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A small glossary of things offered on Indian menus

Indian takeaways and Indian currys are popular in the UK, but often have lots of oddly spelled items and no indication of what they could be. Some places do give an indication - but not very many. This little page is to help. Firstly though, spellings - they differ. Panir may be paneer. If it sounds the same, it may be the same.

Main Dish/Side Dish: Often the same size, main dish will refer to meat in sauce, side dish will refer to vegetable in sauce. We have found that for a main meal we need one staple dish and one main (or side) dish. So for meat plus veg you really need two people! By staple I mean either a rice or a bread type dish - eating curry and rice is perhaps the usual combination, but an Indian dish is just as good eaten with a Nan bread.

If a dish is too hot (as in spicy), do not drink water, it really doesn't help, as the hotness of curry is not real heat. Drink yoghurt or milk. And take advantage of the yoghurt dip to take some heat out of the spicier dishes.


As indicated, something to start- an appetiser. Really a bit of an extra, which you may not need. Those giant white crisps that are often free are starters- poppadoms. Others include the well known Samosa or the less well known Pakora (deep fried battered packages of meat or vegetable) and the Onion Bhaji (deep fried battered onions). Kebabs can also fit into this category- little pieces of meat or veg on skewers (the skewers are often removed these days).

Rasme Kebab is a spicer burger and omelette. || Kachori - Spicy lentil balls covered in pastry.
Seek Kebab is a spicy "sausage" || Shami Kebab is a "burger".
Massalla is fish. || Puri is a corn based bread with a filling || Other starters can be listed as side dishes sometimes- see below.


Rice or bread.
Nan (Naan) is huge and filling- and can also be served filled. For example a Keema Nan has minced meat, a Peshwari Nan is sweetened with coconut. Kulcha Nan has onions. Garlic Nan may be buttered with garlic butter.
Other Nans may have cheese fillings etc etc. Chapati (also called roti) is a slightly thinner bread (unleavened unsalted)but still quite enough for a meal. Slightly smaller (but not much) is the Paratha (flaky and somewhat more elaborate than chappatis or rotis). Pudina Paratha - layered whole wheat bread sprinkled with dried mint.
Keema is minced meat so Keema Fried Rice will have meat in it.

Main dishes / Side dishes: note- the sauces and spice mixtures will vary from outlet to outlet and vegetables can vary with the season.!

Achar- spiced pickle - mango or lime. An achari dish may also have garlic, ginger and onion.
Adrak - fresh ginger and garam massala.
Aloo - potatoes
Aloo Shaslick - Tandoori potatoes stir-fried with onions & capsicums.
Baingan / behngan - aubergine
Balti (Clay pot cooked) - ginger, garlic, green capsicum, green chillies, onions
Bindi / bhindi - Okra
Biryani dishes are rice dishes with meat (or vegetables) served with a sauce
Chana - Chick peas
Chilli Mossala- fresh chillies, onion, capsicum

Dalwada -Crushed lentil balls coated with coconut chutney.
Dhall / dall- Lentils (generically pulses)
Dhansak - sweet and sour
Dhosa- Masala Dhosa - Rice crepe with spicy potato & onion filing, served with dal sambhar & coconut chutney.
Dopiaza - lots of onions.
Ghosht- Mutton / Lamb (meat)
Gobe - Cauliflower (patta ghobi)
Haleem- wheat porridge with meat- long hours of cooking make this like a thick soup. (usually with ground lamb)
Jalfrezi - sharp and spicy - ginger, garlic, green capsicum, green chillies, onions
Karahi (pan, like a wok) - ginger, garlic, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander.
Keema- minced meat.
Khichdi - Moong beans cooked with long grain rice. served with melted butter.
Korma- mild and rather filling - made with cream - mild hot and sour, sweet fruit (mango, sultana, coconut), and chilli.
Malai- cream, yoghurt and coconut.
Makani (two differing recipes seem to exist)- mild, lots of tomato (onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, butter and cream and spices)
Masalla - spiced (mixture)
Mattar (green peas) (hari mattar)
Matar Dal- yellow split peas
Methi - fenugreek (it's green)
Methi Thepla- a lovely flat bread from Gujarat with fenugreek.
Mogo- Jeera Mogo- Cassava with cumin seeds, green chili & spice.
Mughlai - onions, green peppers, garlic, egg and yoghurt.
Palak (spinach)
Paneer / Panir - a special Indian cheese, part cooked in the initial process and thus very similar to the Cypriot Halloumi. Paneer does NOT melt or become stringy when heated. Due to problems obtaining true paneer some Indian meals are misleadingly sold with English cheese (which melts and becomes stringy) or Cottage Cheese. Only the unmelted cheeses are genuine Pan. Paneer is usually to be found in small cuboid chunks, and squeaks against your teeth! It can be eaten raw, or cooked in almost any way, including barbecue. It has a very mild flavour.
Paneer Shaslick - Marinated paneer stir-fried with onions & capsicums.
Paneer Kofta -Fresh paneer balls cooked in a spicy tomato and cream gravy.
Pasanda - mild and very creamy, cooked in almond sauce.
Patra (Patrode)- A dish made with cocolasia leaves. Do not harvest your own though- it can be hazardous if the leaves are not prepared properly! Use of lime/lemon juice scrubbed into the leaf helps.
Pista / pishta- pistachio.
Puri / poori - deep fried dough - small round pancakes - rounds of dough that are slipped into hot oil or ghee, where they fill with steam and balloon in seconds. Pooris are soft silk like breads with which curries and vegetables are scooped up
Saag - Spinach-like vegetable ("hak") (generically, green leaves)
Sarson- mustard
Tarka - spice flavoured ghee (clarified butter)
Thale- a tray with small dishes around it, and rice / bread in the middle. Traditionally vegetarian but you will find them with meats.
Undhyu -An assortment of exotic vegetables & rice dumplings served in thick richly spiced gravy.
Uttapem - Rice flour based pancake with tomatoes & capsicum, served with dal sambhar & coconut chutney.

Curry styles:
Note- what is hot in one place may be mild in another. If the customers are mostly young English men expect hotter meals than if the customers are Indian families.
very hot- Vindaloo
hot- Madras
Jalfriezi (green peppers, onions, green chillies and tomatoes.), Rogan Josh, Sagwala (spinach), Karahi (wok cooked)
Dupiaza, Balti, Bhuna (=stir-fried)
sweet and sour- Pathia
Hot and Sour - Samber
Mild Sweet and Sour - Dhansak (cooked with lentils)
Mild and sweet- Korma (with cream / yoghurt), Passandra (cooked with cream)


Kheer is a sweet rice made with condensed milk and sweetened with sugar. Can be eaten with raisins and is very nice with a diced carrot topping.
Lassi- a sweetened thin yoghurt drink, very nice liquidised with sweet mango as Mango Lassi.
Kulfi- Indian ice cream, varying from the soft tub style ice cream to a milky hard lollypop style. Many flavours. Mango, Pistachio and Rose are favourites.
Try kulfi the traditional way- serve with thin unsweetened rice noodles!
Shahi Tukra- bread and milk pudding
Faluda- "rose milk" - anything from a milkshake style to a thick set custard, with rice noodles.
Matka kulfi (pistachio kulfi served in a ceramic bowl (matka) containing saffron sauce & specially flavoured chopped almond & pistachio nuts) (kesar = saffron)
Gulab jamijn (Indian sweet doughnut dipped in golden syrup)

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