What is an Indian Side Dish?
“Side dish” is a term in Indian food, but when it comes down to it, different people have different ideas about what a side dish is. My definition of an Indian side dish is any small dish that isn’t meat, flatbread, appetizer, or sweet.
In Western Cuisine, a meal is made up of an entree that is usually heavy and probably contains meat. In addition to that are usually one or two side dishes that are lighter and vegetable based. And there may also be some bread.
But most Indian dishes are already vegetables. A typical Indian meal is usually a wet shaak (vegetable curry), a dry shaak, a dal, rice, flatbread, and yogurt.
Depending on the definition you go by, all of these may be considered side dishes. Instead of having a single, featured entree, they work together in consort to form a complete meal.
Here are some great side dishes you can serve at your next Indian meal. These are all 100% vegetarian side dishes:
An easy, traditional dal made from split mung beans
Grandma’s Gujarati Dal
A delicate balance of spicy, sweet and sour, made with tuver
Dal Tadka is a rich, creamy dal made with a mix of lentils.
Dal Makhani is a creamy vegetarian dish made with whole urad lentils.
A combination of steaming hot rice and lentils with a cold glass of chaas (yogurt).
Cucumber raita is the best cooling accompaniment to balance any spicy meal.
A cooling raita with the flavors of beet and an optional vaghar.
A simple dollop of yogurt goes well with many foods. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle a little cumin or chili powder on top.
Chutney and Pickles
Tomato chutney hits all of the tastebuds with sweet, sour, umami, spices and salt. Amazing with any bread.
Lal Marcha nu Athanu
A pungent chili pickle that belongs on the side of every Indian meal.
A pickle that adds a balance of all flavors. It goes great with just about anything, adding a pleasant crunch.
A sweet and sour chutney that goes great on many street foods and chaat.
Rice Side Dishes
Pulao (Indian Rice Pilaf)
A rich pilaf made with Indian spices, cashews, and garlic.
Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice)
Fragrant rice featuring cumin.
Chitrana (Lemon Rice)
A South Indian style of rice, made with lemon and peanuts.
Make the perfect bowl of basmati rice.