REAL, HONEST TRAVEL ADVICE FOR BACKPACKERS TO INDIA.

14 Of The Best Indian Foods To Try When You Visit India!

March 10, 2019

India is known for its food! The idea of going to India and eating real, authentic Indian food is the dream for most people and India certainly does not disappoint!

Before going to India I thought it might be hard to find the ‘local’ restaurants, the ‘hole in the wall’ restaurants and the traditional Indian dishes that everyone talks about. I wondered if I would be welcomed into the local places, and if I was, would I be able to read the menu?

However based on my experience in India I can confirm you can find local restaurants in India everywhere- in all Cities and Towns, you will be welcomed into them, served purely local food and at the same price as the locals.

English is very widely spoken in India and I found the majority of menu’s to be in English too, even in very local places, however the names of the dishes are of course Indian – Aloo Gobi for example means Potato Cauliflower however even on English menu’s the dish is called Aloo Gobi. This can make it hard to know what the dishes on the menu’s in India really are and what foods are the best foods to try in India as a foreigner!

Side note – Having internet to translate and look up the dishes online is a real help which is why I recommend you get a Sim Card in India when you arrive!

I asked a number of travel bloggers and friends of India By Backpack to share what they think is the best Indian dish to try from their trip to India. They have also told us what the dish is and where they found it so you can have a read of the foods, save the below image and look out for it on the menu, or on the street, when you get to India!

I hope you’re hungry!

BEST FOOD'S IN India TO TRY AS A TRAVELLER.

Save this image to you phone so you can search for the foods when you get to India!

The Best Indian Food to try when visiting India!

Kadai Paneer

During our year living in Bangalore we tried so many incredible Indian dishes. We would often have restaurant deliveries in Bangalore as the food was always good value and much better than my limited cooking skills. At least twice per week I would order a Kadai Paneer.

More common in Southern India, a Kadai Paneer is made up of Paneer (a type of cheese), peppers, and fresh ground spices (including coriander, red chilli, cloves and fennel seeds). Best eaten with some basmati rice, and then mopped up with a butter naan or chapatis / roti.

You will find the dish on the menu of most restaurants in Southern India. If not, just ask for it and they will be more than happy to make it for you.

Who Loved it? Jenny and her family from TraveLynn Family

Where Can It Be Found? South India

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try kadai paneer

Jalebi

You will never forget your first Jalebi – especially if you buy it hot from the bubbling oil that cooked it.

Jalebi is made by deep-frying maida flour batter in circular, or usually pretzel shapes and then soaking them in sugar syrup.  What you get when you bite into them is the most intense sweetness you’ve ever tasted. The perfect jalebi is crisp on the outside with a soft chewy interior texture that’s filled with sugar syrup.

My first Jalebi was in a temple in Bangalore and I’ll never forget the sweetness – each subsequent Jalebi I eat is part of a hunt for that singularly unreal sweetness. Despite trying at a renowned spot in Delhi’s Chandri Chowk – Old & Famous Jalebi – I didn’t find it. I was almost there when I breakfasted on Jalebi in Amritsar (an experience you MUST try!) Gurdas Ram is known for the BEST Jalebi in India – and it’s an amazing taste.

You can find jalebi in every part of India, from street food stalls to supermarkets, but I really recommend you go to where the Jalebi is fresh, once it loses that freshly cooked taste, it’s soggy and the texture and taste just aren’t the same. Head to the well-known places and see which you think is the best!

Who Loved it? Sarah from A Social Nomad

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try jalebi

Thali

On my recent trip to India, I can’t count the number of times I ate a Thali for both lunch or dinner. A Thali is a great option if you’re looking for a big sit-down meal, but don’t know what to choose. It’s especially good if you’re travelling India solo or as a couple, as you get a lot of variety on a plate for one person, and at a great price which is great for backpackers on a budget in India.
Thali was originally the name of the round platter that the dishes are traditionally served on. What’s included differs slightly across India, but in the North West of India usually a dhal, a vegetable curry, rice, chapatis or naan, and pickled vegetables are included within a Thali. There’s usually a more basic option on offer (starting from as low as 50 rupees), plus some fancier options (like a “special Thali”). The fancier options often replace the vegetable curry with a paneer (cottage cheese) curry, or include a papadum, yoghurt (great for reducing the heat of curries) or a sweet. In restaurants offering non-veg food, a more expensive non-veg option would be available.
Thali’s can be found in many restaurants right across India. Tourist focused restaurants are less likely to have them, but most local Indian restaurants include them on the menu for both lunch and dinner.
Ideally make sure you’re hungry when you order a Thali in India, as unlimited refills are usually included!

Who Loved it? Shandos from Travelnuity

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try thali

Aloo Puri / Puri Bhaji

Aloo puri is not exactly a health food, but it’s definitely worth a splurge while you’re in India. A “puri” is a deep-fried, puffy bread, and usually it’s served with a spicy curry called Bhaji. “Puri Bhaji” is the general name for this dish of fried bread and curry.
Or, in this case, we can call it “Aloo Puri”, since “Aloo” means potatoes, and this particular Bhaji curry is made from potatoes. Aloo Puri is one of many vegetarian and vegan dishes in India, but it’s loved by meat eaters too.
Puri Bhaji is usually eaten either for breakfast or as a light meal or snack later in the day. It’s known as a North Indian specialty, but nowadays you will find it served all over the Country as one of the best street foods in India.
When traveling around India by train, you’ll see vendors selling Aloo Puri at just about every train station. One of the best places for Aloo Puri in Delhi is Gopal Foods. It’s a simple vegetarian restaurant in Delhi in Kamla Nagar that serves a delicious and cheap Aloo Puri.

Who Loved it? Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try aloo puri

Hyderabadi Biryani

Biryani is a popular Indian dish that you can often find in Indian restaurants, but if you are in Hyderabad, you have to try the Hyderabadi Biryani!

Biryani is a rice dish, almost like fried rice. Typically you will have the seasoned rice and a choice of either meat or vegetables stir fried into it. A wide range of spices such as saffron and nuts are used to make this aromatic dish, and it is usually pretty spicy. Your biryani will also have white rice mixed in with it, and will be served with a chili and peanut curry and a mint yogurt chutney on the side.

Biryani from a restaurant in Hyderabad is exceptionally tasty because in this region it is typically cooked using the dum method, which is a type of slow oven cooking. This rice dish is sure to fill you up and therefore is a good dish for backpackers on a budget in India!

Who Loved it? Michelle from Travel After Five.

Where Can It Be Found? Hyderabad mostly! However it can be found all over India too!

Vegetarian? Biryani generally comes with meat but vegetarian options are on offer too.

First Class Railway Mutton Curry

First Class Railway Mutton Curry is a historic recipe that was invented by the Anglo-Indian community of Fort Kochi, Kerala during the time of the British Raj.

The story goes that an English officer was travelling on a train and became really hungry. He could smell the food being cooked in the pantry car, so he followed his nose to where a spicy mutton curry was being made. When he tried a little taster, he burnt his tongue with the spices, so the chef added some coconut milk to make it milder for him. This is how First Class Railway Mutton Curry was born, and it became a staple food on all First Class Compartments on Indian Trains.

A great place to try one of the most classic Indian dishes is the Armoury Café, a restaurant located within The Brunton Boatyard heritage hotel in Fort Kochi. It’s a favourite of British celebrity chef Rick Stein and I’m sure it’ll become one of yours too!

Who Loved it? Teresa from Brogan Abroad

Where Can It Be Found? First Class Indian Trains or Fort Kochi

Vegetarian? No

best foods in India for travellers to try mutton curry

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori Chicken is one of those amazing Indian Dishes that you need to try when you are in India!

It’s spicy marinated roasted chicken, and while this doesn’t sound that special, I need to tell you Tandoori chicken is the ultimate roasted chicken dish from India! A whole small chicken without skin is cut into pieces and first marinated with lime juice, salt, turmeric and chili powder. Then a special yogurt marination is created with more spices and herbs. The chicken is then left to marinate over more than 4 hours in the yogurt marination. Then the chicken is battered with melted butter and garlic before it is taken into the special tandoori oven, where it is baked at high heat to perfection. The yogurt marination adds not only flavour to the dish but also helps the chicken to remain moist when cooked.

Tandoori Chicken is a North Indian dish from the region of Punjab. People there use Tandoori ovens, which are traditionally made of clay, to prepare their food. Other dishes such as Chicken Tikka (boneless tandoori chicken) and soft Nan flatbread are also prepared in this oven. Tandoori Chicken is pretty popular all over the Indian subcontinent and you can see them being sold on the street, in beach shacks or high class restaurants.

We used to run a Tandoori place in Goa and people from all over the world would come to try perfectly cooked Tandoori Chicken. Tandoori Chicken is usually easily recognised on it’s colour. Food joints and takeaways add a lot of artificial red food coloring to their marination, which turns the chicken dish super red. You can’t really miss it, because food places usually display chicken, so that you notice it from afar.

In order to ensure you eat the best and the safest Tandoori Chicken in India, I suggest you go where you can see travellers, or generally more customers also eating from the restaurant or food stand, as this is most of the time an indication that it’s a good quality and safe to eat.

Who Loved it? Helene from Masala Herb

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? No

best foods in India for travellers to try tandoori chicken

Bhel Puri

Bhel Puri is a popular street food in India and a great one for travellers to try! Although at first it may not seem that appealing. Bhel Puri is made from puffed rice, sev, vegetables (potatoes, onions, cucumber), chat masala, tomatoes and fruits all stirred with a spicy tamarind sauce before being heaped onto a plate.

This brown mix of spicy and sweet, crisp and soft is a taste that you wouldn’t think would work but it quickly became my favourite Indian Street Food out of all the Street Food in India I tried.

Who Loved it? Dave from Man vs Globe

Where Can It Be Found? All over India from Street Food Carts

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try bhel puri

Dosa

The authentic South Indian food Dosa has become so popular and one of the best foods to try in India for tourists visiting the country. I like South Indian vegetarian food, and among many of them, Dosa is my favourite.

I enjoyed regularly taking Plain Dosa during my days in Bangalore, bur there are many types of Dosas on offer in Indian restaurants like Plain Dosa, Masala Dosa, Paneer Dosa, Paper Dosa. I love the crispy and fresh one with potatoes, coconut chutney, and sambar. Usually, the size of each dosa is big, and you’ll feel like it’s too heavy for you to try, but each bite will give the feel of heavenly and one is enough for one person.

Dosa is best to take as breakfast; it is good for digestion and also healthy. However, you can also have it for lunch or dinner in India too.

Dosa is a great Indian dish for Vegetarians and is a must-try Indian dish for travellers at least once during your trip to South India. If you’re not visiting South India, no worries Dosa is also available in other parts of India too.

Who Loved it? Nafisa from My Own Way To Travel

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try dosa

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is a classic and popular Indian Dessert and will satisfy any sweet tooth! They are made from milk solids and dunked in syrup which may or may not sound appealing but trust me on this one.

Gulub Jamun are traditionally a festive Indian sweet used to mark celebrations and they still are today, you’ll find these along with many other milk based sweets being sold around festivals, especially Diwali. However Gulab Jamun is also found on most menus in India in the dessert section, usually served with the option of ice cream on top.. which I recommend you go for!

Who Loved it? Ellie from The Wandering Quinn

Where Can It Be Found? All over India on the Dessert Menu

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods in India for travellers to try gulab guman

Garlic & Cheese Naan

Most people would have had Naan Bread with their Indian meal at home either from an Indian restaurant or one from the supermarket, but the Naan Bread you get in India is totally different!

There are a range of Naan Breads on offer in restaurants in India but the garlic and cheese naan is so so good! It’s oily, it’s cheesy, it’s garlicy and if you’re lucky it will have some herbs on top too, basically the more grease on it, the better!

Make sure you order it with a Curry dish so you can dip it in the sauce for an even better taste!

Who Loved it? Ellie from The Wandering Quinn

Where Can It Be Found? All over India on the Dessert Menu

Vegetarian? Yes

best foods to try in India for travellers

Rasam

Rasam is at the heart of South Indian cuisine. No meal is complete without this soup. Even though every family has its own recipe that is handed over from generation to generation, the basic ingredients include tamarind juice, tomato and different spices such as pepper, cumin and turmeric.

It has a slightly sour taste that enriches the other flavours in this heart warming dish. The soup is either eaten with rice like a curry or separate as a soup on its own. Both ways the soup is not only a delicious, but also healthy and nutritious part of any South Indian Meal.

If you get the chance to try Rasam at someone’s home you can consider yourself very lucky. In most restaurants the soup is included if you order a South Indian Thali. The set meals are always a great deal and the Rasam comes with rice and sambhar. Another delicious curry whose taste complements the rasam perfectly.

Who Loved it? Ellis from Backpack Adventures

Where Can It Be Found? South India mostly but probably in the North when ordering a South Indian Thali.!

Vegetarian? Yes

Pani Puri

I seriously can’t rave enough about the delicious morsels that are ‘Pani Puri’.Not only are they one of the tastiest dishes we tried in India, but eating them is an experience in itself, as you have to construct them yourself before eating them.

Pani Puri consist of two parts: ‘Puri’ which is a thin, hollow, crisp golfball sized shell made from semolina and flour and ‘Pani’ which is a selection of spicy and sweet flavoured waters, potato, onions, and chickpeas. To put it all together ready to eat, you tap a small hole in the top of each Puri with your thumb, then fill it with Pani. You then add sweet or spicy water or a combination of both to suit your taste.

Pani Puri are one of Mumbai’s most popular street food, but if you’re not brave enough to try the street food, the best place to try these is at Elco Pani Puri Centre, the most popular Pani Puri house in Mumbai. We managed to demolish over 30 between us on the second day of our three days in Mumbai.

Who Loved it? Tanya from Can Travel Will Travel

Where Can It Be Found? All over India

Vegetarian? Yes

best food in India for travellers

Kulcha

For the most famous food in Punjab, India, don’t miss a chance to try Kulcha. Slightly like a naan, this unleavened bread is filled with smashed potato and a mix of herbs and spices. If you eat it in one of Amritsar’s popular eateries, it will likely be served with dips including curry, chickpeas and curd, not to mention an enormous slab of butter that melts into the flavoursome mix.

For an unrivalled kulcha serving, head to Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale just off the main square. This cosy cafe is a popular breakfast spot with locals so you may have to share a table or perch wherever there’s space. Two things are for sure: it’s 100% authentic, and you’ll definitely experience one of the best breakfast dishes served in India. Wash it down with a steaming cup of chai! Order the mixed kulcha and it shouldn’t set you back more 70 rupees.

best food in India for visitors

Who Loved it? Rose from Where Goes Rose

Where Can It Be Found? Mainly in Punjab but you can find it in other areas of India too

Vegetarian? Yes

Now you know what foods to try in India, do you want to know where the best places to visit in North India are for backpackers??

What about tips on how to book trains in India too?


Need to book accommodation in India? We recommend using Booking.com as we love the huge range of accommodation and flexible booking options they offer in India.


Need to check out Flights to or around India? Kiwi.com is a great site to compare prices and routes to get the best deal!


Remember that you’ll need travel insurance when you travel to India. There are a lot of companies out there we know, but World Nomad’s is a travel insurance provider designed by travellers, for travellers and includes lots of unique benefits like not needing a return flight home booked, which many providers need proof of if you claim. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote for them here!

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