Learn to navigate an Indian restaurant menu

A guide helping the diner interpret the menus of Indian restaurants in North America, expand their understanding and enhance their enjoyment of one of the great world cuisines.

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Street food in Dehli


Every city, town, and village in this vast country of over 1 billion people has its roadside stands and hawkers. Indians eat street food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as an afternoon snack (often taken home for “tea”), and during festivals when special dishes are prepared. Vendors set up shop near office buildings, schools, railway stations, beaches (such as Bombay’s Chowpatti Beach or Chennai’s Marine Drive), places of worship,  and in crowded markets, such as Delhi’s ancient Chandni Chowk or Mumbai’s Khao Gali (food lane). There are an estimated 300,000 street food vendors in Delhi and 130,000 vendors in Kolkata alone.

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About Colleen

Colleen Sen

Colleen Sen has studied and enjoyed South Asian cuisine for years, sharing her understanding, insights and appreciation of Indian food culture with readers and audiences around the world.

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Turmeric: The Wonder Spice
Thursday, 27 February 2014 19:06

One of the most versatile and ancient spices is turmeric. From time immemorial turmeric has been used in Asia as a dye, a flavoring, a ritual and ceremonial  item, a medicine and an antiseptic. The English name for the spice  is thought to come from the Latin terra merita, which means worthy or meritorious earth – and the name is well deserved, for turmeric is truly a wonder spice!

Sack of turmeric

For thousand of years, spices have played an important role in Indian, Chinese and Indonesian medicine. Of all the spices, none was more important than turmeric.  It was used to treat gastrointestinal and pulmonary disorders, diabetes, atherosclerosis, bacterial infections, gum disease, skin diseases.  Even today, South Asians apply a paste of turmeric and water as an antiseptic to cuts and strains, take a teaspoon in warm milk or yogurt after a meal as an aid to digestion or to relieve the symptoms of a fever, and breathe steam infused with turmeric to relieve congestion.

Health food manufacturers have jumped on the turmeric bandwagon by producing expensive supplements. But it’s just as easy and more pleasing to the palate, to incorporate turmeric in one's diet on a regular basis.

My new e-book, Turmeric: The Wonder Spice, coauthored with Helen Saberi, will show readers how to do this by offering recipes that are delicious and nutritious, easily adding wonderful flavor to any meal while also promoting lifelong healthy habits. You can order copies on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites.

Here’s a couple of recipe to try at home.

Five-Minute Fish with Salsa

This very easy to make dish, developed by one of the author’s husbands, is perfect for emergencies, such as the arrival of unexpected guests. It also has the advantage of being fat free.

4 firm-fleshed fillets of fish (c. 4 – 6 oz/110 – 175 g each) such as red snapper or lemon sole

½ teaspoon salt

½ - 1 tablespoon ground turmeric

¼ cup (60 ml) thick ready-made tomato salsa

½ teaspoon ginger chutney (available at Indian grocery stores) or 1/2 tsp crushed ginger

Mix the salt and turmeric, then rub a generous amount over the fillets. Place them in a micro-safe plastic bag and add the salsa. Seal the bag and cook in a microwave at full power for 2 minutes. Test for doneness and cook for an additional 30 seconds if necessary.

Shake the fish and salsa into a micro-safe serving bowl or plate. Add the ginger chutney or crushed ginger and return the bowl to the microwave, uncovered, and heat for 30 seconds to release the aroma of the ginger.

Serve with rice.

Cumin, Fennel and Turmeric Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Makes 4 - 6 servings

This recipe, which we have adapted slightly, has been given to us by Chef Joe Randall, an award-winning chef and proprietor of the famous Savannah Cooking School in Georgia.

2 pork tenderloins (12 oz, 350 g each), trimmed

2 tablespoons fennel seed, ground

2 tablespoons cumin, ground

½ tablespoon turmeric ground

4 tablespoons olive oil

¼ - ½ tablespoon kosher salt

1 – 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Trim the pork tenderloins. Combine the fennel, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Coat the tenderloins with olive oil and season heavily with the spices, patting them into the oil as much as possible.

Pan sear all sides of the pork tenderloin in a hot oiled skillet. Finish in a pre-heated oven at 3750 F (1900C, Gas mark 5) for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to rest, carve and serve with fresh vegetables of your choice.