How Hot Is that Curry?

If you mention Indian food to someone, chances are they'll imagine flavoursome spiced dishes with plenty of heat. And while the cuisine of India is well known for being hot and spicy, that's not the whole picture. Sure, there are plenty of dishes that have a bit of a kick to them, but there are others that are mild enough for the most avid avoider of spice.

The trouble is, if you're not used to ordering at Indian restaurants, it can be quite daunting. People who strongly dislike hot food can be afraid of ending up with something they can't eat, which might put them off ever trying this food. At the other end of the scale, those who like to breathe fire as they eat may be wondering which dishes they should go for.

Food can vary from one restaurant to the next, so always ask your waiter for advice if you're not sure, but here's what you can typically expect from some common Indian dishes.


If you want something as mild as possible and you think you don't like curry, a korma could surprise you. It is extremely mild, but that's not to say it's in the least bit bland. A creamy dish, often with almonds, coconut or both, korma should be full of flavour but not at all spicy.

Tikka masala

One of the most popular curries in Indian restaurants around the world, a tikka masala might vary slightly. Although it's generally very mild, with rich, spiced notes, some interpretations may add a very slight warmth. Nothing too strong, though.

Rogan josh

Generally speaking, expect medium heat that shouldn't be too overpowering. Complex flavours and just enough spice to be noticed, a rogan josh is a good choice for those wanting to be a little more adventurous after trying milder curries.


This one can vary from medium to fairly hot, so take caution if that doesn't appeal to you. If you like a little heat, you'll find a delicious, rich dish that will challenge your taste buds.


Although it varies considerably from one establishment to the next, a Madras curry is never going to be less than 'quite hot'. It's best to ask the waiter what to expect with this one.


Another curry that can vary somewhat, but since it typically contains a fair quantity of green chillies, you should expect it to be at the hotter end of the scale.


A vindaloo is often the hottest curry on a restaurant's menu, so be warned! Its actual style and ingredients can vary considerably, but it's all about lots of heat.


Not many restaurants offer this, but if you do see it, take extreme caution. It is hotter than a vindaloo and pretty much guaranteed to make you suffer.