A guide to Indian curries

If you like curry but don’t know the difference between a tikka and a vindaloo, it might be time to learn a bit about curry culture.

Cooking styles and ingredients vary significantly from north to south and east to west across India. Here are some of the main curry dishes explained in layman’s terms.


Made from tomato and tamarind with plenty of onions and sautéed slowly over a low flame.


Rich and creamy, made from almonds and coconut. It is a sweet dish without too much heat.

Rogan Josh

Hails from Kashmir and is a spicy red sauce made from tomatoes, cardamom and Kashmiri chillies. Not too spicy, this dish is full of flavour thanks to the cardamom and other spices.


Found all over India, but every region has its own version. In simple terms, it is rice with meat and/or vegetables.

Butter Chicken

The most common Indian dish enjoyed by Australians. It is made from tender chicken cooked in tomato, garlic, ginger, tamarind and, of course, butter.

Tandoori and Tikka

These are similar, but slightly different. Tandoor refers to the oven and a cooking style founded in Northern India. Tikka generally refers to boneless, marinated chicken while Tandoori has the bone in and can be any part of the chicken. Once you change the meat or make it with vegetables, the curries become the same. They are marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked in a tandoor oven.


Made with tomato and onions, cooked two ways. It’s generally a mild dish that derives its sweetness from the onions.


This has red peppers in the sauce. Other ingredients include sweet peppers, coconut, tomatoes and spices all cooked together. Originating from Kashmir the word “Jalfrezi” means stir-fry.

Tikka Masala

A British dish that combines tikka (boneless Tandoor grilled chicken) with masala — tomatoes and onions cooked with spices.


From Southern India and is a region as well as a dish. Featuring tomato with coriander, cumin and fenugreek, these dishes are hot and spicy, just like the region.


Often the hottest item on the menu at any Indian restaurant. It is made from tomato, chilli and cumin and was influenced by Portuguese traders who visited Goa (Western India) in the 16th century. The Portuguese introduced chillies to the Indian culinary scene.


This is as mild as Vindaloo is hot. Made from coconut and almond, it is similar to Pasanda with the difference being that Korma includes saffron. This creates a pale-yellow colour while Pasanda is always white.