Make a Meal of it!
Meat curry and rice? Boring! To create a menu with variety, excitement and big taste, we think side dishes are key.
In her book, Indian Vegetarian Cookery, Rafi says:
“When planning a menu, care should be taken not to end up with an ill-balanced, drab and monotonous selection.”
By serving a number of dishes as a thali (a thali is a traditional serving plate, for a selection of dishes), you can sample the different dishes separately and appreciate lots of different flavours, smells and textures, all in one menu.
When considering serving a number of smaller dishes, it is good to think about the different flavours, ingredients, spiciness, richness and textures of each dish and consider how they will work together.
Contrasting textures add variety to a meal.
- A wet Dhal is brought to life when paired with some crunchy papadums. Add to this some cooling yoghurt and a salty, spicy pickle and you have a mouthwatering combination.
- A saucy curry is complemented beautifully with a side or garnish that is fresh and crunchy, like a Cabbage and Red Onion Salad. At home, Rafi and Lee would like to eat raw onion or radishes alongside their meals for this reason.
- Remember that vegetables can take on very different profiles depending on how they are prepared. For example, softer carrot within a vegetable curry is very different to when it is grated raw as part of a salad.
- With rich curries, something acidic works well. Try a fresh Kachoombar or pickled onions.
- Indian dishes are always served with a bread or rice element. If there are strong flavours in the dish, a plain rice is best. Rice is also great for soaking up sauces, as are richer, soft breads like naans and rotis. Chapatis are best for scooping up drier dishes.
- If a dish is highly spiced, a simpler side with subtle flavours might be best. Try stir frying greens like spinach with garlic and ginger, or Broccoli with Cumin and Garlic.
- Pickles and chutneys can help balance the heat of your meal whilst also adding flavour. Try a chilli pickle for an extra kick; a mild, sweet chutney for a burst of fruit that cools your tongue; or a lime pickle for strong, tangy flavour that cuts through richer dishes.
- If preparing a main dish with potatoes (like our Keema Madras or Korma with Chicken and Potatoes), you might want to choose lighter sides like the Gujarati Green Beans.
- Something lighter like a vegetable Sabzi Shakh might pair with a heartier side like the Gujarati Potato Curry.
- Lighter, coconut-based curries, like the Goan Green or Mulligatanni, work nicely with earthy or tomato-based sides and vice versa.
To give you some more inspiration, we have gathered some of our staff's suggestions for using side dishes to add variety to your menu.