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Updated by Joanna James on May 02, 2024
Headline for How to Enjoy a Meal Like an Indian- Some tips for eating by hand!
Joanna James Joanna James
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How to Enjoy a Meal Like an Indian- Some tips for eating by hand!

Indians love their food, and they savour it more by using their hand as their utensil of choice! However, mind you only the right hand is appropriate to eat the food with. Eating by hand adds a whole new dimension to eating, and one unfamiliar might find it daunting. Here are some tips to steer you through!


What Makes Up an Indian Meal

It's good to know what you can expect while ordering a typical Indian meal or dining out with friends. Usually, it will be a set and will be grouped and separated to include a selection of dishes. However, in terms of variety and components, there will be regional differences according to which part of India you are in.

Indian bread is a given, they are most likely to serve either a chapati, paratha, roti, or naan bread. In South India, you can expect idli, which is a steamed orid and rice flour cake of sorts. Expect several side dishes like a salad, raita, papadoms, pickles, rasam and chutneys. The main dishes will be usually vegetable curries and in some places meat like chicken or mutton. Dhal curry or a sambhar a spice-laden lentil and vegetable broth. And to round it all up is a portion of white rice.


Basic Things to Know

It's custom and expected to wash your hands thoroughly before sitting down to enjoy your meal.

Eating is done only with your right hand, the left hand is considered dirty, as it's used for functions associated with the toilet.

First, eat the bread with some of the vegetable curries, what is left can be eaten alongside the rice, daal or sambar.

The side dishes add different tastes and textures to the food. Therefore, consume a little bit of what is provided along with the main dish.

Sample each separate dish to let its flavour profile be appreciated. Best not to mix the dishes into one morsel!

Be cautious of the quantity of daal you put onto the rice. Adding too much daal will make the rice sloppy, and it will be difficult to hold it together in your hand. Too little will make the rice sticky and bland.

South Indian meals are served traditionally on a banana leaf. Snacks like banana chips are put on the banana leaf first, and then the rice and the other dishes will be served. The food will include a spectrum of flavours, from sweet, sour, and bitter to savoury. After you have completed the meal, fold up your banana leaf in half.

If eating a thali, which is a platter with a variety of dishes in little bowls, dip little pieces of bread into the containers to eat the dishes.


How to eat

Serve a smallish portion of each main dish to your plate then add the side dishes if you like to eat them.

Use your right hand to tear off a small part of the Indian bread and put it over the vegetables or any meat dishes. If the food portions are too big to be gathered up and eaten, push the bread down on the food with your fingers to break it up a bit.

Begin eating by picking up the food with the rotis. Tuck the bread into the food and scoop it up and pop it into your mouth. Following this, take one of the side dishes that you like and eat it. Repeat until all the various dishes have little left or until the rotis are gone.

Next plate some rice onto your plate, which is typically eaten with daal. Pour a little over the rice and you can add more as you go. Pair the rice with the other main curries to bring in more flavour.

Use all five fingers to combine the rice, daal and the other dishes into scoopable balls. Pick the balled-up food to the ends of your fingers with the thumb, and the other fingers as a spoon. Then pop it into your mouth. Continue until all the rice, veggies and daal have been consumed.

After you have finished, wait for the others to complete your meal. Then go and wash your hands clean. Most restaurants will also bring finger bowls with warm water, with slices of lemon added for freshness. Try the likes of Tandoor Tina if you’re looking out for a good Indian restaurant in Dubai.

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