A Guide to Indian Food in Hoboken + Jersey City

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When it comes to ordering at an Indian restaurant, many of us have had a moment where we stare at an expansive menu of curries, juicy grills, and hearty pastries, only to be confused with the myriad of food names and cooking techniques, before finally resorting to the good old chicken tikka masala, which is delicious in itself. But, Indian cuisine has a lot more to offer than chicken tikka masala. Understanding the food — not just the names of the dishes, but also the social context of them — will help you better navigate restaurant menus, explore a wider variety of food options, and appreciate what you eat. We have put together a glossary of dish names commonly seen on local Indian restaurant menus to help you make the decision. Keep reading for a guide to Indian food in Hoboken + Jersey City. 

indian food hoboken jersey city

Indian Food Staples

Before you order, make sure you know what you’re getting first. Here are a few staple dishes in Indian cuisine:

Naan

This is the most common staple food in India. Essentially, naan is a flatbread baked in clay ovens, and the intense heat gives the bread a caramelized edge and an airy, stretchy texture. It’s often paired with baked or grilled meats. Naan can be served plain, but some cooks also brush it with ghee, butter, or garnish it with garlic to spice up the flavor.

Roti

This is another extremely common bread. It is thinner and lighter than naan, and is cooked over a griddle or skillet. The simple preparation method is easy for home cooks to master, thus roti is often served as a quick, no-fuss staple food.

Paratha

This is a deep-fried flatbread. To make it, wheat flour dough is folded with layers of ghee and then deep fried in vegetable oil. It is fluffy, buttery, and extremely filling. It’s a popular snack or side dish. Wandering along the streets of North India, a traveler can easily find big, round puffs of paratha floating and sizzling in huge frying pans. In restaurants, parathas are most likely stuffed with potatoes, cheese, or meat.

Gulab Jamun 

This is an iconic Indian dessert made from milk solids. To make it, milk is boiled until only crumbly solids are left. Then the milk solids are kneaded into small round balls with a splash of milk, fried in ghee under low heat, and soaked in thick syrup. Yes, it’s a sugar bomb, but doesn’t taste overly sweet.  The syrup is infused with fragrant cardamom and rosewater, which cuts the sweetness with a subtle citrusy and minty flavor, and makes the dessert almost addictive.

Samosas 

These are popular street snacks and appetizers in India. Savory fillings such as potatoes, peas, and sometimes minced meat are well cooked, loosely mashed, mixed with spices, and stuffed into paper-thin wheat wraps to make this savory snack. The whole thing is then deep-fried until golden brown. It is best served piping hot, accompanied by cooling dips {like chutney}. Throughout the Indian subcontinent, samosas come in many different sizes, shapes, and fillings, reflecting the diverse agricultural and cultural practices in the country. They are also common in Indian restaurants in North America, with many meaty fillings available.

Korma 

Korma is essentially meat or vegetables braised in a rich yogurt-based sauce. Korma has its roots from the Mulgal era, the Muslim dynasty from Central Asia that controlled a large part of India from the 16th to 18th centuries. And the heavy use of dairy and the variety of spices in Korma reflects the culinary style from that time. Today korma dishes are easy to find in restaurants in North India, and when well-executed, they can be extremely satisfying — succulent meat is braised in a delicate yogurt sauce for hours until meltingly tender. In North America, the dish tends to be slightly creamier and sweeter, with many vegetarian adoptions.

Saag

Saag is a curry made from leafy greens, such as minced spinach or mustard green, and well-seasoned with a variety of spices. Garlic is a must-use and gives the mild sauce a pleasantly pungent kick. The most typical saag dish is saag paneer, made with a creamy, tangy cubed fresh cheese {paneer}. Sometimes it’s also cooked with chickpeas or meat.

Vindaloo 

This is usually the spiciest meat dish on an Indian menu. However, it didn’t start this way. When Portuguese merchants first settled along the Goa coast, they brought their hometown dish carne de vinha d’alhos {meat marinated in wine and garlic} to their new homes. The Goan cooks localized the dish by substituting wine with palm vinegar. They also added a variety of local spices such as tamarind, cinnamon, and most importantly, red chili peppers. But for now, it was still a richly-seasoned, moderately spicy curry, often cooked with meat. When Bangladeshi immigrants opened curry houses in the UK in the 20th century, they somehow doubled down on the spice level, thus giving us the tongue searing, fiercely spicy vindaloo we get from Indian restaurants today.

 See More: A Guide To + History of Chinese Takeout in Hoboken + Jersey City

Dal

Dal means lentil in Hindi. On a menu, it is a thick lentil stew {and boy is it tasty}. To make dal, all kinds of lentils with varying levels of starch and sweet flavors can be used. Home cooks also play with the creamy texture and combination of spices to render it a hearty, smooth taste. No matter what’s in it, dal is always a perfect comfort food for cold weather. 

Biryani

This is an iconic rice dish, consisting of layers of well-seasoned rice and meat. Someone traveling across the country of India will encounter dozens upon dozens of varieties of biryani, thanks to the region’s diverse climate and culture. Whatever the variety, the essential elements of biryani remains largely unchanged — meat, fluffy rice, various spices, and subtly flavored marinades such as yogurt to cool the palate. It’s a festive dish, often loaded with crunchy nuts, dried fruit, and caramelized vegetables. They are also easy to find in Indian restaurants in North America

Tandoori

The name derives from tandoor {clay oven} and refers to any dish baked in it. The recipes are extremely versatile, using all kinds of seafood, meat, and vegetables. The most common tandoori dish at an Indian restaurant in America is tandoori chicken — chicken rubbed with yogurt and spices, and baked until the outside is crispy and pleasantly smoky with the inside still moist and juicy.

Other common food menu items include:

Curry: The word curry itself doesn’t indicate any flavor, ingredient, or cooking style. It’s just a thick, saucy base in which protein or vegetables are cooked. 

Tikka: Small chunks of a certain food. For example, paneer {fresh cheese} tikka means small chunks of cheese.

Masala: Mixed spice. For example, masala chai is tea with mixed spice.

Chutney: Chutney refers to a sauce or dip. There are no fixed recipes or usages, but the ingredients usually have a bright taste profile. The chutney usually served in Indian restaurants is made of pickled fruit {such as mango}, herbs {such as mint}, or yogurt. 

Chaat: Chaat can be served as a snack, an appetizer, or a side dish. Again, there is no fixed recipe, but it usually consists of a starchy base {often fried}, a tangy and/or spicy condiment, some well-flavored vegetables, and it’s often sprinkled with crunches to enhance the texture. 

Where to Get Indian food in Hoboken + Jersey City

Here are some restaurants where you can get authentic Indian food in Hoboken + JC:

Sapthagiri {804 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

spathigiri jersey city

This restaurant serves vegetarian North Indian Thali, consisting of a dairy dish, chana {chickpea} masala {spiced curry}, lentil soup, roti, and a dessert. Another must-try is their giant papadi chaat, with crackers, potatoes, drizzled with yogurt, and spicy chutney. 

Rasoi {810 Newark Avenue, Jersey City} 

This is a long-standing neighborhood eatery famous for its buffets. Other than a wide variety of authentic traditional dishes, people love this place for its pani puri chaat, consisting of a deep-fried crispy crepe stuffed with flavorful fillings such as yogurt and chickpeas. 

Biryani Pot {824 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

This is a well-loved Hyberabadi-Indian chain known for its Biryani dishes. Return customers like the well-seasoned meat dishes and flavorful rice options. Note, the portions are very big.

Soul Curry {618 Washington Street, Hoboken}

soul curry hoboken

This is a fusion style Indian restaurant, adding a global spin on classic Indian dishes {such as a nacho-like dish with refreshing chutney and crunchy naan crisps}. A must-have is their burrata with tandoori chicken sauteed in a creamy and smoky sauce with a blob of burrata cheese on top.

Read More: All About Kombucha + Where to Find it in Hoboken

Shadman {293 1/2 Grove Street, Jersey City} 

This is a small restaurant serving simple Pakistani and Indian dishes. They are known for the tasty naans, parathas, and hearty samosas, all served in a variety of flavors.

Shah Taj {287 Grove Street, Jersey City}

Go here for the delicious Indian sweets. Confectionaries of all colors and flavors are beautifully stacked in the glass case. There are other savory dishes such as chickpea curry and grills as well.

Karma Kafe {505 Washington Street, Hoboken}

This is one of Hoboken’s oldest Indian restaurants, with a large menu featuring many of India’s regional dishes. The tandoori dishes are particularly interesting here, with subtly different but equally flavorful marinades for different cuts of meat, paneer, and vegetables. 

Chaska {826 Newark Avenue, Jersey City}

This is a cozy restaurant with various vindaloos {try the fish vindaloo for a seriously tasty experience}, along with many other North Indian style dishes such as chicken korma. This spot is also known for its huge weekday buffets. 

Have you been to one of these local restaurants? Let us know in the comments! 

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Written by:

Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.