Eating with your fingers can be tricky to start off with, but it's the best way to combine the different types of Indian food together and get the most from the individual tastes.
The fact that there are so many separate dishes in an Indian meal can also be confusing. Which dish is to be eaten when? Are they eaten all together or in a certain order? Just looking at an Indian meal can be overwhelming, let alone eating Indian food with your fingers!
Here's how to go about it.
- Serve a small portion of each main dish (vegetables/meat) onto your plate.
- Tear off a smallish piece of the Indian bread (around 1 x 1.5 inches in size) and place it over some of the vegetables or meat. If any of the food pieces are too large to be picked up and eaten, press down on the bread with your fingers to flatten or break them up.
- Start eating by picking the food up with the bread. This is done by folding the bread over the top of the food and popping it in your mouth. Next, using your fingers only, take a small portion from one of the side dishes and eat it. Repeat this whole process with the different dishes that are available, having a little at a time, until the bread is finished.
- Now, take some rice and put it on your plate. Rice is traditionally eaten with daal, so you should pour a little of it over some of the rice. Also add some more of the main dishes to your plate.
- Here is where things start to get a little messy and complicated! Using all five fingers work the combined rice and daal, or main dish and daal, into a ball.
- With the four fingers acting as a kind of spoon, gather the balled up food onto the tips of the fingers using the thumb.
- Place the thumb behind the food and, bringing your hand up to your face, use it to guide the food into your mouth.
- Repeat this process as necessary by mixing a little rice, daal, and main dish together. Of course, alternate your eating with a portion of one of the side dishes.
- Once you've finished eating, wait for everyone else to also finish, then get up to wash your hands. Often, in a restaurant, small bowls of water will be brought to the table by the waiter or waitress for you to wash your hands in.
- It's clean and polite to wash your hands before you sit down to eat.
- Only eat with your right hand. The left hand is considered to be unclean as it's reserved for functions associated with going to the toilet.
- Eat the bread first with some of the vegetable or meat dishes, then eat the remaining vegetables or meat along with the rice and daal. The purpose of the side dishes is to add different flavors and texture to the food, so you should have a small portion of any one of these after each bite of the main dishes.
- The most important thing is to sample each different dish separately, to allow its individual characteristics to be appreciated.
- Be careful with the amount of daal you pour onto the rice. Too much daal will result in the rice becoming sloppy and it won't hold together properly. Too little daal and the rice will be sticky and tasteless.
What You Need
- Indian bread (chappathi, roti, or naan)
- Side dishes (salad, papad, pickles)
- Main dishes (vegetables and/or meat)
- Daal (a watery lentil dish)