Approaching my trip to Bangalore, India, I had one mission – food. Partly because I’m interning for an organization responsible for feeding school children in the country, but mostly because I travel on an “eat, walk, repeat” itinerary. Being an Indian food virgin, I expected to try lots of new dishes and be surprised by foreign flavors, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the breadth and depth and spice that is Indian cuisine.

Now, with a month’s worth of meals and grocery visits under my belt, I find it my duty to equip other naive Westerners and curious souls with a basic knowledge of real Indian food. In this glossary I’ll highlight the most important terms that I wish I knew my first days in Bangalore, when I was blindly pointing to menu items and hoping for the best.


Spiced and pickled fruits and vegetables. Quite tasty...and this is coming from someone who doesn't like pickles. 


The Hindi word for a good ole potato. It's added to stews and sauces, fried, mashed...typical potato things. 


Depending on where you are or who you talk to, this dish cold vary slightly, but generally it's a thick, cooked rice with other ingredients mixed in. It can be sweet, like kesari bath, or spicy, like bisi bele bath.


pasture, corn, vegetable, straw, cereal, hazelnut, maize
Raigon Wilson

Contrary to common belief (okay, or just my beliefs), means corn, not butter. Find it grilled on the street or lil baby ones mixed into stews and curries.  


Similar to fried rice, but the aromatic seasonings take it to a whole nother level. With or without meat, I highly recommend. It's my new favorite dish. 


These snacks are simultaneously spicy and tangy and sweet and crunchy and fried and fresh and wonderful. Puri, a personal go-to, is a street food staple. 


Chickpeas. Expect more than the average beige bean — you can get kala chana, a black variety, or have them toasted in a stew or rice. 


A soup made from pulses and lots of spices. Served with rice and eaten with joy. 


Pan fried batter with a delicious filling inside. Commonly served for breakfast, but you can pretty much find masala dosa anywhere, anytime in South India. 


Officially means the dish was cooked on a low heat. Unofficially means it's full of complex flavors. If you see this term on a menu, know you're in for a treat. 


Many Indian sweets are made with this ingredient, the dark, caramel like syrup leftover from processing cane or date sugar. It's a proven fact that desserts made with jaggery increase happiness by 68%.


A deep pan, similar to a wok. It's needed to make dishes that cook in gravy, and may be used in the name like with kadai paneer.


herb, pepper
Raigon Wilson

Around here, all raisins are golden raisins. They're found in many Indian sweets, but also tasty in handfuls, straight from the market. 


Yellow peas or green peas. Commonly found inside samosas or served with potatoes, in aloo matar


Refers to spinach, perhaps the only leafy green I've encountered so far. It's often pureed and cooked down into a savory stew


It's a dense, fresh cheese that reminds me of tofu. Not as weird as it sounds, promise. 


I've had these big, savory crackers served as an appetizer with chutney. They're a well welcomed side to any meal. 


A sweet rice pudding with kishmish and nuts. Depending the region, it may also be called kheer.


A fluffy, spicy, rice dish very similar to pilaf. 


A general term for legumes of all kinds. I've had pulses in anything from traditional stews to sweets and breads. 


Similar to rawa or sooji or dalia. They are all cracked wheat products used in porridge, sweets, idli, and other dishes


I was so happy to find kidney beans; they tasted just as buttery and savory here as when my mom makes them at home. 


A lentil stew with veggies, tomatoes, turmeric, and lots of other spices. 


A general term for mixed vegetables, no matter the kind or seasonings. 

With all the different regions and cultures within India, it would be near impossible to explain all the food possibilities. But whether you’re travelling to the country, or just want to try a new dish, being familiar with this list will make you seem like a pro.