Growing up in the U.S. and being exposed to both the Western and Indian cultures, I've had the best of both worlds. Sure, I don't do any Indian dancing or speak an Indian language, but my parents have let me experience Indian culture through its cuisine

Both of my parents were born and raised in India, and they developed their cooking skills there. As a kid, I grew up eating my mom's Indian food throughout the week. On the weekends, we indulged in other types of cuisines (we became regulars at the local Papa John's). 

bread, hummus, curry, vegetable
Sarina Raman

In the first few weeks of my freshman year in college, I was thrilled. Pizza on Wednesdays and Saturdays? Score. However, my excitement rapidly died down as my palate was yearning for more explosive flavors and spices. I temporarily satisfied my Indian food cravings at the local Indian restaurant, but in the end, it wasn't my mom's home-cooked meals.

From checking out Indian restaurants in the neighborhood to eating copious amounts of food on my trips to India, I have a good idea of the differences between American Indian food vs. real Indian food.

meat, chicken, sauce, vegetable, pork
Sarina Raman

To begin with, the vast majority of American Indian food is based off of North Indian food, primarily from Punjab (a state in North India). Have you had paneer? Or dal makani? All these butter and cream-based dishes come from North India. Most of the restaurateurs and chefs who immigrated to the Western countries came from North India, so it makes sense. But by only eating North Indian food, you don't get to experience all of the cuisines India has to offer.

vegetable, chili, meat, pepper, beef, sauce, pork, curry, tomato
Sarina Raman

This may come as a shock, but the delicious, creamy dish of chicken tikka masala is technically not "authentic" Indian food. Yup, you read right. Though Bangladeshi chefs first merged the flavors of tikka masala and small pieces of chicken, the dish only started becoming popular when it was introduced in Britain, where it was claimed as a "British National Dish" in 2001. In this regard, American Indian Food misrepresents real Indian food.

vegetable, herb, basil
Sarina Raman
With 1.2 billion people, 29 states, and 22 official languages, many regional cuisines exist in India. Heck, even I haven't tried all of them. Take Indian-Chinese food, for instance. Started by a Chinese community in Kolkata, Indian-Chinese food is a unique fusion of Chinese seasonings and Indian cooking techniques, and is very popular in India. American Indian food is simply missing out on the full variety of Indian cuisines.

#Spoon Tip: You must try the Szechuan Fried Rice if you go to India.
rice, vegetable, fried rice, risotto, meat, pilaf, chicken, pepper
Sarina Raman

Though American Indian food generalizes real Indian food or misrepresents it to some extent, I am glad that Indian cuisine is becoming so popular. At the very least, people are gaining exposure to the colorful and vibrant culture of India through the best way possible: food.