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Best Dishes and Tips for What to Eat in India

When traveling through India you have many opportunities to try a diverse range of food. Indian cuisine varies depending on the region you’re visiting and there are certain dishes and specialties you’ll want to be sure to try in each region during an India cruise. We are highlighting these local specialties in this article with tips on what to eat in India. Plus, you'll learn some proper etiquette and other things to remember when eating in India.

What to Eat in India’s Northern Regions

The food of northern India has a focus on wheat products and having some form of wheat is a staple at every meal, often as roti (flatbread). You’ll often find the wheat combined with curry or sabzi (a local vegetable dish).

Northern India is an excellent place to travel for vegetarians since many of the locals eat a vegetarian diet and it’s easy to find meatless entrees on restaurant menus.

That being said, meat still abounds, especially in the Kashmir region of India, which is particularly known for its Rogan Josh, a type of stew made with lamb or goat and which features a delicious aromatic curry paste. In addition to lamb and goat, you’ll often find pork and chicken on the menu (read on to learn why you’ll rarely see beef served in India).

Some other specialty dishes to try when eating in northern India is Vindaloo, a curry made with potatoes and chile peppers; butter chicken, which is served with a creamy gravy; and chickpea curry. For dessert, try an Indian Rice Pudding made with cardamom and nuts.

What to Eat in India’s Southern Regions

In southern India you’re going to see a lot of rice. It’s the cornerstone of most dishes served there. If you think endless rice sounds boring, don’t worry — the way rice is mixed with the meal greatly varies and is served in many different formats.

Try the local specialty of Chicken Chettinad served over rice; the chicken is prepared in yogurt, turmeric, and a mixture of red chiles and spices. Indian rice pudding is a popular dessert in the south (though you’ll find this yummy dessert all over India).

You’ll also find that meals served in the southern regions of India are more likely to be cooked with coconut oil compared to northern India, where the cooking relies heavily on soybean oil.

Don’t Eat Beef

While dishes in northern and southern India are often rich in meat, one thing you won’t find very often on the menu is beef.

This is because the cow is considered sacred in Hindu religion and therefore it is frowned upon to eat. In fact, eating beef is even banned in many states in India. Even if you do see it on the menu, you may want to follow local custom – and possibly law – and skip eating it.

However, you may find beef on the menu in Goa and Kerala, where there are larger Christian populations. (On a cruising side note: if you have a hard time imagining going a whole vacation without a prime piece of steak, a cruise to India is an ideal way to travel there since you can order a steak back on board in the evenings while sailing to the next port of call.)

Cuisine in Goa

Speaking of Goa, it is known for its cuisine as well, which is great for cruisers since it’s a common port of call on India cruise itineraries.

Goa is located on the western coast of India. Though you may see beef on the menu as mentioned above, it’s seafood that Goa is known for. Goa’s proximity to the sea means you’ll find lots of fresh seafood options on the menu. In fact, it might be hard to find a meal that doesn’t include fish, so prevalent is it in Goa. Of the fish dishes, kingfish is one of Goa’s specialties. Try it mixed in curry with grated coconut.

Other Things to Know About Eating in India

Avoid Tap Water: Though you may see locals drinking the tap water, it’s not advised for travelers if you want to avoid “Delhi belly.” Travelers to India aren’t used to the bacteria in the water and can get quite ill when drinking it. So if you want to avoid spending one or more of your vacation days in the bathroom, skip the tap water and stick to bottled water. It’s also wise to pass on eating any fresh vegetables or fruit that may have been washed in tap water.

Eat With Your Hands: In India it’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your hands. There are some etiquette rules for doing so, though, and they vary by region. Generally speaking, you should only eat with your right hand. It's often usually polite etiquette to not let your palm touch the food when eating and to only use your fingertips to handle the food.

Take a Cruise to India: Cruising to India is a good way to deal with the food situation if you’re wary about what to eat in India — there’s always plenty to eat back on the ship. Though we do like to encourage travelers to immerse themselves in the culture when traveling and to try new things whenever possible, including the cuisine. And if you already know you love Indian food from having it at home, then you’re in for a gastronomical treat when you try Indian food in India and get to taste the exquisite array of spices and flavors.

India Cruise Itineraries

Learn more about the India cruise itineraries we offer and see which ports we visit in which you can spend the day eating – and of course sightseeing.

From Mumbai to Goa and beyond, your India cruise will take you to a vibrant country full of beautiful sights with opportunities to experience the culture – including eating in India – first-hand on our in-depth shore excursions. You’ll soon realize why cruising is a wonderful way to visit India.

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