- Food and Cooking
Indian feast: Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes for a truly memorable meal
Treat yourself, family and friends to a fabulous Indian feast. This will be a truly memorable meal with everything from home-made balti onion bhajis, green cardamom popadums through to garlic & coriander tarka dhal and Spicy Mushroom Rogan Josh.
This feast is substantial so aim to enjoy an afternoon of taster-menu items and more robust dishes, interspersed with some casual cooking. Although many of the dishes can be made in advance, freshly made naans, chapattis, bhajis and rice just have to be enjoyed straight from the oven or hob.
If you are not used to the spicy food of the Indian subcontinent, you may find even the mild versions hot. Eat lots of naan and have some water or rice handy and you'll find that the food warms rather than burns.
The banquet is roughly divided into 6 courses, as follows:
1st course: Balti Onion bhajis with cucumber mint raita
This is a fairly lightly-spiced opening to the feast, which introduces the delicious Indian spices from curry leaves and cumin to cloves and turmeric.
2nd course: Green cardamom popadums with chutneys
Popadums can be eaten as a course on their own or combined with other dishes to introduce a satisfying “crunch” to the meal. Here they are suggested as a separate course to give the banquet a gentle intermission before proceeding to the next, more substantial course.
3rd course: Almond and Pistachio Peshawari Naan with Chickpea and Spinach Moloshyam
A wonderful combination of warm and soft freshly-made naan with a very moist dhal (moloshyam). Use the naan to mop up the sauce.
4th course: Garlic & Coriander Tarka dhal with Lemon Aloo Gobi and Wild Garlic Chapattis
This course combines the drier dish of lemon aloo gobi with the succulent (“wet”) tarka dhal all mopped up with delicious fresh chapattis.
5th course: Cashew & Sultana Pilau Rice with Spicy Mushroom Rogan Josh
The spiciest dish is saved for last (before the dessert) so that the taste buds have had a chance to “acclimatise” to Indian spices. An interesting combination of spice and nuttiness helps makes this course a memorable pleasure.
6th course: Pistachio & Raisin Rice pudding
After allowing for a break, indulge yourself in this creamy, sweet dessert. Even if you can only manage a taster – give it a try. You will be rewarded.
#1 Balti Onion bhajis with cucumber mint raita
This is a very popular starter or entrée. This particular recipe uses a balti cooking technique to add a new twist to the traditional dish.
Balti-style cooking, which originally came from Baltistan (although there are claims it was “invented” in Birmingham, UK) involves the marinating and then fast cooking in spices of the chosen food (either lamb or vegetables).
The onion here is fried with a variety of spices, then combined with flour to make a dough. Small balls are then made and fried to cook through the dough.
A welcome accompaniment to this dish is the cucumber and mint raita (sauce) which helps cool the effects of the spices.
#2 Green cardamom popadums (poppadum / papadum) with chutneys
Popadums – round, crispy wafers - originate from a wide area of South East Asia, and within India there are many different varieties. The differences arise from the various flours that are used and also the spices and additions to the flour.
This particular variation uses the potent and unique flavour of the green cardamom seed to add interest to the popadum.
Again, the breadth of chutneys used with this dish is enormous. Here the traditional favourites of onion chutney, red (tamarind) and green (coriander/cilantro and mint) chutney are introduced to the feast. However, you can always substitute for your own chutneys, such as mango or lime pickle.
#3 Almond and Pistachio Peshawari Naan (Peshwari Nan)
Naans are eaten instead of or alongside rice normally with a “wetter” dish such as a dhal or moloshyam (see next dish).
This delicious naan uses a reduced amount of coconut – which can sometimes be too sweet for a savoury dish – and opts for the more nutty texture with almonds and pistachios.
Traditionally naan breads are made in a tandoor oven, however, it is just as easy to use a frying pan (griddle) to get great results. The key here – as with all good bread making – is to ensure you knead the dough well and that you allow it to rise to at least double its volume.
#4 Chickpea and Spinach Moloshyam
Originating from the Kerala area of the Indian sub-continent, this mild dhal offers the diner an interesting and nutritious dish with a range of traditional spices.
Not only does this moloshyam offer the melt-in-the-mouth experience with baby spinach and soft chickpeas, but it also extremely creamy with a generous helping of creamed coconut.
A real luxuriously-tasting dish.
All recipes come originally from India or parts of South East Asia.
#5 Garlic & Coriander Tarka dhal (tarka dal)
For the garlic-lovers of the world!
Dhals dishes have been part of the Indian staple diet for centuries, with all manner of variations across the Indian sub-continent.
Tarka dhal is normally a fairly garlicky dish.
For this particular dish, extra garlic and coriander (cilantro) has been added to really give an extra garlic hit.
Enjoy this dish with the lemon aloo gobi and wild garlic chapattis. (Just make sure you have your parsley at the ready, afterwards!)
#6 Lemon Aloo Gobi (Alloo Ghobi / Alu Gobi)
Aloo gobi (also spelt Alloo Ghobi and Alu Gobi) comes originally from the Indian Punjab. Aloo means ‘potato’ in Hindi and Gobi means cauliflower.
Traditional aloo gobi has a little lemon juice, however this dish turns this up “to eleven” to offer a real burst of taste.
This is often referred to as a “dry” curry, whereas something like dhal is a “wet” curry or dish. Therefore, combine this with the tarka dhal and chapattis for a fabulous, well-balanced course.
#7 Wild Garlic Chapattis (Chapati / Chapathi)
These small, soft flour-based “tortillas” use a basic set of ingredients namely wholewheat flour, oil and water.
Chapattis – known across the entire Indian sub-continent - are traditionally used in place of a spoon, to scoop curry or dhal, or to mop the bowl.
This recipe adds garlic to the basic ingredients for an interesting twist. Experiment by adding other traditional spices such as mustard seeds or coriander (cilantro).
If you can’t find wild garlic, just use normal garlic. It has exactly the same effect!
#8 Cashew & Sultana Pilau Rice (pilaf)
For the penultimate course, we introduce the iconic Indian pilau rice (sometimes known simply as “yellow rice” due to the turmeric used to colour it yellow).
The cooking approach to this dish is to use the traditional “dum” way of cooking rice – i.e. steaming the rice at very low temperature. This method allows the full aromas of the spices to be absorbed into the rice grains, and – if cooked with the right amount of water – will result in a light and fluffy rice.
As with all spicy dishes, rice offers a refuge and a way of reducing the heat of the spices so that you can appreciate the spice aromas more. Hence the combination of this dish with the spicy mushroom rogan josh (see next).
#9 Spicy Mushroom Rogan Josh
Rogan Josh is easily identifiable by its classic red colour. Originally from Kashmir, the redness is from the Kashmiri chillies used in the dish (and from the red flowers of the mawal plant).
The chillies are rated around 7 out of 10 in heat strength, so if you are used to vindaloos, don’t expect this to burn your mouth. That is not the intention here!
The sweetness of the semi-caramelised red onions combines beautifully with the heat of the kashmiri chillies to make this an instant favourite.
#10 Pistachio & Raisin Rice pudding (Kheer)
A creamy and luxuriant finale. This kheer (rice pudding) uses cinnamon, cloves and cardamons to spice up a sweet and nutty finish to this Indian feast.
Wherever basmati rice is grown, Kheers are known.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is worth pacing this banquet and in particular this dish. You will appreciate it more!
Summary of Indian Vegetarian Feast
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #1 Balti Onion bhajis with cucumber mint raita
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #2 Green cardamom popadums with chutneys
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #3 Almond and Pistachio Peshawari Naan
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #4 Chickpea and Spinach Moloshyam
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #5 Garlic & Coriander Tarka dhal
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #6 Lemon Aloo Gobi
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #7 Wild Garlic Chapattis
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #8 Cashew & Sultana Pilau Rice
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #9 Spicy Mushroom Rogan Josh
Top 10 tastiest Indian vegetarian dishes - #10 Pistachio & Raisin Rice pudding (Kheer)
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