Three Indian Dishes That Aren’t Tikka Masala

When most people think about Indian food, the first dish that comes to mind is tikka masala, a decadent combination of chicken, creamy curry and pungent spices served over rice with crispy, chewy pieces of naan bread. Although I adore tikka masala as much as the next gal, there are many other Indian dishes I would urge you to try that are equally as good, if not better.


Biryani is a classic rice-based Indian dish in which vegetables and meat (or keep it vegetarian if you like) are layered and cooked together to meld the flavors. The rice is fluffy and light and dusted with ginger, garlic and cardamom, which lends a warming backdrop to the dish. The shreds of meat, chicken or seafood are cooked with the fatty bits left on and cut into small pieces to mix into the vibrant, orange rice. Rich caramelized onions and sharply chopped cilantro and scallions are piled on top and finished with a lime wedge for a bit of zing. It’s simply a symphony of textures, temperatures and flavors.


Although I adore tikka masala as much as the next gal, there are many other Indian dishes I would urge you to try that are equally as good, if not better.


Punjabi Kadhi

Hailing from Northern India but originating as a Rajasthani dish, the Punjabi kadhi variation consists of pakoras—chickpea flour (or besan) fritters—served with kadhi, sour yogurt curd thickened with besan and spiced with garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, chili powder, coriander seed, cinnamon, fenugreek seeds, turmeric and salt. The dish is traditionally served alongside rice and makes for the perfect, irresistible comfort food. Interestingly, the neighboring states also have their own version of kadhi, including Sindhi kadhi and Gujarati kadhi, and they each prepare the dish a bit differently—some are more sweet and sour, others spicy.

Chole/Chana Masala

Chole, or more widely known here as chana masala, is a population vegetarian dish in India. It all starts with toasting cumin seeds, onion, ginger, garlic, chilies, coriander seed, chopped tomatoes and dried mango powder (also called amuchur) in sizzling oil. Chickpeas are then added, along with garam masala and crush pomegranate seed (also called anardana). Some preparations use pomegranate molasses drizzled over top with a dollop of yogurt for contrast. It’s a crowd-pleaser every time.

I hope you try some of these unique Indian dishes the next time you’re cooking at home or out to eat. I promise you’ll be taken on a wild—and delicious—flavor journey. Enjoy!


Born in India and raised in Atlanta, Chef Palak Patel grew up surrounded by traditional Indian cuisine. As her love of all things culinary expanded, she experimented with food, marrying the flavors of her native country with those of her adopted one. Her zest for travel further broadened her flavor palate as she globe-trotted, feasting on everything from local street food to la haute gastronomie. Palak shares these experiences as a TV personality, writer and one of the food industry’s newest and sassiest rising stars, gaining critical acclaim from victories in shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. Palak also battled it out against 24 other seasoned chefs in the Sears Chef’s Challenge, winning $20,000 for the Los Angeles Food Bank. Palak has been a guest on multiple Food Network shows, Marie Claire’s The Fix and Bravo’s Blood, Sweat and Heels. She has been featured in Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and India Abroad, and is a regular food and travel contributor to Table Magazine. Palak also has partnered with high-profile brands such as BMW and Barclays to curate menus for large events, HelloFresh as a guest chef and Mashable about creating a personal brand. Learn more, and contact us to book Chef Palak Patel.

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