Food & Nutrition

Let’s go out for…Indian: menu decoder

What to know    What to eat    Menu decoder

Here are some common terms you'll see on menus in Indian restaurants. 

Baingan: Eggplant

Bhaji: A fried appetizer or meal topping. Often chopped onions that are egg-battered, deep-fried and highly spiced.

Biryani: Any dish of spiced meat or vegetables with firm cooked rice.

Ceylon: A rich style of curry including coconut milk.

Chaval: Rice. Often spelled “chawal.”

Dahi: Yogurt.

Dal: Yellow lentil purée. 

Garam masala: A healthful and flavorful combination of dried, ground spices.

Ghee: Clarified butter used on breads and in most curry dishes.

Kaskmir curry: A sweet curry that often includes fruit, along with the usual ghee, cream and coconut, making it a rich dish.

Kheema: Indicates any meat that has been minced.

Kofta: Meat or vegetarian dumplings. Can be okay, but beware the sauce options.

Makhani: A dish cooked with butter and cream, one to avoid.

Malai: A dish made with cream, high in calories.

Masala: Any dish cooked with garam masala, a blend of Indian spices.

Pakora: A fritter similar to bhaji.

Paneer: A firm, whole-milk curd cheese.

Papadum: A tortilla-like lentil cracker. Nutrition depends on whether it is roasted, toasted or fried.

Raita: A condiment or side dish of yogurt, cucumber and spices.

Saag: Spinach.

Seekh kebab: Meat cooked on skewers. Usually made with ground red meat, bread and spices, tikka is a better choice.

Tahiri: Basmati rice with some token peas and vegetables. It’s essentially white rice with butter.

Tikka: Chunks of marinated meat cooked in the tandoor, making it a good choice, provided it’s not sauced.

Vindaloo: A hot curry from the Portuguese colony of Goa.