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A Guide to Indian Cuisine and Why it's so Special

Explore the diverse world of Indian cuisine, the spices, flavors, and cooking methods that make these dishes so special.

A variety of classic Indian Dishes on a black background

Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It has a rich and diverse history, and the food is famous for its use of spices, herbs, and fresh ingredients.

Indian cuisine reflects the diverse country from which it originates. It is a complex cuisine and can be divided into four main regions: North India, South India, East India and West India.

North India is home to many dishes we've come to know and love, like Tandoori in restaurants here in Australia.

South India enjoys vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, emphasising rice as the staple grain.

East India enjoys many spicy curry-based dishes but also includes some unique desserts like Rasmalai, which are not found in other parts of the country.

West India also enjoys many seafood-based dishes rich in coconut.


Hinduism, one of the world's oldest religions, originated in India about 1500 BCE. It teaches that one supreme God (Brahman) created everything in the universe and that people should live with love for God, others, and themselves (ahimsa). Hindus believe that all living things are part of Brahman and should be respected. 

A vegetarian diet has become popular in India because of Hinduism's teachings about cows being sacred animals that should not be killed for meat or other purposes. 

Spices on spoons on black background
Sarah Pflug | Burst

Key Ingredients in Indian Cuisine

The primary ingredients used in Indian cuisine include rice, wheat, lentils, vegetables, and meat. Indian cooking also incorporates many delicate flavours and spices which are used to maintain a balance in the food, including

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a blend of spices that is used in Indian cooking. The word "masala" means "spice mix" in Hindi. It is typically made up of coriander, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Ginger Root

Ginger root is a plant used as a culinary spice for centuries. The flavour profile of ginger root is spicy, peppery, sweet and warming.

Curry Leaves

Curry leaves have a strong flavour, similar to the curry spices themselves. They are often used as a flavouring agent in curry dishes.


The flavour profile of turmeric can range from earthy to peppery, adding a warm and mild flavour to dishes.

Cumin Seeds

Cumin has a strong flavour and aroma, with a pungent, slightly sweet taste that can vary from warm and nutty to sharp or bitter depending on how it's cooked or processed.

Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds have a spicy and bitter flavour profile.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are tiny, and yet they pack a punch with their flavorful punch. The flavour profile is pretty complex, mixing pungent and sweet flavours. They work well as an ingredient for pickles or as a spice for certain dishes such as curries or marinades.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds have a slightly sweet and citrusy flavour profile. They have been used for centuries to flavour meat dishes, fish dishes, curries, soups, and salads.

Popular Indian Dishes

In the world of Indian food, there are so many different kinds of dishes, many of which can only be found in one region. Here are some popular Indian foods that might sound familiar. 


Dosa is a type of pancake or crepe popular in Southern India. There are many variations in the ingredients and cooking techniques. A dosa typically consists of a thin rice-based batter poured onto a flat pan or griddle to create a large, thin pancake cooked on both sides until crisp. Dosa can be eaten plain or with various toppings such as chutneys and sambar (a spicy lentil soup).

Dosas can be made from rice flour (polished or unpolished), semolina, sooji (rava), urd dal, wheat flour, tapioca flour, etc. The most common types of dosas are the masala dosa and the plain dosa. Masala Dosa: A dosa stuffed with spicy chutney and vegetables, such as potato, onion and tomato. Plain Dosa: A thin crispy crepe made of rice flour that can be served with various fillings or sauces.

Here is a delicious Dosa recipe at SBS Food


Samosa is a deep-fried Indian snack served with chutney and tamarind sauce. You can make the filling from potatoes, peas, onions, or lentils, and the dough from a mix of flour and water. 

Learn more about making samosa's here 


The origin of the word "dahl" is from the Hindi language word "daal". Dahl is an Indian soup made with lentils, vegetables, and spices. You can serve it as a soup or accompaniment to other dishes. 


Biryani is a rice-based dish that is prepared with rice and meat or vegetables, flavoured with saffron, cumin, turmeric and other spices. The rice may be cooked in a pot or an oven.


Tandoori is made with marinated meat and chicken. The meat is cooked in a special clay oven called a tandoor or over charcoal. Tandoori dishes are typically served with yogurt, onions, and lemon juice to add flavour and make it more tender.


Roti is a type of flatbread that is traditionally made with whole wheat flour, water and salt. It is typically cooked on a griddle or Tawa. In India, roti can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it often accompanies curry dishes like dal (lentils) or vegetables. In some parts of India, Roti is lovely served with a plain yogurt sauce called raita.


The word "korma" is derived from the word "qormâ", meaning "braise".

Korma is traditionally made with meat (usually lamb) and vegetables such as onion, tomato, garlic, ginger, and fresh coriander.



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