"Authenticity" in the preparation of foreign dishes has become the goal of most chefs. If a bland and leaden quenelle bears no resemblance to ones served in Lyons or limp and insipid spaghetti alla carbonara tastes nothing like the dish of the same name offered in Rome, no chef in the United States would consider giving as the explanation that he was adjusting the recipe to the American palate. It's even less likely that Paul Bocuse or Jean Troisgros consider serving a quenelle prepared one way to a Frenchman and another way to a foreigner.

The same may not be true, however, for the food of India. An Indian restaurant here would amost certainly serve an American a substantially different -- milder -- version of a dish than it would serve to an Indian or, perhaps, to an American who succeeded in convincing the waiter that he wanted the real thing. Most restaurateurs "know" that their American customers want a watered-down version of true Indian cuisine and usually it is impossible to convince them otherwise.

In India, very few restaurants or hotels cater to both Indians and Westerners. A handful of luxury hotels, usually in big cities or near tourist attractions, are geared to tourist or foreign-business trade while the countless other restaurants and stands serve only Indians. Indians rarely go into the luxury hotels and, if a Westerner walks into a non-tourist eating place, he gets what everyone else gets.

The Rambagh Palace, a sumptuous hotel that once was the palace of the Marahaja of Jaipur, numbers Indians at well under 10 percent of its guests. Until a few years ago, according to Sudhir Dewan, Rambagh's restaurant manager, 80 percent of the food served didn't even pretend to be Indian. Since then, however, the proportion of guests ordering Indian food has more than doubled and many are asking for the native version.

Interest in Indian food, including relatively authentic preparations, also has increased here in Washington. There now are 14 Indian restaurants in the District, compared to a mere two 10 years ago and only four in the early 1970s. Simultaneously, tastes here have become more sophisticated.

Jagdish (Jack) Katyal, owner of two conscientious Indian restaurants, the Tandoor and the Maharaja, asks customers how they want their food prepared. More often now they request the authentic version -- and they get something close to it. Katyal's restaurants, like most in the United States, specialize in northern Indian food, which is hot by American standards, but far from the fiery stuff of south India. To make the food acceptable to an American, Katyal reduces the quantity of chilis to make the dish less fiery because many Americans continue to prefer the less intense preparation. He also cuts down on spices such as cumin and cardamom to decrease the intensity of the flavor.

Katyal says another major difference between food in India and here is the ingredients. No beef and little lamb are served in India. The major meat is goat which has a more neutral flavor; some chicken and fish are available in better restaurants.

Rambagh Palace's chef, Muhammed Islam, and Katyal have provided recipes for the same dish -- as they would serve it to typical Westerners and to Indians. Specialties at the Rambagh Palace are from Rajastan in western India. Compared to northern Indian cooking, Rajastani cooking has more garlic, salt and chili peppers and uses a "souring agent" and whole unground spices.

The idea that Indian food can be prepared properly by adding a little curry powder to meat, fish or vegetables is incorrect. In a meal of a number of courses, each course has a different sauce, yet each might be described as a curry. Curry powder is a set combination of spices that have been put together in a formula for large-scale commercial distribution. The spices have been ground long before you use them, so they lack the intensity of the fresh-ground combinations Indian cooks use.

In the following recipes, the proportions of the ingredients for the Indian versions are listed first and those for the Western versions, if different, are indicated in parentheses. The Indian versions would be considered "hot" by local standards, the Western versions "medium".

Indian cooks usually used skinned chicken. If the skin is left on, prick it in several places with a sharp knife.

Most of the ingredients are available in supermarkets, the others at Asian food stores, such as Asian Food Store, 1800 Connecticut Ave. NW and Indian Super Bazaar, 7720 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda.

ROGAN JOSH (CHICKEN) (Rambagh Palace)

(3 or 4 servings)

1 large chicken, cut into serving pieces

8 (4) medium cloves of garlic

4 (2) tablespoons hot red chili powder

4 (2) tablespoons coriander powder

4 (2) tablespoons poppy seeds

4 cloves

4 (3) whole black cardamoms or 2 (1 1/2) tablespoons cardamom seeds

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon salt

6 (3) tablespoons minced fresh ginger or 4 (2) tablespoons ginger powder

Juice of 1 lime

2 onions

6 (4) ounces vegetable oil

8 ounces buttermilk (or curd)

Put garlic, chili, coriander, poppy seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, salt, ginger and lime into food processor or blender and grind to a paste.

Slice onions and saute over medium heat until golden brown. Add paste and saute for a few minutes, until mixture starts to separate. Add chicken pieces and cook over medium heat for a few more minutes until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add buttermilk and cook uncovered over medium heat for a few minutes. Turn heat to low, cover and cook until done, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.

ROGAN JOSH (LAMB) (Tandoor Restaurant)

(4 or 5 servings)

1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb cut into 1 or 1 1/2 inch cubes

4 (2) cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder

1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water

5 (4) whole black cardamoms or 2 (1 1/2) tablespoons cardamom seeds

1 (1/2) teaspoon cumin seeds

3 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons powdered ginger

1 teaspoon coriander

2 (1 1/2) tablespoons salt

2 1/2 (1 1/2) tablespoons fresh hot chili powder

2 (1 1/2) medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 medium onion, sliced

2 (1) tablespoons sour cream

6 (5) tablespoons yogurt

6 (4) ounces clarified butter

1 1/2 cups warm water

Put cloves, nutmeg, saffron, cardamom, cumin, ginger, coriander, salt, chili powder, tomatoes, onion and sour cream in food processor or blender and blend to a paste. Mix together in a bowl with yogurt. Apply mixture to lamb pieces and let sit at room temperature for 20 or 30 minutes.

Scrape off paste and save. Heat butter in heavy pot and brown lamb pieces over medium-high heat, a few at a time. Add paste, turn heat to moderate and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add water, stir and cook over medium heat uncovered for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, until tender. Stir occasionally.

MURGH MASALAM (Tandoor Restaurant)

(3 to 4 servings)

1 whole large chicken

4 (2) whole black cardamoms or 2 (1) teaspoons cardamom seeds

1 1/2 (1) sticks or 1 1/2 (1) tablespoons ground cinnamon

6 (3) cloves

1 1/2 (1) tablespoons coriander seeds

5 (3) tablespoons fresh or 3 (2) tablespoons ground ginger

20 (12) almonds

1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water

1 1/2 (1) teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 (1) teaspoon salt

3 (2) medium onions

12 (8) medium cloves of garlic

7 (5) tablespoons yogurt

1 1/2 cups warm water

6 (4) ounces clarified butter

Put cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, almonds, saffron, cayenne pepper and salt in food processor or blender and grind to a paste. Add garlic and onions and grind again (it may be necessary to do onions in batches). Mix together in bowl with yogurt. Smear over the chicken and leave in a cool place for 2 hours.

Heat butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold chicken comfortably. Add chicken and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add water, stir, cover and reduce heat. Cook over low heat until done, about 50 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Serve with white or basumati (Indian) rice. Serve extra sauce on the side.