Food of Tamil Nadu
"Food is the medicinal drug for the dreading disease known as hunger" - one of the finest lines attributed to food! To be precise, this quote sums up the take of prominent majority of Tamil people about food. On the dot, like medications that are consumed at the right time in appropriate measures or proportions considering (only) importance of wellness rather the sense of taste, Tamil people prefer to cook and eat food that are uncomplicated yet grand and scrumptious yet healthy!
Religious Rituals of Tamils - Fasting to Feasting
The time period in the history of ancient southern India (Tamizhagam) extending c. 300 BCE and 300 CE offers a bright image about the society and social life of the Tamil people those days and furnishes the historical scope of the eating habits of Tamilians. The classical Tamil Sangam literature sorts out five geographical regions (Kurinji, Mullai, Marutham, Neithal and Palai) and the food habits related to each geographical area is distinguished.
Did you know?
The English word curry meaning a pungent dish of vegetables or meats flavored with curry powder is an Anglicization of the Tamil word 'kari'
Furthermore, a lot of engravings in stones available across the historic religious sites in the southern state of Tamil Nadu expose the association between spiritual practices and food habits of Tamil people and how they became enlaced. The stone inscriptions available in the temples of Tamil Nadu establish the connection between the religious rituals and food like offering and sacrificing (neivedhyam or padayal), fasting (viradham), donating (anna dhanam) and feasting (virundhu). The inscriptions also explain how the above divine procedures became an integral part of the worship of Tamil people.
By the 11th-12th century AD, different communities had shaped up with distinguishable eating habits. The culinary art and eating habits of different communities of Tamil Nadu
can be witnessed even today upon careful observation. Controversial social issues related to food turned strong in the circumstance of caste structure in the region. Based on the idea of communities that are associated to the ‘deva basha
’ of Sanskrit, two primary categories - vegetarian or non-vegetarians surfaced. The custom of vegetarianism, which was mostly nonexistent from ancient Tamil Nadu started to come out, principally as a consequence of the fame of Jainism and Buddhism. Also Read: Food in Chennai | Food in Coimbatore | Food in Madurai | Food in Tiruchirappalli | Food in Nellai | Food in Thanjavur | Food in Kanyakumari | Food in Erode | Food in Kanyakumari | Food in Kancheepuram | Non-veg Restaurants in Kancheepuram | Food in Neyveli | Food in Ooty | Food in Rameswaram | Food in Thanjavur
Tamil Culinary Art - Thereafter!
The following years witnessed several intriguing food conceptions emerging. What is more, the gustatory perception was assorted into six themes, and all foodstuffs were parted into two unspecific classes, hot and cold. The major part of the culinary art in Tamil Nadu is still mostly placed on this assortment which also shaped endemic medicinal patterns. Furthermore, diseases, disorders and other complications were classed as hot and cold and the appropriate dietary practices were established. The dieting primarily includes consuming cold food for diseases that are caused by body heat and warm food for diseases that are caused by the absence of heat.
Did you know?
The Tamil word 'milagu thanneer' literally meaning pepper water, has been adapted and called as mulligatawny in English.
As a matter of fact, the above belief and practices still prevails. Chicken pox (acute contagious disease caused by herpes varicella zoster virus), for instance, is considered to be a expression of over-heat of human body and the food items preferred are those that are reputed to counter this over-heat like tender coconut, fruits, small red onions (shallot), butter milk and so on.
Several food items and dishes that were popular during the 1st century AD are still being prepared today, pretty much unaltered! The day-to-day food in Tamil Nadu may comprise of boiled rice (saadham or sorru), sambar (dhal and vegetables treated with tamarind), chicken, mutton or fish for non-vegetarian lovers, poriyal (sauteed vegetables preferably with grated coconut), varuval (fried veegtable in shallow oil), kootu (semi solid dish made of lavish use of vegetables and dhal), kara kuzhambu (gravy type made with tamarind, dhal and vegetables - usually a bit spicy when likened to sambar), rasam (soup like dish prepared with tomato and tamarind as a base), moru or thayir, appalam, oorugai and so on. During festivals and special occasions kesari (sweet dish made from semolina), payasam, a milk-based sweet (prepared usually with vermicelli) seasoned with cashew, cardamom and so on present in the menu! Also Read: Idly Dosai in Chennai | Coimbatore Payasam | Filter Coffee in Chennai | Payasam of Coimbatore | Erode Killu Kari | Delicacies of Cuddalore
Did you know?
The English word Mango actually came from the Tamil word 'maangaai'
Most of Tamil festivals and other special ceremonies like marriages has a traditional Tamil menu. It is significant to mention that the first rice-made food offered to babies in the seventh month is 'chakkarai pongal'
(sweet pongal - made with rice, jaggery, cardamom, ghee and coconut).
The dentition (eruption through the gums of baby teeth) of kids is marked by preparing 'paal kozhukattai'
(dessert - made with rice, milk and sugar). When the girls attain puberty, it is observed as an important family event where the girl is given a dessert made of milk, banana and sugar by the relatives. 'Valaikappu
' also known as 'seemandam
', a family ritual celebrated during the odd pregnancy months (third, fifth, seventh and ninth), takes preparation of 'kalavai sadham
' (variety rice).
Tamilians and Hospitality - Inseparable
Tamil people are known for their hospitality. The way that Tamilians hosts the guests lauded all over the world. In simple words, special occasions and guests are treated with a truly nectarous meal and the food that is served to guests during special occasions is considered as an indication of the status of the host. The culinary art of Tamil Nadu or simply cooking in Tamil Nadu is regarded as a detailed and complex process - a fine art altogether.
It is important to note that the culinary art of Tamil Nadu is not just about making mouth-watering delicacies but it is about ambience of kitchen, type of cooking stove put-upon, kind of flame maintained, type of cutlery and cooking utensils employed, competence of the person who is cooking, ingredients added and so on.
Culinary Scene of Tamil Nadu
Eating habits in the southern state of Tamil Nadu vary with respect to geography and are influenced for the most part by what is farmed in the respective regions. In the delta and riverside parts, rice paddy, coconut and a few other ingredients are lavishly used in the cooking. In arid regions, grams and millets are the major groceries. The fine-spun mixing of herbaceous plants, spices and condiments are the primary standard of a good cooking.
The ratio and measure of various spices used alter from house to house, giving slight variations in taste perception. The counterpoint between contradicting senses of taste is a repeating composition. Most of the day to day Tamil dishes like sambar, rasam, moru kuzhambu (coconut and spices with buttermilk), pulikolumbu (spicy sour gravy type curry with a tamarind base) and the delectable chicken/mutton and fish curry are all different combinations of hot and sour tastes.
At present, Tamil culinary art is slowly influenced by westernization and modernization that can be
Food of Tamil Nadu - Quick Facts:
Highway Food of Tamil Nadu: Parotta
Common Man Food of Tamil Nadu: Idly
Major Staple Food of Tamil Nadu: Rice
Most Popular Morning Snack: Medhu Vadai, Masal Vadai, Kaara Bonda, Innipu Bonda, Keerai Bonda, Thayir Vadai and so on
Popular Evening Snack: Milagai Bajji, Rava Vadai, Murukku, Thattai,
Urulai Kilangu Bonda, Kathirikai Bajji, Vengaya Bajji, Vazhaikaai Bajji,
Vengaya Samosa, Seedai, Karapori, Vengaya Pakoda and so on
Most Popular Beverage in Tamil Nadu: Filter Coffee ( Kumbakonam Degree Coffee), Masala Paal
Most Popular Regional Drink of Tamil Nadu: Jigarthanda, Sukku Malli Coffee
witnessed in the slight compromises and latest versions that are being cooked. Regional and traditional Tamil dishes that demands complex and detailed cooking procedures are slowly vanishing from the culinary scene of Tamil Nadu. It is lamentable that ready-to-use dosa batter has replaced the traditional procedure of grinding 'dosa maavu
' while packed masalas replacing the freshly prepared home-made masalas. Even, the traditional way of adding freshly preapred ginger-garlic paste in the Tamil recipes is replaced by the ready-to-use ginger-garlic paste! All in all, traditional Tamil kitchens are getting converted into modern-day kitchens!
On the other hand, the changes in the culinary profile of Tamil Nadu should be adopted for good for various social causes. Instead of missing the concept of joint family, the increase in the number of women choosing a career is applaudable. It has to be said that a trend of opting for a simpler cuisine all over the state can be perceived. Nevertheless, Tamil culinary art, traditional food practices and their ethnical significances still remain intact.
Secret behind Traditional Tamil Foods Served on Banana Leaves
Possibly, Tamil culinary art is one of the most erstwhile illustrations of the uninterrupted vegetarian civilizations of the globe. The pleasant-tasting recipes from the southern state are enjoyed all over the nation and overseas alike. The scrumptious Tamil meals are traditionally served on banana leaves for various reasons.
One of the most clichéd reasons stated behind the traditional Tamil meals served on banana leaves is its availability in abundance. That is definitely not it! The banana leaves are used as traditional meal plates for eras for various scientific reasons. Some of them are
- For a state that is typically tropical and has fairly hot temperatures mostly during a year where water scarcity is not an unusual circumstance, banana leaves require a very little cleaning using water and absolutely no soap or other harmful chemicals
- Banana leaves are preferred for their extremely hygienical nature; a mere sprinkle of water will do the job!
- Banana leaves are salubrious as it consist of antioxidants which is identified to help fight cancer (malignant neoplastic disease)
- Another research states that hot food consumed from banana leaf helps in the biological process of digestion
- Banana leaf adds a remarkable aroma and a unique flavor to the hot food consumed from it
- Last but not least, banana leaves are bigger and handy to serve food, especially that of a Tamil meal which comprises of a long menu!
Distinctiveness of Tamil Cuisine
The unique culinary art of Tamil Nadu is known for its flavorsome, aromatic and spicy food. The Tamil recipes are nothing short of an exquisite combination of spices, that works the food very appetizing, appealing, nourishing and healthy. The staple food grain used all over the southern state of Tamil Nadu is rice (often consumed for all three meals of a day).
A typical Tamil breakfast served across the restaurants and in Tamil homes comprises of idly, a variety of dosai which include masal dosai, rava dosai, plain dosai, set dosai, ghee roast, vengaya dosai, vegetable dosai, rava upma, poori, pongal, idyappam, puttu, thengaipal aapam, kesari, medhu vadai, masal vadai and so on. Of course, not everything can be prepared at home; it will be restricted to one or two varieties. Most of the breakfast items are usually served along with a wide range of chutneys which include cocnut chutney, kaara chutney (chilly, tomato and onion chutney), pudhina chutney, coriander chutney and so on.
In modern-day Tamil culinary art, filter coffee has become one of the primary accompaniments to the breakfast. The phenomenal aroma from the freshly grounded coffee beans, thickly extracted decoction, mixed with creamy milk and sugar in the perfect ratio, makes the filter coffee of Tamil Nadu a out-of-the-world side kick to the breakfast. With the emergence of instant coffee powders in the market, typical filter coffee at Tamil homes still got its clutch for its refreshing touch.
A typical Tamil lunch served across the restaurants in the state may comprise of muzhu sapadu (full meals), kalavai sadham (variety rice), chapathi, parotta and so on. The South Indian thali meals served across the eating houses consists of sadham (boiled rice), sambar, rasam, kaara kozhambu, moru, curd, kootu, poriyal, varuval, thogayal, bajji/bonda, appalam, oorugai, payasam, more milagai and so on. Naturally, preparing such a long menu at homes on a daily basis is out of the question, as either sambar or rasam or puli kuzhambu or vatha kuzhambu or kaara kuzhambu or more kuzhambu accompanied by a kootu or poriyal or varuval is prepared on a every day basis.
A typical Tamil dinner may comprise of idly, variety of dosai, arisi upma, chapathi, parotta, adai, oothapam and so on. Tamil people prefer to end their day with a glass of warm milk along with a banana, before going to bed.
Regional Cuisines of Tamil Nadu
Over a time period, each geographic region where Tamilians have inhabited has acquired its own distinguishable edition of the basic delicacies and recipes aboriginal to itself as well. Some of the important parts of Ancient Tamizh country (Tamizhagam) are the common means of parting Tamil culinary art.
The Chettinadu region of Tamil Nadu consisting of Karaikudi (Sivaganga district) and bordering towns, cities and districts are famous for both traditional vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. Chettinadu cuisine is (beyond any doubt) the most significant culinary art of Tamil Nadu.
Chettinadu cuisine is considered as one of the most aromatic and spiciest culinary art in the country. The cuisine is known for its lavish use of a wide range of spices that are prepared newly for every cooking. Chettinadu culinary art is illustrious mainly for non-vegetarian dishes. Chettinadu dishes are peppery and pungent with freshly made masalas, and crowned with a coddled egg that is generally believed as a substantive part of a meal. In Chettinadu cooking, a range of sun dried meats (uppukandam and karuvadu) and salt-cured veggies, relating the dry surroundings of the area. However, Chettinadu culinary art is limited to chicken, lamb, fish, lobster, prawn and crab as Chettinadu people do not consume pork and beef.
Some of the most popular Chettinadu dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) include sambar sadham, kozhi varuval, aatu kari masala, kaikar kuruma, karamani poriyal, vengaya kosu, muttai paniyaram, masala seeyam, innipu seeyam, eraal vazhkkai muttai poriyal, kozhi biryani, ennai kathirikkai, vendaikai masala, vanjeeram meen kuzhambhu, vendaikai kathirikai varuval, karuvadu kuzhambu, banana dosai, pal paniyaram, kozhi rasam, poondu vengaya kuzhambhu, eral thokku, kadalai kuzhambhu, adikoozh, naatu kozhi uppu varuval, vellai kuruma, nandu kuruma, nandu varuval and so on.
Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and the surrounding towns and cities are famous for their fish based dishes as the region is surrounded by Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. For its singular ethnical affinity and the availability of copra oil and coconut makes a foundation for most of the dishes prepared in this region. The dishes that are served here and the style of cooking in this region resembles to that of Kerala, particularly Southern Travancore.
Some of the most popular vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes of Nanjilnadu region include nandu masala, verunkari, kinnathappam, elay appam, theeyal, fish curry with coconut, orotti, ney soru, keerai portiyal, meen aviyal, puli kari, thengai sadham, aviyal, kappa, ulundhu soru, erriserry and so on.
Specialities prepared in Coimbatore, Erode, Bhavani and in the surrounding villages, towns and cities form the foundation for Kongunadu culinary art. The range of regional crops forms the primary ingredients in this culinary art. Just like the Nanjilnadu cuisine, coconut is lavishly used in Kongunadu cuisine too but what makes it different is the use of turmeric. Traditional delicacies of Kongunadu are mostly vegetarian dishes.
Some of the most popular vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes of Kongunadu region include sandhavai, oputtu, kola urundai, thengai pall, ulundhu kali, kachayam, arisi puttumavu, kadalai urundai, arisi parupu sadham, ellu urundai, ragi puttu mavu, pori urundai, vazhai poo poriyal and so on.
Madurai dustrict, Tirunelveli district and a few other southern districts in Tamil Nadu are known for their delectable non-vegetarian dishes. The southern districts of Tamil Nadu are restricted to chicken, mutton and fish mostly. Parotta, which is considered as the highway food of Tamil Nadu is popular especially across Virudhunagar, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and the bordering areas.
The temple town of Madurai has its own singular delicacies which include muttai parotta, paruthi paal, kari dosai, jigarthanda, ennai dosai, poricha parotta, chicken thokku, shrimp thokku, brinjal drumstick puli kuzhambhu, vendaikkai mandhi, pasala keerai kootu, mutton chukka varuval, viral meen kuzhambhu, muttai kothhu idly and so on which are rarely available in other parts of the state.
Eating Out Options in Tamil Nadu
Being a state that receives hundreds of thousands of national and international visitors alike from all over the world, irrespective of seasons, Tamil Nadu is well equipped with eating out options! Be it a road side parotta stall or a tiny traditional mess or even an international cuisine specializing luxurious restaurant, Tamil Nadu has it all! Some of the popular cuisines available in the state include Indian (wide range of regional cuisines from Kashmir to Kanyakumari), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Continental, and Mediterranean and so on.
Most Popular Vegetarian Restaurants of Tamil Nadu
- Hotel Saravana Bhavan
- Arya Bhavan
- Adyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B)
- Murugan Idly Kadai
- Namma Veedu Vasanta Bhavan
- Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar
Most Popular Non-Vegetarian Restaurants in Tamil Nadu
- Dindigul Thalappakatti Restaurant
- Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant
- Venu Biryani Hotel
- Nalaas Aappakadai
- Kumarakom Restaurant
- Banana Leaf Restaurant
- Ponram Hotel
- Kannappa Chettinadu Restaurant
- Madurai Sri Muniyandi Vilas Restaurant
Also Read: Khader Nawaz Khan in Chennai | Restaurants in Chennai | Buffet Restaurants in Chennai | Non-veg Restaurants in Chennai | Vegetarian Restaurants in Chennai | Romantic Restaurants in Chennai | Buffet Restaurants in Coimbatore | Restaurants in Dindigul | Restaurants in Cuddalore | Restaurants in Kanyakumari | Restaurants in Karur | Restaurants in Ooty | Chinese Restaurants in Madurai | Restaurants in Madurai | Restaurants in Rameswaram | Non-vegetarian Restaurants in Salem | Chinese Restaurants in Salem | Restaurants in Salem | Sarvanna Bhawan in Salem | Vegetarian Restaurants in Salem | Restaurants in Sivakasi | Restaurants in Sriperumbudur | Non-veg Restaurants in Trichy | Vegetarian Restaurants in Trichy
Local Food Items of Tamil NaduKadambur (Thoothukudi district):
Boli - traditional type of sweet flatbread, made with wheat, sugar, ghee, yellow gram and so on
: Traditional Tirunelveli halwa made with whole wheat, ghee, sugar, cashew nut and so on
Sattur (Virudhunagar district)
: Kara Sevu is a traditional spicy and crunchy snack with the touch of cumin seeds and black pepper with channa dhal, rice flour and so on
Manapparai (Tiruchirappalli district):
Murukku is a mouth-watering crispy snack that is made from urad dal, rice flour, sesame seeds and so on
North Arcot District:
Makkan Peda is a popular sweet dish from North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu is made from maida, milk, sugar, ghee, honey, dry fruits, and nuts and so on
Thisayanvilai (Tirunelveli district)
: Muscoth Halwa is a delicious sweet made from broken wheat, coconut, sugar, ghee and so on
- Chennai: Vada curry
- Dindigul: Biryani
- Kadayanallur (Tirunelveli district): Appalam
- Madurai: Jigarthanda, Kari dosai, Aira meen curry, Nandu puttu and so on
- Kancheepuram: Idly
- Coimbatore: Kheema upma, kheema dosai, Roadside mushroom, Kambu koozh, Thengai bun
- Chettinadu: Chicken recipes
- Kumbakonam (Thanjavur district): Degree coffee
- Ambur (Vellore district): Biryani
- Virudhunagar & Sengottai: Poricha parotta
- Thoothukudi: Macroon
- Kovilpatti (Thoothukudi district): Kadalai mittai (Peanut candy)
- Nagore: Tomato jam, White kuruma, Sugar gravy, Thani kari, Dalcha and so on
- Srivilliputhur (Virudhunagar district): Paalkova
- Nilgiris: Special varuki, Chocolates
- Chidambaram (Cuddalore district): Korai kizhangu laddu
- Thanjavur: Arachuvitta sambar, Beans usili
- Srirangam (Tiruchirappalli district): Samba rava dosa
- Karaikudi (Sivaganga district): Rangoon puttu, Kavan arisi puttu, Pazhaya soru meen kuzhambu, Kari kola urundai and so on
- Kanyakumari: Panagam, Chakkoli
Street Foods of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu, the region that is notable for its hospitality is no different from other states when it is about street food! As a matter of fact, street food stalls have become an integral part of the food options available in a city or a town. Across the leading urban centres like Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai, seeing daily wage laborers and Software professionals eating together at street food stalls is no strange sight! Street foods are preferred for its affordability, quick delivery and of course they are cooked right in front of the buyers. Let's have a look at some of the most popular street foods of Tamil Nadu. Also Read: Best Street Food in Chennai | 10 Mouthwatering Street Foods of Chennai
Idly & Dosa
Idly and dosa needs no introduction - the most common and easy-to-get street food of Tamil Nadu. Both the dishes are available for breakfast and dinner across the cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. Mostly preferred for its low prices as average cost of five idlies or 3 dosas cannot be more than 20 bucks!
Though a street food, it is certain that there is no chance of idly or dosa causing any harm to health. Street food stalls serving idly and dosa usually serve them with atleast two side dishes - sambar and coconut chutney. Many stalls even serve up to three side dishes, sambar, coconut chutney and kaara chutney (tomato with chilly chutney).
Touted as the 'Highway Food of Tamil Nadu
', finding a street food stall serving parotta in Tamil Nadu is no big deal. Usually parotta stalls open their business as early as 7'o clock in the evening, parottas across the street food stalls of Tamil Nadu is considered to be one of the most scrumptious food for dinner. Served with a delectable vegetable kuruma or sometime chicken kuruma, along with kaara chutney, parottas are finger-licking good. Parotta stalls also serve a variety of other parotta-based dishes that include mutta parotta (egg parotta), kothu parotta (minced parotta), veechu parotta and so on.
One of the most typical evening snacks easily available across the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Generally, Bajji and Bonda stalls start their business around 4'o clock in the evening and serve till 9'o clock. The specialty of these Bajji Bonda stalls is that all you need to have is just Rs. 5 and you can definitely enjoy a stomach-filling snack time. Popularly called as bajji bonda stalls, they come up with a long menu that typically include potato bajji, brinjal bajji, onion bajji, plantain bajji, milagai bajji (chilly bajji), potato bonda, sweet bonda, masal vadai, medhu vadai or ulundhu vadai.
Yet another popular street food kickshaw of Tamil Nadu. Though samosas are available across the restaurants, bakeries and other well known fast food joints and snack junctions, samosa served by the street food stalls are always different and simple! Contrary to the actual samosa recipe, street food stalls in Tamil Nadu
serve affordable samosas with onion filling rather than potato. Thinly sliced onions sauteed along with a few basic ingredients and enough number of maida cones and that's it! Crispy samosa served with mint chutney is always a terrific combination any day!
Believed to be originated in the southern metropolis of Chennai, Chicken 65 is a notable street food in Tamil Nadu. Basically, a deep-fried and spicy chicken delicacy, Chicken 65 is one of the popular street foods available across the cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. The food stalls that sell chicken 65 across the state usually start their business around 5'0 clock in the evening and there is no doubt that this is more of an evening snack. The delicious dish is served hot with pepper powder sprinkled all over the meat bits and dressed with fresh coriander leaves; it is nothing short of yumminess!
Chaats are probably one of the recently introduced food across the state of Tamil Nadu, thanks to the friendly North India people who migrated to the southern state. Contrary to North India, the pleasant-tasting chaat varieties in Tamil Nadu are very limited. Some of the most common varieties of chaats served across the state include Samosa masala, masala poori, pani poori and bhel poori. Though chaat items are considered as authentic North Indian goodies, Tamil people get to enjoy chaat varieties in an adopted version, based on the likings of Tamil people.
Jil jil Jigarthanda
Tagged as a specialty drink of Madurai, Jigarthanda is a yummilicious beverage sold across the cities and towns of Tamil Nadu. The main ingredients of this incredible regional beverage include thickened milk, javarisi (sago), badam, kadal paasi (China grass), sugar, vanilla ice cream and sweet syrup. Altogether, a perfect drink for a hot day!Some of the other popular street foods of Tamil Nadu include
- Nannari Sarbath - Beverage
- Paneer Soda - Beverage
- Onion Pakoda - Snack
- Aatu Kaal Soup - Lamb Leg Soup
- Atho - Burmese Noodles
- Paruthi Paal - Cotton Seed Milk
- Ulundhu Kanji - Black Gram Porridge
- Masala Moru - Spicy Buttermilk
- Meen Varuval - Fish Fry
- Fired Rice