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The Indian community in Bangkok
Two Little Indias and Asia’s Best restaurant: The Indian community in Thailand is well known for its entrepreneurial pursuits. Trading in textiles, real estate, gems and jewellery, they have made a significant contribution to the Thai economy. Naturally, a plethora of restaurants sprang up to feed their ambitions, eventually influencing the wider gastronomic landscape. Street-side roti and Indian fine dining can be found all over Bangkok, particularly in the neighbourhoods around the two Little Indias. But the shining light and superstar on the scene is multi-award-winning chef Gaggan whose culinary mastery and creativity has helped to reshape what we understand of Indian cuisine. Read our full feature on the Indian community here.
Best Indian restaurants
The best Indian restaurants in Bangkok
Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology
Highlights: Watch the chefs through a large window to the kitchen where they work the tandoor ovens. An Indian cocktail menu created by mixologist Joseph Boroski.
- Website: www.charcoalbkk.com
- Phone: 089-307-1111
- Address: Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology, 5/F, Fraser Suites, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok
- Area: Nana Asoke
- Nearest train: BTS Nana
Up on the 26th floor and fantastic cityscape but small portions.
Highlights: Saag paneer (spinach with paneer cheese), bhaigan bhartha (spiced eggplant) and Tandoori chicken<
- Website: www.facebook.com/Rangmahal
- Phone: 02-261-7100
- Address: Rang Mahal, 26/F, Rembrandt Hotel, 19 Sukhumvit Soi 18, Bangkok
- Area: Nana-Asoke
- Nearest train: BTS Asok
- Email: email@example.com
Set in a classically restored house on Langsuan Road, Gagan continues to redefine what we understand of Indian cuisine scene. His eponymous restaurant has won Asia’s Best three years running due to his ability to reinvent himself and his culinary techniques and molecular gastronomy. Highlights: fish curry with naan bread, lamb consomme cocktails. Book well in advance.
- Website: www.eatatgaggan.com/
- Phone: 02-652-1700
- Address: Gaggan, 68/1 Lang Suan Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
- Area: Ploenchit
- Nearest train: BTS Chit Lom
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lighter than the usual but-gusting North Indian cuisine, Indus provides an colourful, upbeat ambience.
Highlights: biryani and kebabs
- Website: www.indusbangkok.com
- Phone: 02-258-4900, 086-339-8582
- Address: Indus, 71 Sukhumvit Soi 26, Bangkok, Thailand
- Area: Phrom Phong
- Nearest train: BTS Phrom Phong
Excellent service. The tandoor dishes and appetisers are the real strengths in the smart, stylish restaurant.
- Website: www.masala-artbkk.com
- Address: 88, Thonglor Soi 8, 2nd Floor, Unit L-205, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor), Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
- Area: Thonglor
- Nearest Train: BTS Thong Lo
The menu includes many hard-to-find dishes, such as the masala papad roll (poppadum roll stuffed with cottage cheese and vegetables), and plenty of curries from which to choose – many traditional, some unusual. Britain’s favourite, the chicken tikka masala, easily passes the yummy, comfort-food test. The lamb vindaloo is beautifully rich with tender meat, while its tart vinegar flavouring brightens it in a way that’s rare in most restaurant curries.
- Website: www.indianhut-bangkok.com
- Phone: 02-2365672-3, 02-2378812
- Address: Indian Hut, 418 Surawong Rd., Bangkok
- Area: Nearest Train: BTS Surasak
- Email: email@example.com
Guide to Indian food
A guide to Indian cuisine
Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. The British colonialisation of India and large Indian communities in London and Birmingham had a significant influence on contemporary Indian dishes, as you will see below.
- Balti = ‘bucket’ in Hindi, and refers to the flat-bottomed wok-type pan it is usually cooked in
- Origins: It may have originated in northern Pakistan, but the British city of Birmingham claims it was first cooked there in the 1970s
- What is it? Marinated meat (usually chicken, beef, fish or prawns) stir-fried quickly along with vegetables like onions, spinach, potato, mushrooms or aubergines and selected spices.
- The result: fairly dry and served with rice.
- Spices: Garam Masala, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and others form a marinade/cook-in sauce in a base of stock with tomato puree and peanut oil.
- Heat level: mild, medium or hot.
- What is it? An Asian cooking method – simmering a lean meat in a spicy sauce for an hour or two, allowing the sauce to reduce until it is thick and coats the meat, which is very tender. The result: a rich, pungent flavour, concentrating the spices.
- Ingredients: The dish is usually garnished with green capsicum and shredded onions, and served with rice and naan bread.
- Spices: The basic sauce usually contains cumin, coriander, mustard seed, chilli, fennel, shallots, ginger, garlic, tomato and curry leaves.
- Heat level: ranges from mild to hot
- Origins: Originally a simple Persian (Iranian) dish.
- What is it? A biryani is a drier stir-fry of pilau rice with chicken or lamb (cooked up the bhuna way), usually with almonds, sultanas and various vegetables. The contents are then slow-cooked for several hours in their own juices. Once cooked, the rice is saturated with the juices from the meat or veggies it is layered with.
- Spices: Fragrant spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and saffron.
- Heat level: can range from medium to very hot
- Origins: The Parsees of south Asia gave us this super-hot dish
- What is it?A hot, sweet and sour dish made with lamb, vegetables and various types of dahl (lentils or pulses).
- Ingredients: The heat comes from chilli, the sweet from sugar or pineapple, and the sour from lemon juice.
- Heat level: yeah, pretty spicy!
- dopiaza = “two onions”
- Origins: Hails from Hyderabad
- What is it? Chicken or beef is added to a thick, onion gravy. The other onion is added raw and cooked with the main ingredient or stir-fried till it caramelises and is used as a garnish. Traditionally Dopiaza has a touch of sourness added with lemon juice.
Spices: ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, and chilli powder.
- Heat level: usually mild to medium hot with a good amount of gravy.
- Jalfrezi = stir-fried
- Origin: introduced in colonial era India when the Brits used their Sunday roast leftovers to fry up with curry spices on a Monday.
- Ingredients: vary from Indian curry house to Indian restaurant. It usually contains marinated meat, onions, bell peppers and lots of green chillies. Vegetarian options are available.
- Origins: 16th century northern India and Pakistan.
- What is it? Traditionally, it involved meat marinated in yoghurt, then braised on low heat until the marinade and juices reduced to a thick sauce.
- Ingredients: Nowadays, it includes almonds, cashews and coconut milk with a thick cream and spices.
- Heat level: mild but not bland
- Origins: Believed to originate in Madras (now Chennai) in southern India, but the name is not used there and is a British invention.
- What is it? A very spicy, hot, rich curry in a thick sauce. Madras curry is usually beef-based but chicken, lamb and vegetarian options are available.
- Ingredients: can vary as much as the heat strength according to the creativity of the chef. The signature traits include: smooth coconut or yoghurt sauce, a toasty tang, and sour-sweet fruitiness with a touch of aniseed.
- Spices: Usually a blend of dried, roasted and powdered cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, garlic, turmeric, peppercorns and plenty of chilli.
- Origins: from the Urdu word for ‘favourite’, since the days of the Moghul emperors.
- What is it? Originally made with marinated, flattened strips of lamb leg, which were then fried. Nowadays, chicken and prawn options are common. The marinade contains yoghurt. While frying other ingredients are added such as onions, ground almonds, cream and cinnamon.
Rogan Josh curry
- What is it? A favourite for Kashmiri cuisine and the British, Rogan Josh is aromatic, not too hot and replete with spices. In the original Kashmiri version thethe region’s chillies gave it the reddish colour – in the western, the red peppers and tomatoes add the colour.
- How is it cooked? A traditional, braised curry with a gravy base, which, besides chunks of lamb, spices and chillies, contains browned onions and shallots, yoghurt, ginger, bay leaves, red peppers and tomatoes.
- Tandoori = dishes cooked in the tandoor (clay oven)
- What is it? Marinated in a spice mix and then cooked in the tandoor.
- Examples: tandoori chicken, tandoori fish, tandoori paneer.
- Spices: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, mace, ginger and garlic
- Heat level: Medium to hot and without gravy
Tikka Masala curry
- What is it? Britain’s favourite national dish. According to legend, a disgruntled British customer complained about the dryness and spicy heat of a chicken tikka. The chef appeased the customer by adding a can of tomato soup.
- Ingredients: spiced, marinated, roasted chicken and a tomato-based sauce
- Spices: chilli, garlic, onion, ginger, yoghurt/cream and sometimes coconut milk. The characteristic orange-red colour is achieved with turmeric and paprika.
- Origins: Goa, India
- What is it? An anglicised version of the curry from Goa, made with pork marinated in wine and garlic.
- Ingredients: The meat used today is usually beef or lamb, and it is marinated in vinegar, sugar, ginger, chillies and spices before being cooked up, often with potatoes.
- Heat level: A fiery favourite on the takeaway market.
- Bhatura: round, lightly leavened and deep fried bread
- Naans: leavened flatbread baked in a tandoor (or oven)
- Chapati: flatbread
- Parathas: pan-fried flatbread
- Poori: whole-wheat bread (like a chapati) fried, usually in ghee, and puffed into a ball; served with vegetarian foods, particularly daal (lentils), potato and bean dishes. Cooked pooris can be stuffed with hot curried fillings as a quick snack.
- Poppadum: flat, dried wafers of lentils, rice or potato flour, deep fried and served as a snack. Can be highly spiced
- Bhaji (or Bhajia): deep-fried snacks of vegetables in a spicy batter; usually onions and potatoes served with spicy flavoured chutney
- Kachori: pastry stuffed with spiced mung beans, served with tamarind chutney
- Masala dosai: ground rice or semolina and lentil pancake filled with potatoes and onion, served with spicy coconut chutney
- Pilau (pillau, pulao): rice stir-fried in ghee then cooked in stock and served with fish, vegetables or meat
- Poppadum: flat, dried wafers of lentil, rice or potato flour, deep fried and served as a snack; can be highly spiced
- Paper dosai: very thin pancakes with potato and onion, served with coconut chutney
- Potato poori: crisp poori piled with potatoes and onions, sweet and sour sauce, yoghurt and sev (vermicelli)
- Raita: yoghurt relish
- Samosas: crisp, deep-fried triangular pastry stuffed with spiced vegetables like onions, or meat, served with chutney or yoghurt
The Indian sweets usually have a high sugar content and could be blamed for the high rates of type 2 diabetes in the country. They are usually different forms of rice puddings, milk puddings, vegetables and fruits dipped in sweet syrup. Indian sweets or fudges are typically decorated or garnished with raisins, almonds or pistachios. They are mostly made by boiling down milk to remove the moisture and then adding butter, flavour and sugar.
- Aloo: potato
- Bhindi: okra, ladyfingers
- Biranj: rice
- Channa: chickpeas
- Dal (Dahl): lentils
- Ghee: clarified butter, regarded in India as the purest food because it comes from the sacred cow, giving a rich, buttery taste
- Gosht: lamb
- Masala: mixture of spices
- Murgh: chicken
- Saag: leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek, mustard greens and dill.
- Tikka: bits of chicken (Punjab)
- Tandoor: oven
- Tamarind: a tree producing flat, bean-like pods which have become essential in Indian cooking; often made into a chutney as a dip for deep-fried snacks and the juice is used extensively in South Indian cooking
- Thali: a complete meal on a tray with each curry, relish and dessert in separate bowls or katori, plus bread or rice