I read about you in the Washington Post and have enjoyed perusing your blog. I have an unusual question for you that I hope you can help me answer: how can I learn to like Indian food?  My husband and I are vegetarians. We love Thai, Cantonese, Mexican, Greek, and Italian food, among other cuisines. However, neither one of us enjoy Indian food. I have narrowed the problem down to the spices: we do not like cardamon or cumin and the smell and taste of 'traditional' Indian curry is very unappetizing to us (although I love Thai curries). This is very disappointing because a lot of vegetarian food is Indian and we also are big fans of Hindi film and Indian music! In a subcontinent as large as India, there has to be Indian food that we could like. Do you have any recommendations?

 This must seem like a ridiculous question, but I mean it quite sincerely. I would really like to be able to enjoy Indian food and hope that you can point me in a better direction."


I am posting this question here with permission from the lovely lady who sent it to me.

 I was very intrigued by it for many reasons. Some obvious – how could someone not like cumin? Others less obvious – what type of curry are they eating, poor guys! And of course, how can I help them.

 First, I do want to thank you for writing to me and sending such an unusual question. I read the note again and again and came to the conclusion that perhaps the issue is not just with spices but maybe with tomato-laden curries that tend to be very heavy to digest and the taste is acquired.

 I would suggest a few things. First, it would be a great idea to expose yourself to other spices which form the heart of Indian cuisine like turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, fennel etc. Once you learn a bit about these, you can then begin to experiment in the kitchen. Then you can begin trying recipes from different Indian regions to see what you like in terms of taste. I am going to post some here so you can get a sampling of how different Indian dishes can be.

I hope that you will try some of these and email me back so that we can share your experience here with my readers –


1.       This simple Parsi recipe uses eggs – Try Fried eggs with potato chips.

2.       Since it is summer how about grilling an eggplant, Indian style or grilling fruits with an Indian accent.

3.       Since you wrote that you know about me from the Washington Post, I am assuming you are local so the recommendations here are local. I am guessing you have been eating at most North Indian restauran
ts since they are here in larger numbers.  ( I am from the Northern part of India and do love the curries that you dont like 🙂 but also adore SOuthern Indian dishes which have a different flavor profile) THis is total guess so sorry if I am wrong. But have you tried South Indian food? Dosas – with are made with rice and lentils – are wonderful crepes that often are stuffed with potatoes or chutneys. They dont have the "curry smell" that appears to bother you. Or idlies – steamed rice cakes that are just delightful. Try Amma's in Vienna or one of the Woodlands locations. They are all vegetarian. 

4.       Try this beet root recipe with coconut and mustard seeds

     5.       Or these Indian-Chinese style potatoes –



Sichuan Chili Stir-Fried Potatoes Use Yukon gold potatoes for best results. I have used this many times as a filling for Indian-style sandwiches. The original recipe calls for deep-frying the potatoes after boiling them. I have avoided that step here, but the taste is still wonderful. The recipe is adapted from Best of Chinese Cooking by Sanjeev Kapoor (Popular Prakashan 2003).

 Makes 4 servings

4 small boiling potatoes, preferably Yukon gold

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/2 small white or red onion, peeled and sliced

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 teaspoon red chili paste or red chili-garlic sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

8 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup vegetable stock


1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 scallion, white and green part, thinly sliced

Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a saucepan.

Peel and cut each potato into 8 to 12 wedges each. Boil the potatoes until almost done. When you poke them with the point of a knife, there should still be a little resistance. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add the onion and saute until it has softened slightly. Stir in the chili flakes and red chili paste, if using. Add the potato wedges and toss well. Add the soy sauce, sugar and peppercorns, and toss again.

Blend the cornstarch with the vegetable stock and gently mix into the potatoes. Cook until the sauce has thickened. Adjust the salt to taste.

Add the lemon juice and scallion. Mix well and serve hot.

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  1. This recipe looks delicious!! I am gonna try this right now at home…

  2. All foods are delicious foods, I adore the Polynesian too, nice dish. Came from a Samoan friend of mine, the flavor.

  3. Some think they don’t like Indian food because they had something called “curry” somewhere, once — however it doesn’t sound like this reader is judging Indian food on that basis. I don’t care for the flavor of the typical curry powder found in the supermarket, but fortunately many years ago a friend who grew up in Indian taught me that there are various combinations of spices called curry powder and all taste different. I’ve since had many I liked.

    I now love all kinds of Indian food though still never use that awful curry powder from the supermarket.

    The reader mentioned several spices she doesn’t like. I’m wondering if they’re part of a dish that combines even those spices with others if she’d still not like it. In other words you might think you don’t like cumin because you don’t like the taste of it by itself, but as part of a dish using multiple spices it might be fine.

    Lastly I’ve introduced many people who “think” they don’t like Indian food to a dish called Navratan Korma. I’ve even offered to pay for their dinners if they don’t like it. For those who think all Indian food is hot, this dish is not. It’s a vegetarian dish so your reader might also enjoy it. By the way, I’ve never had to buy anyone’s dinner as all those I’ve recommended Navratan Korma to have liked it very much.

  4. Thank you so much for answering my question! I can’t wait to try the recipes you’ve so kindly provided. You are correct that we are local to the DC metropolitan area. We will definitely have to try out Southern Indian cuisine. Thank you!

  5. I LOVE Indian food. This recipe looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great recipe…I am crazy about anything spice:)

  7. what a great article! I love it. I also wonder when someone tells me they don;t like cumin..or cilantro. You’ve got a perfect remedy for her.

  8. I have trouble with Indian food b/c I can’t eat anything spicy or “hot.” I’ve been to one of the best Indian places in DC (But years ago) and I remember I couldn’t even eat the bread! We went to an Indian place locally and I asked our server for help, explaining the problem. He insisted the sauces were what made Indian food special and so we had a table full of food – but none that I could eat. It was very frustrating. Any suggestions?

  9. i can’t imagine not loving indian food. great article, though. found you via robyn webb’s site and glad i did. i’ll be checking in regularly!

  10. Marthaandme – So sorry to hear you did not have a good experience. I dont know what bread they served you, but plain nan is like pita bread.. in terms of being totally mild and without spices.
    Have you tried any kormas – they are made with nuts and have creamy sauces and are not spicy.
    Also try dishes like butter chicken which tend to be creamy and not spicy hot.
    Hope this help!

  11. They don’t like Indian food! What! I love it and love all the spices. Great recipe BTW.

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