Cut to scene: You’re recovering from a school mom’s night out and are now craving curry for dinner…your husband is game for a curry anytime but the kids might kick up a fuss! Now what?
This kid-friendly Indian food ordering guide is here to save the day for when mama’s craving curry in a hurry. We give you an Indian food cheat sheet — all dishes here are low in spice and palatable enough to keep the sprogs munching happily when you order Indian food! So you mama might just get your way after all!
Check out our gallery of options and just try to not get hungry, mama!
Spice level: none
Naan, Kulcha, Paratha, Roti…these are all fantastic Indian breads available at most Indian restaurants. Warm and fluffy, straight out of a traditional Indian oven (known as tandoor), these breads are sure to appeal to most fussy little palates. The best part is that most restaurants will happily do a cheese version or a garlic version – think cheese naan, or garlic naan, or garlic cheese naan and voila you have an Indian white pizza!
Many restaurants also offer a stuffed naan or kulcha or paratha that might be stuffed with potato or mince meat (keema naan), but you’ll have to check if the stuffing is bland or can be made bland to order. Most spices are not spicy but red chilli and fresh green chillies are the ones you need to avoid.
Spice level: none
If you’re headed to a South Indian restaurant, you have some great options in the non-spicy department which most kids (and adults) love! Dosa is a savoury crepe made of fermented rice and lentil batter (gluten free!), which when ordered absolutely plain is totally non-spicy and deliciously crisp. If available, you could even order the kids a butter or ghee dosa or a cheese dosa for extra yumminess factor. Dosa will come with chutneys and a lentil curry called Sambhar, but those will be spicy so you can skip for the kids and keep them as extras for you…to eat with your Masala Dosa – that’s the dosa which comes with the spicy potato filling that most grown-ups love.
Idli looks like a small white fluffy savoury pancake, made of the same batter as dosa but has a totally different taste and texture. Not all kids will take to idli as easily as dosa, as the fermented taste is slightly more pronounced, but no harm giving it a try!
Appam is another dish which kids will love – very similar to Sri Lankan Hoppers: crisp around the sides and fluffy in the middle, this dish can be found at restaurants serving food from Kerala.
Spice level: low
Many tandoori (grilled/barbequed) items on North Indian menus have a creamy marinade such as Malai Kebab (malai means cream in hindi) which could be available as malai fish tikka or malai chicken tikka or even paneer (Indian cheese) malai tikka…These kebabs are usually white in color and non-spicy, but do check before ordering just to be extra sure. These kebabs are also sometimes known as Reshmi kebab as well (the addition of cashew and dried fruit into the cream marinade) and will usually be on the mild and sweeter side. Wrapped into some naan, these kebabs will add a punch of protein into your little ones’ Indian meal.
Spice level: low
While not high on the nutrition scale, fried goodies like paneer pakora (Indian cheese coated in a simple chickpea based batter and deep fried), fish/prawn pakora and plain fried Papad (poppadums) are typically on the blander side and serve as good accompaniments to the main meal. Skip the chutneys as they will be spicy – although tamarind chutney is fairly sweet as well as a tiny bit spicy …in case your kids are feeling adventurous to try!
Depending on the type of restaurant you’re at, most chefs are happy to custom make dishes to suit your kids if possible… certainly no harm in asking!
You could order a simple pulao (chicken, prawn or veg) and tell them not to add any red or green chilli and to please go light on all other the other spices as well. Request a side of plain yogurt. Or, you could ask for a simple Khichdi (rice and lentil porridge) or Dhal (lentil curry) with steamed basmati rice. You could also check if the butter chicken or any any other curries can be made non-spicy to order or if there are any blander curries available which you can further tone down with the addition of plain steamed basmati rice or one of the breads and a side of yogurt sauce (Raita) or plain yogurt. Korma or Makhani (butter) curries tend to be sweeter and with less spice.
Spice level: none
We will categorize Mango Lassi under dessert because it really is! You could skip it in favour of water but it can definitely save the day and fill up those little tummies. Other awesome Indian desserts that kids love include Gulab Jamun (fried dough balls in sugar syrup), Kheer (rice pudding) and Kulfi (Indian ice cream– go with mango or malai/cream).
In the end, your sense of adventure and enthusiasm to try new foods will rub off on your little ones …so order away and stay positive, encouraging, experimental and rewarding of new foodie experiences! Your little ones will eventually work out their favourites and be open to discovering new favourite Indian foods as well! Eating with fingers, getting a little messy while exploring new tastes and textures can be tons of fun for the whole family!