Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Demystifying Masala and other Indian Ingredients Some of the most prominent Indian pantry items that are ripe for the picking

Seasoned with mint, red onion, fennel and lime, Adya’s watermelon chaat is a creative take on the classic Indian snack


Leveraging Indian flavors to enhance burgers, bowls, pizzas, sandwiches and more is the hallmark of the Indian mash-up trend. Here’s a cheat sheet on some of the most prominent pantry items that are ripe for the picking.

Garam Masala

Either a blend of dried spices or a spice paste, masala often includes garlic, ginger, chile paste, tomato and onion, along with coriander, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and cardamom. Familiar here thanks to chicken tikka masala, its spiced, flavor-forward profile makes it a go-to spice blend for many Indian-accented dishes.

Keema Pav

Minced meat, like lamb or chicken, cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onion and spices. A popular street food in India, it’s often served with bread.


Dosa is a crêpe-like savory, crispy pancake made with a fermented batter of rice and beans. It’s served across India, often with paneer or chutney. Variations include onion dosa and masal dosa, making an intriguing accompaniment with shareable plates or bar snacks.

Tandoori chicken

A tandoor is a charcoal- or wood-fired cylindrical clay oven. Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices, then cooked in the tandoor. It’s moist and tender, with both the flavor of fire and the flavor of tandoori masala.


In Hindi, chaat means to “devour noisily,” which is fitting for this large umbrella of craveable roadside snacks just waiting for American adaptation. Based on some kind of fried element, they vary from aloo chaat (potato) to pakora.

Butter Chicken

Also known as chicken makhani, it was first developed in Delhi as a way to use leftover chicken tandoori. Buttery and creamy, it stars butter, heavy cream, as well as garam masala, chile powder and vinegar.


  From the Jan/Feb 2018 Top 10 Trends issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read the full issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.

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