You’re getting more familiar and cozy with Indian food, but there’s still some uncharted territory to conquer. You may be a second generation American who grew up with the food; a budding Indian pundit or maybe you only go to your favorite restaurant when you need that good spicy hit. But you still can’t tell where the South Indian ends and the Mughlai begins.

Just like the languages, Indian food isn’t all grouped into one. Grab a chair and let the bilingual biryani tell you its tale.

Biryani

Origin: Persian (Mughal) cuisine

So maybe it wasn’t an original, but Biryani was inspired by the Persian invaders in India between the 15th and 19th century. This flavourful dish took root in the northern part of the country and soon had multiple variations. Most popular among them are the Hyderabad Biryani and Calcutta Biryani. If you hear those two names, you know you’re in for a treat.

Masala Dosa

Karan Sarpal

Origin: South Indian cuisine

It’s your quintessential South Indian breakfast food. There might be some minor differences in the states south of India but it’s largely the same thin batter stuffed with a potato mixture. Served with some chutney and Sambhar (stew/broth), the ‘Indian crepe’ is traditionally served on a banana leaf. Put that on your bucket list.

Mango Lassi

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Origin: Punjab

The frothy yogurt drink hails from Punjab, one of the northern states in India. The Mango bit? I’m not quite sure. My theory is that in the last decade or so as the humble lassi traveled west it picked up some flavors along the way. Pairing mangoes with it almost seems like no-brainer.

Chicken Tikka Masala

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Origin: Punjab/Scotland

This is a tough one. Legend has it, when a British gentleman walked in to an Indian restaurant in Glasgow and found his Chicken Tikka to be too dry, the concoction of Chicken Tikka Masala was born!

But hold it right there, slap on the British National Dish title all you want but the Chicken Tikka Masala could just be a combination of the Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken fused together over time in Punjab.

So which one is it? We might never know.

Vindaloo

Origin: Goan-Portuguese

Goan or Konkani food is inspired in many ways by Portuguese food and that’s where Vindaloo comes from. In a true east meets west love story, the Portuguese dish (carne de vinha d'alhos) and Indian flavors (tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom) combined to become one.

Rasgulla

Aakanksha Joshi

Origin: Bengal/Odisha

These sponge like syrup-y snowballs belong to the east of India. The two states, West Bengal and Odisha still exist in a modern day tug of war on the history of the Rasgulla. 

Now that you know the origin stories, I can see each and everyone of you out there going to the old haunt and asking, "What other Punjabi dishes do you have for me to try?" And oh boy, do we have a list for you. Check them out, dig in, and feel pretty proud of yourself for knowing where your food actually came from.