Plus, it's typically not as spicey as some of the other dishes. Then you can add some of the other dishes to the plate such as basmati rice. You may first want to visit the restaurant yourself to see how the food is, especially the spice level. My wife and I have eaten at the same Indian restaurant for over a year. The food was a bit spicey but tolerable. When they hired a new chef, the heat level increased and we don't like it as much. Also, I suggest getting a beverage such as mango or sweet lassi, or masala tea.