Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Expected Etiquette While Eating at an Indian Restaurant

In major urban centres, there are many restaurants and fast food joints that follow a homogenized "global" etiquette. However, in mainland India, there still exists a uniquely Indian etiquette. Here is more on this etiquette.

While eating at any restaurant, basic etiquette involves leaving a good tip for efficient service and being courteous to one's host. As far as Indian restaurants are concerned, many of them are not too formal. However, there is a set of basic rules that must be followed everywhere.

Rule No. 1 is, "Do not ask for beef or pork." You must keep in mind that the majority of Indians are either Hindus or Muslims. In the Hindu religion, the cow is considered to be sacred and cannot be eaten. Similarly, Muslims consider the pig to be filthy and abstain from it. Most Indian restaurants do not serve either beef or pork. Ask for these meats only if you see them listed on the menu. Also, note that many Indian restaurants serve only vegetarian fare. These restaurants generally have "vegetarian" displayed prominently on their signage. Do not offend the owners by asking for meat.

One huge faux pas that you could make when dining at an Indian restaurant would be to offer someone else your jutha. "Jutha" is a Hindi word referring to "food which has come in contact with your mouth, saliva, or plate." It is considered very rude and unhygienic to offer someone your jutha unless you are close friends or family.

Indian food is generally meant to be eaten with the hand. Many Indian foods such as naan and roti (both being types of flat bread) have to be eaten with the fingers. The proper method would be to break the bread and soak it in vegetable curry before eating it.

Why do Indians eat without cutlery? This is because eating is a very sensual activity. Hence, as many of the senses as possible -- taste, smell, sight, and touch -- must be involved. However, if you are not comfortable eating with your fingers, you can always pick up a fork and a spoon. If you do decide to use your hands, remember to use only your right hand for eating. The left hand should be used to serve food or to pass a dish to someone else. Left-handed people can reverse this arrangement. The basic idea is that one hand goes to your mouth while the other manages the food.

Many Indian restaurants do not serve alcohol. The restaurants that do serve alcohol, do not usually offer too much of a range. Indians do not have a wine and dine culture. So it would be best to go dry and try something like a mango lassi as a refreshing alternative.

As far as restaurant etiquette goes, paying the bill is always an issue. In India, when a person invites you to a restaurant, it generally means that (s)he is the host and that (s)he is going to pay the bill. Even when Indian companions want you to pay the bill, they will say no at least once when you offer to do so,. Be doubly sure about whether or not your Indian host wants to share the bill.

Apart from these aspects, the basic rules of etiquette that should be followed at regular restaurants hold good. Hope you enjoy your meal at the Indian restaurant.


vinita said...

Great post about indian food being eaten in restaurants as well as eating with hand. you have covered a lot of points.

Vanishree's Corner said...

I like your blog very much.
If you are interested in link exchange than please leave a comment on
Happy Blogging :)

Anonymous said...


thank you very much for creating this blog. i've found it very helpful and i hope that you will continue to post. thanks!

deepanjali said...

Your blog is nice. I think you should add your blog at BlogAdda and let more people discover your blog. It's a great place for Indian bloggers to be in and I am sure it would do wonders for your blog.

Anonymous said...

This was informative, but one thing was missing:

When dining among muslims, you may ONLY use your RIGHT hand to eat, because your left hand is considered dirty, and used for bathroom chores.

Mansi Desai said...

wow, that was actually a good read, and something americans should know about:) nice post!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info! helped me a lot! thanks again!:D

Anonymous said...

Hey nice blog,
when you wrote Jutha (eating from somebody's already eaten food) its kinda confusing since Jutha may also mean shoe. I may be wrong but I think you should change the spelling to Jutah. >_> (who knows)

Anonymous said...

Juta - shoe
Jhuta - what you mean by giving/taking food that someone has already eaten from

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the right hand is used for touching food and the left for one's toilet.

I also have a question: when the bill is paid, a dish of mixed spices is offered and the visitor takes a pinch. What is this called and what are the main ingredients?

Many thanks.

pr!tz said...

Why did you stop writing? You were doing such a good job... Write more, please. Also -- try to post pictures of whatever you cook!!

Propecia said...

I honestly hate Indian Restaurants because it's so difficult to know what they hate we ask for, and what they don't, So I avoid to go this kind of places.