10 Traditional Indian Foods That Will Change Your Life Forever

1. Biryani

What It Is: An aromatic rice dish cooked with several spices, notably saffron, and a protein (typically chicken or mutton) that’s been marinated.
Perfect For: A huge family dinner.
Feels Like: Hearing the neighborhood mosque sound its azan for evening prayers.

2. Momos

What It Is: A variation on the traditional dimsum, native to the North Eastern states that border Nepal (where the dish originated), eaten with a fiery red chutney.
Perfect For: A quick mid-evening snack.
Feels Like: Kicking your shoes off after a long day and settling into your couch for hours of TV.

3. Idli

What It Is: A heavy South Indian breakfast food. A fermented batter of ground rice and lentils, steamed in little circular moulds.
Perfect For: When you’re done sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
Feels Like: Being woken up by the smell of cooking.

4. Gulab jaamun

What Is It: Small balls of dried milk, slow cooked and boiled in a sugar syrup.
Perfect For: When you’ve already had a delicious meal and have just enough room for dessert.
Feels Like: Playing hide-and-go-seek with your cousins at a family reunion way, way past your bedtime.

5. Chole bhature

What It Is: A spiced, curried chickpea dish served with a fried flour bread.
Perfect For: A late Sunday breakfast.
Feels Like: Seeing your family all dressed in new clothes on a festival day.

6. Nethili varuval

What It Is: Anchovies dipped in a paste of turmeric and red chilies and fried, native to the South Indian region Chettinad.
Perfect For: A crispy, spicy appetizer.
Feels Like: Temple bells.

7. Kati roll

What It Is: A traditional street food popular across India (and abroad). A wrap of kebabs, eggs, vegetables, and spices rolled into paratha (a type of flat bread).
Perfect For: When you need a meal on-the-go. Also a great way to use up leftovers.
Feels Like: Standing on a dusty Kolkata street-corner at dusk, watching families go home through rush hour traffic.

8. Rajma

What It Is: Kidney beans in a thick gravy popular across North India.
Perfect For: An accompaniment for rice, particularly delicious when served piping hot in the winter.
Feels Like: Summer holidays at your grandparents’ house.

9. Pani puri

What It Is: A small crisp hollow round bread filled with spiced water, tamarind paste, potato, onion, and chickpeas.
Perfect For: When you’re craving a thousand flavors at once.
Feels Like: Drunkenly challenging your best friend to a contest of who can eat more of these, and then feeling like your mouth is on fire.

10. Jalebi

What It Is: A wheat flour batter deep fried in coil-shapes and soaked in sugar syrup, served hot.
Perfect For: When you want something hot, but also sweet.
Feels Like: People-watching in a crowded bazaar while your mother haggles over sari prices.