What is the Difference Between Northern and Southern Indian Food

food - Saigon/HCMC: May 7, 2021

The difference between Northern and Southern Indian Food

Northern Indian Food

Southern Indian Food

Finding good Indian food in Ho Chi Minh City is not as difficult as it once was. But understanding all of the options that are available can still be a bit tricky. Even though many people may think about ‘Indian Food’ as one large group of dishes, there is actually a never-ending variety of regional variations that all have their own character. As writing about all the different styles in Indian cooking would take a very long time, here’s a quick overview of the differences between two key types of Indian food, Northern and Southern.

First of all, let’s remember that India is a huge country. Spreading over 3.2 million square kilometres, dividing all of the food that is popular in this country into two groups is only a very simple introduction! However, if you are new to Indian Cuisine, it’s a good starting point.

Tandoor Saigon Indian Restaurant

When many people think about Indian food, they immediately think of general words like ‘curry’ or ‘spicy’, or specific dishes like ‘Butter Chicken’ or ‘Biryani’. But there is so much more to Indian cuisine than these popular dishes. In fact, many of the Indian dishes that you are familiar with are possibly Westernised versions of dishes that only originated in India. Indian restaurants in the U.K and U.S often introduce ingredients such as cream and refined flour, which are not ingredients found in everyday Indian dishes. Indian restaurants in western countries often add ingredients that are not used in India, because it better suits the tastes of their customers.

Also, menus in Western Indian restaurants are often focused on Northern Indian food, which makes Southern Indian food a little bit of a mystery to many. But at Tandoor, our menu is full of authentic, Indian dishes from all regions of the country, so if you are looking for a real Indian meal in Ho Chi Minh City, you know where to come!

So now you know a little more about the background, we can look in a little more detail at the similarities and differences between Northern and Southern Indian dishes.

Northern Indian Food

You can usually identify Northern Indian food by its use of spices, dairy products, and the tandoor oven. Also, side dishes such as roti (a round flat type of bread, a little like a crepe) are often wheat-based.

Northern Indian dishes are often prepared using dairy products such as yogurt, milk, ghee (clarified butter) and paneer (soft cheese that resembles tofu). Although Northern Indian Cuisine does use meat and fish, it is a largely vegetarian culture. For a typical meal in the northern Indian regions, you might find a bowl of yogurt alongside a fresh out of the over roti and a main dish such as saag (a curry made with spinach and other greens).

Tandoor Saigon Indian Restaurant

At Tandoor, one of our most popular Northern Indian dishes is Lamb Rogan Josh. Prepared using traditional cooking techniques and authentic Kashmiri chilli peppers, this is a mild, yet flavourful dish that is a popular choice in the restaurant. The base of the dish is prepared by cooking onions until they are almost caramelised. A variety of spices including cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are then added to give the dish it's wonderful smoky flavour, and the long cooking time gives the lamb a chance to become so tender it simply melts in your mouth! Served alongside naan bread or roti, you can be sure of an authentic Northern Indian meal. But if you choose to enjoy Lamb Rogan Josh with rice instead, it will be just as delicious!

Southern Indian Food

Southern Indian cuisine incorporates spices and dairy products too, but there are a couple of key things that make Southern Indian food different from its Northern cousin. First, people in the Southern regions of India often serve their dishes with rice rather than naan or roti. Southern Indian food also has a distinctive, more sour flavour, thanks to the use of tamarind in many dishes. Finally, thin vegetarian broths such as Samar and Rasam are very popular because Southern Indian cuisine is heavily influenced by the primary religion, Hinduism. As Hindus are almost entirely vegetarian, meat free dishes, often made using lentils are a key part of Southern cuisine.

Tandoor Saigon Indian Restaurant

At Tandoor, a popular Southern speciality is Idly Sambar. Despite being a very popular choice for breakfast in Southern India, Idly Sambar is a tasty and nutritious meal at any time of day. Idly, are a type of rice cake made using black lentils and rice, while Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable stew. A variety of spices such as coriander, cumin and chilli make sure our Sambar is packed with flavour, whilst the variety of vegetables that are added to the base, make sure it is packed with nutrients. Simple, but totally delicious and incredibly healthy, Idly Sambar is a great choice for vegetarians and meat eaters alike!

So, there you have it. A very simple but effective introduction to the differences between Northern and Southern Indian food! Of course, our advice is that now you know a little about it, why not come and try some of the different variations of Indian cuisine at Tandoor. Our staff are always happy to advise you what dishes may suit your tastes and our menu has a lot of variety for you to enjoy. Whether you like your dishes to be spicy and hot, or tasty and mild there is something for everyone to enjoy at Tandoor! 

How to Order

Visit our website www.TandoorVietnam.com to have the best Indian cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City delivered right to your door. Deliveries within 10km of the restaurant are free of charge, for deliveries further away, fees may vary. 

Tandoor Saigon Indian Restaurant

If you prefer to visit Tandoor Indian Restaurant, we are located at 39A - 39B Ngo Duc Ke Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, just a few steps from the city’s main Walking Street (Nguyen Hue).

Image source: Tandoor Indian Restaurant