It is one thing to know how to cook individual Indian dishes, quite another to combine the dishes harmoniously into an appetizing meal. Rajma masala and chhole masala are fantastic house party food, but would you serve them together? Not if you have a modest number of items on the menu. You love pooris as much as you love kadhi, but you would pair them with each other? Not if you want to kill the essence of both.
There are flavors that cohere and flavors that clash. You wouldn’t put multiple items of the same genre – such as gourds or dals – in the same meal. Pooris would possibly go with potato curry, kadhi would most definitely get served with plain rice.
If you are new to Indian cooking, planning a meal might seem like a gargantuan task. It isn’t really. I’ll help you with some tips to make the right decisions while creating an Indian menu for vegetarians. And I’ll give you sample Indian meal menus that work.
Tips for Planning an Indian Menu
Observe the color of your dishes and seek variety. Have something yellow (like toor dal or a turmeric-spiked curry), green (like Kashmiri saag or bhindi do pyaza), red (like tomato chutney or a tomato-based curry) and white (like rice, yogurt) on the plate. If a single color dominates the menu, that’s a red flag.
Go for a range of flavors and texture. Not everything Indian needs to be doused in garam masala. If your menu has spicy baby potato in onion fenugreek masala on it, keep a simple spinach and moong dal sauté on the side. If your menu has mushy potatoes in mustard sauce on it, keep a crunchy masaledar okra strips on the side.
A fresh salad of sliced cucumber, tomatoes, onions and lemon wedges sprinkled with chaat masala makes a fine addition to any Indian meal.
- Be aware of your guests’ spice tolerance – what is moderately hot for you may be fiery for another.
Remember this thumb rule for the type of dishes to put into a basic Indian vegetarian full meal: include 1 vegetable dish with gravy, 1 dry vegetable dish, 1 dal, 1 raita, 1 chutney, salad, chapatis/paratha/rice.
Indian Menu Ideas
Here are food combinations that I like and recommend. Feel free to mix and match – do keep note of the tips above when you do!
I hope these tips will help with planning Indian menus for vegetarians. Have fun and eat well!