Why You May Be Confused Ordering Curd In India

Indian food is known and beloved internationally for its diverse cuisine full of spicy curries and hearty tandoor-baked bread. In fact, it's the fourth most popular cuisine globally (via The Print). While Indian dishes like butter chicken and masala dosa may be hitting your dinner plate soon, its dairy products are also world-renowned. India is actually the largest milk producer in the world. With the highest cow population on the planet, the country produces roughly 22% of the world's milk, according to The Vegan Review.

From butter to cheese to yogurt, India has some of the best. Lassi, for example, is one of the most popular drinks in the country. It's a yogurt-based beverage that can be sweet, salty, or even savory, depending on how you like it. It's very simple: yogurt, water, and spices to flavor, per Two Sleevers. Dahi is also a popular yogurt made in the country, but it often goes by the name curd. This may seem odd to you if you're from anywhere outside India. So, what is curd, and is this an accurate name?

Curd or yogurt?

In America and many parts of the world, the word curd is often associated with cheese. The definition of the word is, "a soft, white substance formed when milk sours, used as the basis for cheese," according to Encyclopedia.com. You can grab cheese curds at the grocery store as a snack, and they are sometimes featured on popular dishes like poutine. But, in India, the word curd and yogurt are interchangeable as the English translations for dahi.

Food historian Ken Albala, per Serious Eats, says, "Only in India does the term 'curds' also refer to yogurt, which I'm pretty sure is an accidental Anglicism — applying a familiar English term to something totally different because they had not yet begun to use the word yogurt (which comes directly from Turkish)."

That being said, dahi does have a different creation process than yogurt itself. According to the Times of India, dahi is made by curdling the milk with an edible acidic substance, while yogurt is created by bacterial fermentation of milk by using yogurt culture. So, while they are slightly different, don't expect to get cheese if you ask for curds in India.