Terms used in Indian Cooking

Understanding Spices

Indian Cuisine

Popularity of Indian food in the UK has peaked since the first Indian restaurant opened two hundred years ago. Although Indian cuisine has been served in the UK for centuries, a new genre of Anglo-Indian food emerged in the 2000s and has paved the way for restaurant owners looking to expand their menu.

Anglo-Indian food is a combination of both Indian and British cultures. One of the most popular anglicised dishes is Chicken Tikka Masala. In fact, this dish has been named one of the UK’s official national dishes! Anglo-Indian food is usually a base ingredient such as chicken, pork or fish served with a curry sauce and rice.

Nowadays there are hundreds of curries that have been invented and adapted for the British palette. It comes as no surprise that choosing a meal in an Indian restaurant can seem overwhelming. Because of this, we have pulled together a useful resource of Indian cooking terms.


Hot and sour curry cooked with meat, lentils and vegetables. Traditionally, Dhansak is made to mourn a relative that has passed. The spices in Dhansak are sweet and fragrant, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mustard. Learn more about Dhansak here.


Medium curry cooked with meat and vegetables. Jalfrezi is traditionally a concoction of leftover meats and vegetables. Historically, leftover food needed to be consumed quickly because the Anglo-Indians did not have the means to keep their food fresh. Hence the Jalfrezi was born! Whether you have leftovers to use or not, follow our recipe and make a delicious Chicken Jalfrezi here.


Classic cooking pot thick, deep and circular in appearance with two handles on either side. Used to cook curry known by the names Korai, Kadai and Kadhi.  

Kadai, Karahi, Kadhi

Style of curry prepared in a karahi cooked with meat and vegetables. Like a Balti, the Karahi is prepared in a dish by the same name. Although a lesser known dish in the UK, it is popular across North Indian and Pakistani cuisine and there are many variations. Learn more about Kadai here.


Cream or yoghurt-based dish with braised meat and vegetables. Like many dishes, the Indian term is used to describe all variants of the traditional dish. Historically, korma was cooked over a long period to allow the white sauce to thicken. Nowadays, the meat or vegetables tend to be marinated in yoghurt and cooked on high heat. Learn more about the fascinating history of Korma here.


Non-traditional Indian term originally from Southern India, used to describe ‘hot’ dishes. The spicy curry is not an Indian dish, despite its big name in the UK. This is because Britons needed a reference to distinguish hot dishes from mild. In other words, we associate Korma with the bottom of the heat scale and Madras with the top. Learn more here.


Creamy and fruity curry often compared to Korma but tangier in flavour. This tends to be a lesser known dish to other competitors such as Tikka Masala, Korma and Madras. Historically, Pasanda was an upper-class dish that made use of more expensive and rarer ingredients. Follow one of our Pasanda recipes or learn more about the history of Pasanda here.


Fiercely hot dish originally from Goa, traditionally cooked with pork. People attribute the origins of this dish to Portugal, where explorers are believed to have brought the recipe to India in the fifteenth century. If you think your taste buds can handle it, try cooking yours following our recipe or learn more about the Indian term here.

Indian Cooking Terms Summary

Hopefully, this overview of Indian terms will make things a little easier when you next order Indian food. Restaurants and takeaways usually have a mix of traditional and Anglo-Indian dishes. Will you go for a classic Korma, something different such as Pasanda or something brave like Vindaloo? Remember you can shop our full range of premium Indian spices here.

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