Indian food is widely thought to be hot and spicy which, sadly, puts a lot of people off trying it. While the various cuisines of India do have their fair share of spicy dishes, that's really not what it's all about. Whether it's served in India itself or at restaurants around the globe, the emphasis is on delicious, complex flavours rather than blowing your head off with heat.
If you really don't like spicy food, or you can't eat it for medical reasons, there's no need to completely avoid eating Indian. Next time your friends are going to an Indian restaurant, or you feel like trying something different, follow these tips instead.
Know your Indian dishes
India is a big country, and its food varies from one region to the next. Because of this, it's possible to find an overwhelming and bewildering range of dishes on any given menu.
Luckily, there are a few standards that are found more often than not on an Indian menu, and this helps you to find something suitable. And you don't need to know what every dish is – just the ones to look for.
Korma is one of the most popular Indian restaurant dishes, and most recipes are as mild as it gets. With a concentration on rich, creamy flavours with a background of coconut, it shouldn't offend even the most delicate palate.
Another dish to look out for is pasanda, which is also creamy and mild. You may also enjoy tikka masala, but this varies more than other dishes, so exercise a bit of caution.
Talk to the waiter
Occasionally, you may find a restaurant with more authentic Indian dishes, or which focuses on a particular region's food. When this happens, there's a chance you won't recognise a single dish on the menu. Don't be afraid to ask for recommendations – not being able to eat hot food is nothing to be embarrassed about.
If there's one of the hotter dishes you like the sound of, it's also worth asking if it can be adapted for you. Many chefs are happy to tailor the spices in a dish to your specific tastes, or even come up with something completely different just for you.
Order some extras
Rice, breads, and other sides help to bring down the heat of food and give you something mild to fill up on. A fresh side salad is also great for cooling down your mouth, as is a dollop of yoghurt on top of your curry.
Choose the right drinks
Just in case you get something a bit on the spicy side, order a jug of water for the table so you can cool off. An ice cold beer is also perfect for taking the edge off a hot curry, but wine is best avoided as it doesn't take the edge off as effectively.