Some classic dishes from southern India, where the cuisine is hot and spicy, are rasam, masala dosas and baingan ka bharta. Milder northern Indian recipe classics include Tandoori chicken, saag paneer and gaajar ka halwa.
Rasam is a soup featuring yellow peas and tamarind paste. A masala dosa is a crispy, crepe-like pancake filled with potatoes, onions and chilies. Eggplant and tomatoes are the main ingredients in the vegetarian entree, baingan ka bharta.
Tandoori chicken gets its name from the round Tandoori oven in which it cooks. Saag paneer is a mildly spicy entree of spinach and cubes of yogurt cheese. The dessert gaajar ka halwa is a sweet carrot pudding with raisins and nuts.
To make rasam, rinse 2 tablespoons of yellow pigeon peas or dal in water, soak in water for 30 minutes, and drain. Boil the dal, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 6 chopped plum tomatoes and salt to taste in 5 cups of water. Lower the heat and cook for about 45 minutes, until the dal is mushy. Stir in 2 teaspoons each of rasam powder and tamarind paste. Add 1 teaspoon each of black pepper, coriander and ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or other red chili powder; cook 5 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in an 8-inch pan on medium-high heat. Cook 1/4 teaspoon each of black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, 15 fresh or frozen curry leaves and 2 chiles de arbol without their stems for 1 to 2 minutes, until the seeds pop. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Stir the spices into the soup and serve.