We cover the different types of amazing vegetarian & non-vegetarian treats (check them out here and here) to try in other posts but we would love for you to understand the etiquette & expectations first!
In India eating with your hand (instead of utensils like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban India: Use only your right hand. Don't stick either hand into communal serving dishes: instead, use the left hand to serve yourself with utensils and then dig in. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating.
For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Rice is more challenging, but the basic idea is to use four fingers to mix the rice in curry and pack a little ball, before you pop it in your mouth by pushing it with your thumb.
Most of the restaurants do provide cutlery and it’s pretty safe to use them instead of your hand.
Eating by hand is frowned on in some "classier" places. If you are provided with cutlery and nobody else around you seems to be doing it, then take the hint.
Indian restaurants run the gamut from roadside shacks (dhabas) to classy five-star places where the experience is comparable to places anywhere in the world. Away from the big cities and tourist haunts, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food choices will be limited to the local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, "Chinese" and occasionally South Indian.
The credit for popularizing Punjabi cuisine all over the country goes to the dhabas that line India's highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who happen to be overwhelmingly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba serves up simple yet tasty seasonal dishes like roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be an issue in many dhabas, so if one's not up to your standards try another. In rural areas, dhabas are usually the only option.
In Southern India, "Hotel" means a local restaurant serving south Indian food, usually a thali -- a full plate of food that usually includes a kind of bread and an assortment of meat or vegetarian dishes -- and prepared meals.
Tipping in small denominations is usually acceptable though not mandatory, usually done by leaving small banknotes/ coins. At fancier restaurants where 10% tip is appropriate, though it is commonly included in bill labelled Service Charge.
The cow is highly revered animal (other animals are also quite revered thanks to their connections to various deities but cow enjoys special mother figure as in the past cow made the survival better and easier by providing milk, fuel, insulating material for floor, energy for ploughing and withdrawing water from wells) in Hinduism and as such, Hindus are not permitted to eat beef. Due to this restriction, you will find that the Western fast food chains in India generally do not serve beef. This means that the hamburgers people from Western countries are used to in fast food restaurants are generally absent in India. Also cow slaughter is banned in several states and it maybe illegal to eat beef in some of them.
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