Indian Dinner Party | How to Plan and Host a Curry night
Get-togethers are always fun, even more so when curry is involved. Indian dinner parties are pretty easy, provided you are organized and have one or two tricks up your sleeve. Today I will go through everything you need to know to host your own curry night for up to 6 people. I'll also share tips on dishes on the menu, how to set the table, and even give you a handy timeline to make sure it all goes swimmingly.
All of the below guidance is based on my own experiences hosting a curry night.
Why Host an Indian Dinner Party?
Let's be honest, rarely people don't love a good curry. If your guests enjoy the food you prepare, then that is half the battle won! Curry is simple to make, can be prepared in advance, and is super tasty!
Here are some of the great reasons why you may want to make Indian food the dish of choice: -
It's Easy to Make
Unlike certain 'fancy' dishes, making curry for a party is easy. You don't have to cook individual portions of curry for each guest.
Instead, with a little planning, you can make large portions of each dish in exactly the same way as if you were cooking just for yourself. Cooking curry for a party is simply upscaling from smaller portions.
Cooking curry is pretty formulaic, so it doesn't matter which dishes you opt for. In terms of ease of cooking, one curry is much the same as another, meaning you've got a huge choice without any hassle.
Curry Nights are Fun
Practically everyone loves food that you can share, and Indian food is the ideal choice. Everyone can serve themselves too.
Bang some Indian themed music on the stereo, light a few candles, and you've got yourself a real party going on!
It's always funny watching people try dishes that are on the limit of their spice level too!
Indian Food Requires Simple Ingredients
Often, there is an urge to impress your guests by cooking something fancy or outlandish. The good news with Indian food is that it requires very few specialist ingredients while it tastes super special.
You'll be able to quickly and easily source the required ingredients for a curry night locally.
Curry Tastes Amazing
Ever been to a dinner party, and the food was a bit… Meh?
There's no chance of Indian food ever being described as boring or bland. A curry night is practically foolproof, provided you stick to some simple rules!
Indian Goes Very Well with Quite a Few Drinks
Let's face it. A 'dry' dinner party might get boring pretty quickly.
Want the good news?
Curry goes especially well with a few beers and other drinks. Most people will be after a few drinks to wash that spicy food down, meaning that everyone will be in 'their best spirit'.
It's Relatively Cheap
We've all been there, trying to impress our guests… Let's get a rib of beef and spend a fortune, not.
The good news is that curry is relatively cheap when you work out the price per head, as well as being made with easily sourced ingredients.
You Can Enjoy Time with Your Guests
Curry, once cooked, doesn't require careful monitoring. You can simply keep it warm while you spend time with your guests.
Dinner parties are no fun when the host is absent. Indian dinner parties are ideal for maximizing the amount of time you can spend with your guests.
Plenty of Choices
Ever been to a dinner party where you had a plate placed in front of you, and you didn't like the food?
This isn't going to happen with a curry night. By offering guests the chance to serve themselves from a range of different dishes, there will be something there for everyone.
How Do I Host a Curry Night? 8 Top Tips for Success
Plan your Menu Beforehand
First thing's first, you need to sit down with a pen and paper and plan a menu. The time to decide which curry you will serve isn't when your guests arrive.
By writing down the dishes, you achieve a couple of goals.
- You know exactly which ingredients to get
- You'll also know exactly how much time you need to cook everything.
Seeing it all laid out in front of you (on paper) will also easily allow you to envisage it and make easy alterations to the menu should you need to.
Offer Dishes of Different Spice Levels
Some people like things mild, and others like them hot. When planning an Indian themed dinner party, the main problem is that everyone is different. If you go for only one curry dish, you will leave someone unhappy.
Those who want spicy will find a korma too mild, while the folks who like mild dishes will definitely turn their noses up at spicier dishes.
So, what's the answer?
Well, my friends. You will cook a range of curries using the BIR cooking method.
A range of curries for a dinner party? Are you crazy?
I will talk you through how you can easily do it and even offer a timeline below, so all you need to do is buy the ingredients and stick the cooker on.
There is another alternative, should you not wish to cook a lot of curry.
Create easy ways for your guests to customize their own heat levels. I've written full guides on making curry spicier here, and also how to cool down a hot curry. Both are well worth checking out.
For the time being, it really is this simple.
Create a mild curry and then serve with a bowl of chopped chilli's alongside. If people want to make their curry spicier, they can just add a teaspoon or to their own particular taste.
Check for Allergies
This is a vital step when planning an Indian dinner party.
Curry does contain nuts (and occasionally, it can also include seafood). Both of which can trigger strong allergic reactions in certain people.
Nuts aren't always obvious in curry, so to avoid any around the table mishaps, be sure to ask your guests if they have any allergies.
If anyone is allergic to nuts, here's my advice.
DON'T use them in ANY of your dishes. Cross-contamination is something that can happen really easily and is best avoided
Multitask – Cook and Entertain
We've all watched those episodes of "Come Dine with Me", where the host is nowhere to be seen throughout the evening and instead completely neglects their guests to be stood frizzling and frying in the kitchen.
Don't be that person.
Try and split your time equally between cooking and looking after your guests. This means making sure that everyone's glass is full and being on hand if anyone needs anything. Essentially, you will be the chef, waiter, washer up, and maître d, all in one person!
But how do you manage it?
Prepare Some Food in Advance | Cook First, Heat Later
The trick to being a great Indian dinner party host is to do as many jobs as you can before your guests arrive. That way, you've got plenty of time to enjoy the party alongside your guests.
Personally, I like to get pretty much everything cooked before my guests' arrival.
Once each curry is cooked, I decant it into a metal bowl which I then cover and pop into the fridge. To reheat it, I just place the covered bowl in the oven on a low light and let the curry slowly come up to temperature while the guests enjoy their starter.
Things You Can Definitely Make Ahead of Time for Indian Curry Nights
No, seriously, there are very few Indian dishes you can't make in advance. Here are the things that you can cook and reheat before an Indian dinner party: -
- Onion bhajis
- Tikka pieces
- Naan bread
Literally, there isn't a single thing that you can't make in advance. Use the time before your dinner party wisely. Then, you'll be able to enjoy the evening and look super cool and collected.
Don't Go Too Complicated
While we all want to show off to our guests, my final tip is to avoid overreaching and trying to make dishes that are beyond your technical or practical ability.
You are better focusing your Indian dinner party efforts on doing one dish really well than trying to cook a banquet and make each dish substandard as a result of overworking yourself.
Cook within your means and keep it simple.
Trust me, it is worth it.
What Do You Serve at An Indian Dinner Party?
The beauty of hosting your own curry night is that you get to choose what is on the menu! So whatever you like. However, you can find my sample menu from a curry night I held recently for those looking for a little guidance.
You'll notice the starters are all super simple, and there is a range of different spice levels with the curry. The side dishes are also very easy to prepare.
What Equipment Will I Need for a Curry Night? The Full Equipment List
Another great thing about curry dinner parties is that you don't need loads of fancy gear. There are ways to make it a little more special, however. For a curry night for 6 – 8 people, you will need the following: -
4 – 6 Large metal curry bowls
These are ideal for rice, different curries, and you can even use them for piles of bhajis or other starters. Go for 21cm dishes. I use ones like these.
A single decent curry pan
You'll be using this for practically every dish. Frying bhajis and poppadoms, and making curry especially. A single pan? You bet, here's a guide to the best ones around.
A set of large and small plates: - I find that square plates give the table a really neat and classy look. For some bizarre reason, I always think that food looks fancier when served on a square plate too. Something like this is really cheap and absolutely ideal.
Sure, you could use that mismatched set that you normally use when eating beans on toast watching match of the day. Yep, that's going to look just great.
I'm being sarcastic.
Why not invest in a matching silverware set. For each guest, you'll need at least two small knives and forks, two large knives and forks, plus at least one spoon. You often get large serving spoons thrown in as part of the deal with some dinner sets.
They don't need to be expensive either. Check this cutlery set out.
These are entirely optional, but they add a real touch of class to proceedings. Plus, they keep your curry nice and warm! A couple of tealights underneath, and everyone gets a nice warm curry. Here's what I am talking about
Trust me when I say this. Curry will be spilt. And to stop it ruining peoples trousers or fancy skirts you will want some nice napkins.
While paper napkins will do the trick, you could consider getting some simple fabric napkins for something a little more debonair. The good thing is you can even wash them and re-use them next time you hold a party.
Again, as with the cutlery, that mismatched set of Ikea beakers you normally drink your squash from isn't going to look great on the dinner table.
But do you know what does?
A nice matching glass set! If you and your mates want a truly authentic curry night, why not invest in a few cobra glasses (along with bottles of cobra) and make it look like a proper Indian
How Do You Plan an Indian Dinner Party? 7 Steps to Success
It is pretty easy to plan an Indian dinner party. The cooking is the simple bit. It is all the things around it that are a bit tricky. Here's my step-by-step guide on planning for a curry night.
Step 1) Send out invites and gauge interest
Before you can even start deciding on what you are going to cook and how to set the table up, you will need to know how many people are coming. Send out invites to your friends and specify an exact time your Indian dinner will be served.
Once people have confirmed their attendance, you can start thinking about other things…
Step 2) Once numbers are confirmed, ask for food preferences
Once you know who is coming, ask your guests if they have any preferences for the dishes they would like (within reason, of course). It is pointless you going to the effort of making a boiling hot madras if nobody wants spicy.
It's at this stage that you'd also check for food allergies and intolerances.
You'll probably get a range of answers, with some of your friends being more demanding than others.
Here's what I do in these circumstances.
Pick the easiest options. If most want mild and only one wants spicy, go with mild options and use my tip above to allow the odd one or two guests to heat their curry up.
Step 3) Buy or assemble your ingredients
Now that you know how many are coming and their preferences, it is time to get the ingredients.
The good thing about planning curry nights is that it is relatively cheap, and you should have some of the things you need at home already.
Not sure on quantities? Here's a simple quantity guide to making planning your Indian dinner party really simple: -
Ingredient Per Person
Meat for curry
2 medium bhajis
1 large naan
Step 4) Plan a timeline for how and when you are going to make each dish
In 99% of cases, curry dinner parties fail based on aspiring cooks not being good managers of their time or failing to appreciate how long things take.
I've always said that you can cook anything if you can read a cookbook and a stopwatch.
Time management isn't everyone strong point, and I want to help.
Below you'll find a time planner and schedule for an Indian Dinner party. It's authentic too! Here's a photo of mine from my last dinner party. It's slightly more chaotic than the Indian dinner party template I've included below.
Step 5) Prepare the Dishes on the day
So, the day has arrived, and it's time to get cooking. Believe me. If you've allowed yourself enough time and planned accordingly, this is the easy bit.
Want some quick tips to help? Check these out: -
- Get all of your ingredients out where you can see them
- Leave the sink area clear, so you can throw in dirty pots and pans and leave your working area clear
- Start with the tasks that will take the longest first
- Also, try and start with tasks that will allow you to do other things at the same time
- Have your serving bowls out and ready
- Assemble your spices for each curry in little bowls' cookery program style.'
- Prepare in bulk commonly used ingredients, such as chopped onions, tomato puree and garlic and ginger paste.
- Be sure to get your base gravy on and simmering before cooking.
Step 6) Set the Table
Once the food is well underway, it is time to set the table ready for your Indian dinner party.
Suppose you are going down the serving dish route. In that case, this is really easy as you can have all the plates, cutlery and chafing dishes out whenever is convenient, and you aren't waiting for the food to cook.
You'll read all sorts of guides with fancy ideas. But, I want you to keep it simple.
Here's how to set up a table for an Indian dinner party
1) Start with placemats. Place a single placemat for each dinner guest
2) Plates next. Place a large plate in the centre of each placemat. A small plate goes on the upper left of the large plate. Alternatively, if you struggle for space, you can place a small plate on the large plate.
3) Now for the cutlery. It is generally tradition that your guests work from outside to in. So big fork on the left, big knife on the right. On the outside of these, place a small fork and small knife on the corresponding side. The spoon (for either dessert or curry) can live above the plate horizontally or next to the knives on the right.
4) Glasses next. The glasses go in the top right of the placemat. It looks better if you have taller glasses closer and shorter glasses on the outside.
5) Once you have got each place set, now it is time to align the heating dishes (or if you don't have them, consider adding a couple of placemats in the centre of the table to protect the surface.
Top tips for a professional looking dinner party table
- Candles! Lots of Candles! I find that small tealights work much better than tall candles. They are easier to place. They don't tip over. They don't get in the way. And small tealights don't drip wax all over the place.
- Use the geometry of your placemats as alignment aids when you set the table. By placing each item of cutlery and crockery in precisely the same place on the placemat, you can make your table look really well laid out
- Try, where you can, to leave plenty of space. If you've only got a small table, consider cooking fewer curries, but in greater quantities.
- Got a table that is past its best? You can cheaply and easily fix that. A nice tablecloth will disguise any unsightly chips, scratches or stains. And the best thing is, you can whip it off and wash it ready for next time! Here's an Indian themed tablecloth that would work perfectly.
- Be sure to have your curry dishes, and main meals served as centrally as possible. That way, everyone can dig in and enjoy.
- Dark table cloths make the table look smaller. Lighter table cloths make your table look larger. Now all you have to decide is whether you trust your guests not to drop food and make stains!
Step 7) Have a great time
So, the table is set. The curry is cooked, and your guests are on the way. All that is left is to get it served and enjoy!
Indian Dinner Party Timeline and Planner
As promised, here is a great tool to use when planning your Indian Dinner Party. The times listed are guidelines only and will vary based on the number and type of dishes you are cooking: -
Timings Before/After Arrival
Approximate time required
45 minutes (about 10 minutes per curry)
GUESTS ARRIVAL TIME
30 minutes to 1 hour
Indian Dinner Party Planning | Final Thoughts
If the above Indian dinner party looks busy, that's because it is! However, you can make life easier by cooking less and preparing in advance. The trick to holding a curry dinner party is being meticulous with your time. If you can get that squared away, you'll be in good shape. Now all you need to decide is what to make. Why not search my curry cooking guides for some tasty treats? Or click the links on the menu above to see how easy these dishes are to make!