Indian Food Glossary

Achar Pickle.
Adrak Ginger.
Ajwain or Ajowain Lovage.
Aloo or Alu Potato.
Alu Chole A vegetarian dish using chickpeas, potatoes and tamarind.
Alur Dum A dish using whole potatoes.
Am or Aam Mango.
Amchur Mango powder. A very sour flavoring agent.
Aniseed Sanuf.
Areca Betel nut.
Asafoetida Hing. Gum obtained from root of giant fennel-like plant. Used in powder or resin form. A rather pungent spice.
Aserio Aniseed.
Ata or Atta Chupatti flour. Fine wholemeal flour used in most Indian breads. English wholemeal is a suitable alternative.
Badai Aniseed stars.
Badam Almond.
Bargar The process of frying whole spices in hot oil.
Basmati The best type of long grain rice.
Bay leaf Tej patia. This very well known leaf is used fresh or dried in certain Indian recipes.
Besan Chickpea flour.
Bhajee or bhaji Dryish mild vegetable curry.
Bhajia Deep fried fritter, usually onion. See pakora.
Bhare Stuffed.
Bharta or Bhurta Mash or puree.
Bhoona or Bhuna The process of cooking the spice paste in hot oil. A bhoona curry is usually dry and cooked in coconut.
Bhunana Roast.
Biriani A traditional dish. Rice baked with meat or vegetable filling.
Black salt Kala namak.
Bombay Duck A smallish fish native to the Bombay area known locally as Bommaloe Macchi. This was too hard for the British to pronounce so it became Bombay Duck. It is dried and appears on the table as a crispy deep fried starter or accompaniment to a curry.
Bombay potato Small whole potatoes in curry and tomato sauce.
Boti kebab Marinated cubes of lamb cooked in a tandoor oven.
Brinja Aubergine.
Burfi or Barfi An Indian fudge-like sweetmeat made from reduced condensed milk in various flavours eg plain or pistachio.
Cardamom Elaichi. Various types, notably green, white, and brown. One of the most aromatic and expensive spices.
Cashew nuts Kaju
Cassia bark A corky bark with a sweet fragrance similar to cinnamon and is used extensively in Northern Indian cookery. Although cooked in the curry the bark is too coarse to eat.
Cayenne pepper A type of chilli powder.
Ceylon curry Usually cooked with coconut, lemon and chilli.
Chaamp Chop.
Chakla belan Special rolling pin and board.
Chamcha Ladle.
Chana Type of lentil.
Chawal Rice.
Chhalni Sieve.
Chilgoze or Nioze Small long creamy nuts with brown shells used in cooking or eaten raw.
Chilli There are a great man species of chillies, which are the fleshy pods of shrub-like bushes of he capsicum family. Chillies range from large to small, and colours include green, white, purple, pink, and red. Curiously, although synonymous with Indian food they were only brought to the sub-continent from South America some four centuries ago. They are now the most important heat agent in Indian cookery. They vary in hotness from mild to incendiary-like potency. Most commonly, small green or red chillies are used fresh. Red chillies can be dried and used whole, and chilli powder is made by grinding dried chillies.
Chimta Tongs.
Chirongi or Charauli Small rounded nuts resembling Egyptian lentils. Used in puddings or pullaos.
Chor maga Melon seeds. Used as a thickener.
Chupatti A dry 6 inch disc of unleavened bread. Normally griddle cooked ,it should be served piping hot. Spelling varies eg Chuppati, Chapati etc.
Chutneys The common ones are onion, mango and tandoori. There are dozens of others which rarely appear on the standard menu.
Cinnamon Dalchini. The quill-like dried bark of the cinnamon tree. It is one of the most aromatic spices. Same family as cassia, it is generally used in dishes which require a delicate flavour.
Cloves Lavang.
Coriander Dhania. One of the most important spices in Indian cookery. The leaves of the plant can be used fresh and the seeds used whole or ground.
Cummin or Cumin Jeera. There are two types of seeds: white and black. The white seeds are a very important spice in Indian cookery. The black seeds (Kala Jeera) are seldom used. Both can be used whole or ground.
Curry The only word in this glossary to have no direct translation into any of the sub-continent’s fifteen or so languages. The word was coined by the British in India centuries ago. Possible contenders for the origin of the word are,Karahi or Karai (Hindi), a wok-like frying pan used all over India to prepare masalas (spice mixtures): karhi – a soup-like dish made with spices, chickpea flour dumplings and buttermilk; Kari – a spicy tamil sauce;Turkuri – a seasoned sauce or stew; or Kari Phulia, neem or curry leaves.
Curry leaves .Also known as Kadipatha in Hindi, Small leaves a bit like bay leaves, used for flavouring.
Dahi Yoghurt.
Dahi wala A meat dish cooked in a savoury yoghurt sauce.
Dalchini or Darchim Cinnamon.
Degchi Brass or metal saucepan without handles also called Pateeli or Batloi.
Dewa Lentils. There are over sixty types of lentil in the sub-continent. The most common restaurant types are masoor, channa and urid.
Dhania Coriander.
Dhansak Traditional chicken or meat dish cooked in lentil and vegetable puree.
Dhungar Applying the smoke of charcoal to ingredients.
Do piaza Traditional meat dish. Do means two and piaza means onion. It gets its name because onions appear twice in the cooking process.
Doroo Celery.
Dosa or Dosai A south Indian pancake made from rice and lentil flour. Usually served with a filling.
Dum Steam cooking. Long before the west invented the pressure cooker India had her own method which lasts to this day. A pot with a close fitting lid is sealed with a ring of dough. The ingredients are then cooked in their own steam under some pressure.
Ekuri Spiced scrambled eggs.
Elaichi Cardamom.
Fennel Soonf.
Fenugreek Methi. This important spice is used as seeds and in fresh or dried leaf form. It is very savoury and is used in many Northern Indian dishes.
Foogat Lightly cooked vegetable dish.
Gajar Carrot.
Garam masala Literally ‘hot mixture’. This refers to a blend of spices much loved in Northern Indian cookery.
Garlic Lasan.
Ghee Clarified butter or margarine much used in Northern Indian cookery.
Ginger Adrak (fresh) Sont (dried); a rhizome which can be used fresh, dried or powdered.
Gobi or phoolgobi Cauliflower.
Goor or gur Jaggery (palm sugar) or molasses.Ginger.
Gosht Lamb.
Gram flour Chickpea flour (besan).
Gulab jaman An Indian dessert. Small 1-inch diameter balls of flour and milk powder deep-fried to golden and served cold in syrup. Cake-like texture.
Gurda Kidney. Gurda kebab is marinated kidney skewered and cooked in the tandoor.
Halva Sweets made from syrup and vegetables or fruit. Serve cold in small squares. It is translucent and comes in bright colours depending on ingredient used; e.g. orange (carrot), green (pistachio), red (mango), etc. Has texture thicker than Turkish delight. Sometimes garnished with edible silver foil.
Handi Earthenware cooking pot.
Hasina kebab Pieces of chicken breast, lamb or beef marinated in spices and then skewered and barbecued with onion, capsicum and tomato. Of Turkish origin.
Hindi Hindi is the official language of India. Although there are fourteen or so other languages in India, only Hindi translations have been used in this glossary. Spelling of Hindi translations have been used in this glossary. Spelling of Hindi words can vary in English because 5they are translated phonetically from many Hindi dialects.
Hing Asofoetida.
Hisa Bill (account)
Huldi Turmeric.
Idli Rice and lentil flour cake served with light curry sauce. South Indian.
Imli Tamarind.
Isgubul Vegetable seed.
Jaifal or Taifal Nutmeg.
Jal frezi Sautee or stir fry
Jalebi An Indian dessert. A flour, milk powder and yoghurt batter pushed through a narrow funnel into deep frying oil to produce golden curly crispy rings. Served cold or hot in syrup.
Javatri Mace.
Jeera or zeera Cummin.
Jhanna Flat slotted spoon.
Jinga Prawns.
Kabli chana Chickpeas.
Kaddu kas Grater.
Kadhi Yoghurt soup.
Kaju Cashew nut.
Kala Black.
Kala jeera Black cumin seeds.
Kala namak Black salt.
Kaleji Liver.
Kalongi Nigella, similar to wild onion seeds.
Karahi Karai, korai etc. Cast iron, wok-like, frying pan.
Karchhi Metal flat spoon used for turning frying ingredients.
Karela Small, dark green, knobbly vegetable of the gourd family.
Kashmir chicken Whole chicken stuffed with minced meat.
Kashmir curry Restaurateurs creation. A sweetish curry often using lychees or similar ingredient.
Kathal Jack fruit.
Katori Small serving bowls which go on a thaali (tray).
Kebab Skewered food cooked over charcoal. A process over 4000 years old which probably originated in the Middle East. It was imported to India by the Moslems centuries ago.
Keema Minced meat curry.
Kewra Screwpine water. An extract of the flower of the tropical screwpine tree. It is a fragrant clear liquid used to flavour sweets. It is a cheap substitute for rosewater.
Khalla musaria Grinding stone or pounder.
Khir Technique of making a sort of cream. Milk is cooked with cucumber and pureed.
Khurzi Lamb or chicken, whole with spicy stuffing.
Kish mish Sultanas.
Kofta Minced meat or vegetable balls in batter, deep-fried, and then cooked in curry sauce.
Kokum or cocum A variety of plum, pitted and dried. Prune-like and very sour. Also known in Malayan as mangosteen.
Korma To most restaurants this just means a mild curry. Traditionally it is very rich. Meat, chicken or vegetables are cooked in cream, yoghurt and nuts, and are fragrantly spiced with saffron and aromatic spices.
Koya Reducing milk to a thick sticky solid. Used for sweet making.
Kulcha Small leavened bread.
Kulcha, stuffed Stuffed with mildly spiced mashed potato and baked in the tandoor.
Kulfi Indian ice cream. Traditionally it comes in vanilla, pistachio or mango flavours.
Kus kus See cuscus.
Lasan Garlic.
Lhassi or lassi A refreshing drink made from yoghurt and crushed ice. The savoury version is Lhassi namkeen and the sweet version is Lhassi meethi.
Lavang Cloves.
Lilva A small oval-shaped bean which grows in a pod like the European pea.
Loochees A type of bread made in Bengal using white flour.
Lovage Ajwain or Ajowain.
Macchi or macchli Fish.
Mace Javitri. The outer part of the nutmeg.
Madras You will not find a traditional recipe for Madras curry. It is another restaurateurs invention. But the people of South India do eat hot curries; some original chef must have christened his hot curry madras and the name stuck.
Makhani A traditional dish. Tandoori chicken is cooked in a ghee and tomato sauce.
Makke Cornflour.
Malai Cream.
Malaya The curries of Malaya are traditionally cooked with plenty of coconut, chill and ginger. In the Indian restaurant, however, they are usually mild and contain pineapple and other fruit.
Mamra Puffed basmati rice.
Masala A mixture of spices which are cooked with a particular dish.
Masoor Red lentil with green skin.
Mathanni Wooden whisk.
Matka Round earthenware pot used to freeze ice cream. It is filled with ice and salt.
Mattar Green peas.
Meethi Sweet.
Melon seeds Chor magaz.
Methi Fenugreek.
Mirch Pepper or chilli.
Moglai or moghlai Cooking in the style of the Moghul emperors whose chefs took Indian cookery to the heights of gourmet cuisine three centuries ago. Few restaurateurs who offer Moglai dishes come anywhere this excellence. True Moglai dishes are expensive and time-consuming to prepare authentically.
Mollee Fish dishes cooked in coconut and chilli.
Mooli Large white radish.
Moong One of the more commonly used lentils. It has a green skin and can be used whole, split or polished to make various dhals.
Mulligatawny A Tamil sauce which has become well known as a British soup.
Munacca Raisins.
Murgh Chicken.
Murgh masala A speciality dish of whole chicken, marinated in yoghurt and spices for 24 hours then stuffed and roasted.
Namak Salt.
Namkeen Salty.
Nan or naan Leavened bread baked in the tandoor. It is teardrop shaped and about 8-10 inches long. It must be served fresh and hot.
Naan, keema Naan bread stuffed with a thin layer of minced meat curry then baked in the tandoor.
Naan peshwari Naan bread stuffed with almonds and or cashew and or raisins and baked in the tandoor.
Nargis kebab Indian scotch egg spiced minced meat around a hard boiled egg.
Naryal Coconut.
Neem Curry leaf.
Nigella See Kalonji.
Nimboo Lime.
Nutmeg Jaifal.
Okra Bindi. A pulpy vegetable also known as ladies fingers.
Pan or Paan Betel leaf folded around a stuffing lime paste or various spices and eaten after a meal as a digestive.
Pakoras Fritters (deep fried), may be made of potatoes, cauliflower, hot pepper, spinach, onion or a blend of vegetables.
Palak Spinach.
Panch phoran Five seeds. A mixture of five spices used in Bengali vegetable cooking, comprising equal amounts of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, custard and wild onion seeds.
Paneer Cheese made from bottled milk which can be fried and curried (matter paneer).
Papadam Thin lentil flour wafers. When cooked (deep fried or baked) they expand to a crispy texture. They must be crackling crisp and warm when served. They come plain or spiced with lentils, pepper, garlic or chilli.
Paprika Mild red pepper made from capsicums. It originally came from Hungary and only reached India this century. Its main use is to give red colour to a dish.
Paratha A pan or skillet fried bread. Bread is rolled with a wooden pin and cooked in a skillet with oil/ghree. Bread may have various stuffings.
Pasanda Meat, usually lamb, beaten and cooked in one piece.
Patia Restaurant seafood curry with thick, dark brown, sweet and sour sauce.
Patna A long grain rice.
Pepper Mirch. Has for centuries been India’s most important spice, gaining it the title king of spices. It grows on vines which flower triennially and produce clusters of berries, which ar3e picked and dried and become the pepper corns. Green, black and white pepper are not different varieties. All peppercorns are green when picked and must be bottled or freeze-fried at once to retain the colour. Black pepper is the dried berry. White pepper is obtained by soaking off the black skin of the berry. Peppercorns are a heat agent and can be used whole or ground.
Phal or phall A very hot curry (the hottest) invented by restaurateurs.
Piaz, peeaz or pyaz Onion.
Pickles Pungent, hot pickled vegetables or meat essential to an Indian meal. Most common are lime, mango and chilli.
Pistachio nut Pista magaz. A fleshy, tasty nut which can be used fresh (the greener the better) or salted. It is expensive ad goes well in savoury or sweet dishes such as biriani or pista kulfi (ice cream).
Podina Mint leaves or powder.
Poha Pounded rice.
Prawn butterfly jinga praj patia. Prawn marinated in spices and fried in batter.
Prawn puri Prawns in a hot sauce served on puri bread.
Pullao Rice and meat or vegetables cooked together in a pan until tender. In many restaurants the ingredients are mixed after cooking to save time.
Pullao rice The restaurant name for rice fried with spices and coloured yellow.
Pulses Types of lentils.
Puri A deep fried unleavened bread about 4 inches in diameter. It puffs up when cooked and should be served at once.
Quas chawal or kesar chaval Rice fried in ghee, flavoured and coloured with saffron.
Rai Mustard seed.
Raita A cooling chutney of yoghurt and vegetable, cucumber for instance, which accompanies the main meal.
Rajama Red kidney beans.
Rasgulla Walnut-sized balls of semolina and cream cheese cooked in syrup (literal meaning juicy balls). They are white or pale gold in colour and served cold or warm.
Rashmi kebab Kebab minced meat inside a net-like omelette casing.
Rasmalai Rasgullas cooked in cream and served cold. A very rich sweet.
Rhogan josh gosht Literally means red juice lamb. It can be spelt dozens of ways. It is a traditional Northern Indian dish. Lamb is marinated in yoghurt then cooked with ghee and spices and tomato. It should be creamy and spicy but not too hot.
Ratin jot Alkanet root. Beetroot coloured , dried, wafer-thin bark of the root. It is used as a deep red dye to make-up, clothing and food. Traditionally the Northerners obtained their red tandoori and rhogan josh gosht colouring from it.
Rosewater Ruh gulab. A clear essence extracted from rose petals to give fragrance to sweets.
Roti Bread.
Ruh gulab Rosewater.
Sabzi A generic term for vegetables.
Saffron Kesar or Safron. The world’s most expensive spice, saffron is the stamen of the crocus flower. It takes 70,000 stamens to give a recipe a delicate yellow coloring and aroma.
Sag or saag Mustard leaves or dish made of mustard leaves.
Salt Namak
Sambals A Malayan term describing the side dishes accompanying the meal. Sometimes referred to on the Indian menu.
Sambar A south Indian vegetable curry made largely from lentils.
Samosa The celebrated triangular deep fried meat or vegetable patties served as starters or snacks.
Sarson ka sag Mustard leaves
Saunf or souf Aniseed.
Seeng Drumstick. A bean-like variety of marrow which looks exactly like a drumstick.
Seenl Allspice. Related to the clove family, the seed resembles small dried peas. Called allspice because its aroma seems to combine those of clove, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. used rather more in European cooking than Indian.
Sesame Til.
Shami kebab Round minced meat rissoles.
Shashlik Cubes of skewered meat.
Sheek or seekh kebab Spiced minced meat shaped on a skewer and grilled or barbecued.
Sil batta A pair of grinding stones: Sil, large stone, batta, small pounder.
Sonf Fennel seed.
Sont or sonth Dry ginger.
Sorportel A Goan pork dish with heart, liver and meat.
Sub-continent Term to describe India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma, and Sri Lanka as a group.
Supari Mixture of seeds and sweeteners for chewing after a meal. Usually includes aniseed or fennel, shredded betel nut, sugar balls, marrow seeds etc.
Taipal or jaiphal Nutmeg.
Tamarind Imli. A date-like fruit used as a chutney, and in cooking as a souring agent.
Tandoori A style of charcoal cooking originating in north -West India. Originally it was confined to chicken and lamb and naan bread. More recently it is applied to lobster etc. The meat is marinated in a reddened yoghurt sauce and placed in the tandoor.
Taraazu Weighing scales.
Tarbooj ke beej Watermelon seeds.
Tarka Garnish of spices/onions.
Tarka dhal Lentils fried and garnished with spices.
Tava or tawa Heavy steel shallow frying pan.
Tej patia Bay leaf
Thaali A tray which holds the complete meal served in individual bowls (katori). Used by diners in the South.
Tikka Skewered meat, chicken or seafood, marinated then barbecued or tandoori baked.
Til Sesame seed.
Tinda A vegetable of the cucumber family.
Tindaloo See vindaloo.
Toor or toovar Type of lentil.
Tukmeria or tulsi Black seeds of a basil family plant. Look like poppy seeds. Used in drinks.
Turmeric Haldi or huldi. A very important Indian spice, turmeric is a rhizome. The fresh root is used occasionally as a vegetable or in pickles. The ground spice is extensively used to give the familiar yellow colour to curries. Use sparingly or it can cause bitterness.
Tusci Basil.
Udrak Ginger.
Urid A type of lentil. Its husk is black and it comes whole, split or polished. Available as a dhal dish in some restaurants.
Vanaspati Starch.
Vark or varak Edible silver or gold foil.
Vindaloo A fiery hot dish from Goa. Traditionally it was pork marinated in vinegar with potato (aloo). In the restaurant it has now come to mean just a very hot dish. Also sometimes called Bindaloo or Tindaloo.
Xacutti A Goan dish using chicken and coconut.
Yakni Mutton.
Zafron Saffron.
Zeera Cummin.

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