Indian food is great because it does things with food we would have never thought of. Cooking with yogurt, who knew! Ordering Indian takeout itches a scratch that pizzas, burgers or french fries simply can’t reach.
Whether you’re in the mood for something savory or something sweet, something creamy or something spicy or just some naan bread, you have to make sure you’re doing it right. Here are eight important rules to remember when eating Indian food.
1. Wash your hands before you eat
Traditionally, once mealtime is announced, Indian people will wash and dry their hands and proceed to the table. Indian food is meant to be eaten with your hands and sometimes even off of the floor, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited to do so.
2. Portions aren’t what you think
Instead of individual portions, you will probably get an order, or be presented with something that serves several people unless specifically stated. Share your food generously. The more people you get an Indian meal with, the more food you’ll get, and overall the better the experience you’ll have.
3. Wash down your food right
Water is served with every meal, but wine or beer works fine as well. Choose an alcohol that is recommended for the meal you’re having.
4. Left-handers beware
It’s frowned upon to eat with your left hand in a lot of Indian cultures. It’s considered rude and very unhygienic. Don’t pass around food, eat or hold cutlery with your left hand.
5. Once food is on your plate, it stays on your plate
Another no-no is offering anybody food from your plate or helping yourself to some from theirs. But then again, you were never going to do that, were you?
6. Eat with your hands properly
When you have rice, take your right hand and reach into the rice with your fingers. Grab some and gently roll it between your index and middle fingers and thumb (not in your palms!) into a kind of self-sticking ball. Dip the ball into the sauce, mix it with a vegetable or a piece of chicken, then pop the whole thing in your mouth.
7. Take seconds and thirds
If invited to enjoy Indian food by someone, don’t be surprised if your host or hostess urges you to have some more, and generally asks you not to be shy. How much you eat is an indication of how much you enjoyed the meal, so you will almost certainly offend people if you have only one plate.
8. Have your diners’ backs
Because you must never pour your own drink, always be alert throughout the meal as to whether your neighbors’ cup or glass needs refilling (usually at around half full). Don’t worry, though, as your neighbors are obliged to do the same.
Remember these rules, and all your Indian meals will be exemplary. Even if you’re having a sad chicken tikka masala microwave meal for one, you’ll have yourself a great time. I won’t even tell anyone if you eat with your hands.