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The southern state of India, Tamil Nadu has rich cuisine which offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Rice being the staple, is traditionally enjoyed most with the different lentil dishes which have characteristic  aroma and flavour from flavourings and spices like curry leaves, mustard seeds, red chillies, pepper, cloves and of course coconut. The most common souring agent, tamarind is used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations. Use of pickles and an array of chutneys make this cuisine very appealing.

 
A typical Tamilian family eats Idlis/Dosai/uthappam etc. for breakfast and Sambar, Rasam, Rice and Curd are preferred for lunch and dinner. For beverage, the distinct flavoured filter coffee is still the most preferred among Tamilian community.

The South Indian tradition of eating on banana leaf is practised in this region of India as well. ‘Virundhu’ meaning ‘feast’ for the guests and ‘Sappadu’ meaning a full course meal, is essentially a celebratory meal. In this the meal is served on a banana leaf where dishes are placed in a particular sequence at a particular spot of the leaf. The usual practice of serving the feast comprise of placing side dishes on the top half of the banana leaf and rice on the lower half with boiled dal and ghee. The lower right portion usually has the sweet milky rice preparations like Payasam, sweet Pongal or any sweet item; while the top left has a pinch of salt, a dash of pickle and a small portion of salad, or a little chutney. In the middle, a variety of fried items like banana, yam/potato chips/thin crisp papads/appalams are placed. The top right corner is where salty foods like curry, dry dishes are served followed by poori. Then comes the sambar and rasam. Usually a final round of curd or buttermilk signals the end of meal.

Region:

Chettinad cuisine coming from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India, comprise of the delicacies offering use of a variety of spices and is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic cuisines of India. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masala and variety of sun dried meats, salted vegetables, boiled eggs are all essential part of a meal. Chettiars don’t use beef and pork thus the non-vegetarian options are restricted to chicken, lamb and seaf food like fish, crab, prawn, lobster. Most of the dishes eaten are dosais, appams (type of dosa), idiyappams (vermicelli idli), adais (type of dosa) and idlis. Some of the popular vegetarian dishes include idiyappam, paniyaram (sweet or salty dosa like batter cooked in special pan) like vellai paniyaram, karuppatti paniyaram, paal paniyaram (is a simple sweet preparation of deep fried rice-urad dal balls soaked in sweet milk), kuzhi paniyaram, masala paniyaram, kozhakattai (sweet rice dumpling), adikoozh (porridge made from millet),varieties of seeyam (sweet or salty deep fried balls).

Kongunad cuisine from the Kongu region includes Ooty, Coimbatore, Avinashi, Palladam, Pollachi, Udumalpet, Kangayam, Tiruppur to Karur, Aathur, Salem, Erode, Palani Mettur and Dharapuram. Unlike other cuisines, Kongunad cuisine does not involve marination for cooking resulting in a unique taste and texture of the dishes. Addition of roasted groundnut paste in curries and Khurmas, freshly grated Turmeric gives a very different flavour and aroma to the curries. Kongunad cuisine is not very spicy and oily cuisine. Use of copra (dry coconut), pickles with gingelly seeds enrichens the cuisine. Sweets like 'Pathaneer Halwa', 'Pathaneer Payasam', 'Elanir Halwa', 'Elanir Payasam' formed part of the regular food in kongu region again thanks to abundance of coconut and palm trees. Some of the most popular dishes are Pachaipuli Rasak (spicy, assembled rasam made of tamarind pulp and small onions), Karimeen Kolambu (fish curry added with mutton cubes and stock), Pathanir Halwa (uniquely flavoured halwa made from Pathaneer-the toddy before fermentation).

Produce:
Agriculture being the predominant occupation ensures a good produce of food crop like rice, maize, jowar, bajra, ragi, pulses and cash crops like cotton, sugarcane, oilseeds, coffee, tea, rubber, coconut, gingelly and chillies. Fruit crops like Banana, Mango, Sapota etc. are commonly grown along with tapioca, coconut, groundnut and the state is the third largest producer of coffee in India. The main vegetables grown are Tapioca, Tomato, Onion, Brinjal and Drumstick and spice crops like Chillies, Pepper, Cardamom and cloves are prominent.
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Common spices/seasonings used in
Tamil cuisine
Common Vegetables used in Tamil
cuisine
Brinjal: This is yet another perennial vegetable and is available in a variety of shapes and sizes all of which have special cooking methods. The big round one is roasted on fire, skin is removed, it is mashed and sautéed with masalas, onions and tomatoes to make the famous ‘Baigan ka Bharta’. Traditionally, recipes would advise the salting, rinsing and draining of the sliced fruit (known as "degorging") to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness. It is also curried, stir fried, stuffed and sautéed.
Drumsticks: is a long, thin and rigid pod which grows on a tree, popular ingredient in South Indian preparations.
Lablab (Hyacinth bean): this is a foraged bean also called ‘avarai’ or ‘mochai’ in Tamilian cuisine. It is mainly used in curries and korma’s.
Okra: Also known as bhindi, this is a pod vegetable from the mallow family. Bought green and firm, it is a seasonal summer staple in most states of India. It is prepared as a dry dish, some homes sliver the okra, deep fry and season with chillies to make a crispy side dish with meals, another common way to serve is by stuffing with masala and sautéing or chopping into cubes and stir frying. In some states Okra is curried as well.
Tapioca: is basically a root starch derived from the cassava or the yucca plant. In Tamil food it is used to make desserts, side dishes as well as snacks like chips and fritters.
Tomato: Tomatoes are widely known for their outstanding antioxidant content. There are literally hundreds of different tomato varieties. We usually choose our favourite varieties by some combination of flavour, texture, and appearance. They are as essential as onions in Indian cuisine and are used in curries, stir fried dishes, to thicken gravies and even as condiments like chutney and pickles. Tomatoes are essentially souring agents in dishes.
Famous Food

Aviyal: a well known stew of vegetables simmered in coconut milk and made with coconut oil. It is a side dish for a meal consisting of rice, sambhar, rasam and is also served with Adai and Dosai or Appams.

Kootu:
is a stew of vegetables or varieties of greens made with a small amount of lentils, tamarind and black pepper which makes for a side dish for a meal consisting of rice, sambhar and rasam.

Koozh: This is a kind of porridge which is also called Kanji and is made from millet.

Nila Kolambu: This curry is prepared from vegetables which grow under the soil, namely potato, colocassia, yam and sweet potato.

Paruppusilli: this is a specialty that is made with dal and tempered with red chillies and served during occasions.

Payaru Thirattal: is a preparation where groundnuts paste is added to mashed pulses and cooked in a peculiar masala paste of small onion and pepper corns.

Puliyodarai:  is a popular Tamil dish and is a mixture of cooked tamarind paste and cooked rice. The tamarind paste is cooked with sesame oil, asofoetida and fenugreek powder, dried chilly, groundnuts, split chickpea, urad dal, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder and seasoned with light jaggery and salt.

Puttu: Made with roasted rice flour and formed into a cylindrical roll and steamed in a puttu cylinder; it is then broken into lumps mixed with grated coconut and is served as breakfast or a snack with bananas and milk.

Thayir sadam: This is the Tamil version of curd rice which is basically steamed rice set with curd and served with local pickles and condiments like chutneys.

Non Veg. Dishes

Aatu Kari Kulambu: is a spicy mutton curry made with spices like fennel, coriander, chilli and ‘garam masala’ and thickened with a poppy seed paste. It includes fragrant spices like bay leaves and cloves and has a coconut base.

Chettinad milagu kozhi: also called ‘pepper chicken’, this is either made with a thick curry or as a dry dish. It is seasoned with turmeric and ‘garam masala’ and lots of fresh black pepper.

Keeranoor Kolambu: A basic vegetable gravy added with chosen country vegetables and mutton.

Meen Culumbu: a typical fish curry which can be made with any local variety of fish in the state of Tamil Nadu. This is flavoured with curry leaves, seasoned with fennel, mustard seeds and chilli powder, the curry is made with coconut milk and is usually served with rice.

Pallipalayam Chicken Fry: A very special dry preparation prepared using Pallipalayam Masala which is hand pounded masala made by a family in a city Pallipayalam near Erode.

Thirunelveli Kozhi Kuzhambu: is a simple chicken curry made with ginger, garlic, green and red chillies and coconut. This dish is also cooked with fragrant spices like fennel and bay leaves.

Breads
Dosai: crepes made from a fermented batter of rice and urad dal (black gram).

Parota:
is a layered and flaky version of wheat flour based North Indian Parantha except this is made with maida or white flour.
Sweets

Adhirasam: these are thick pancakes made with a thick dough like paste of soaked rice, flavoured with crushed cardamom. The dough is made into balls, pressed flat and deep fried and then soaked in a jaggery syrup.

Benian:
A white flaky poori like sweet made usually in the Muslim household in and around Dharapuram.

Kuzhi Pariyanam: this sweet is more like a deep fried, dough ball made with Idli batter and sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with cardamom and dry ginger.

Paruppu Payasam: this is a payasam made with Bengal gram and moong dal, much like a north Indian ‘kheer’ it is milk based and cooked in ghee along with a flavouring of coconut and garnish of cashewnuts.

Rava Laddoo: these are made with semolina which is called ‘rava’ in Tamil Nadu and ghee, the rava is roasted in ghee, then sugar is added, the mix is slightly cooled and formed into laddoo’s and garnished with cashews.

Theratti Paal: Milk is boiled for around 40 minutes per litre in order to obtain a semi solid consistency after which sugar is mixed in it which melts and the milk and sugar come together as one.

Beverages

Filter Coffee: is a sweet milky coffee coffee with a distinct flavour due to the special mixing and filtration process.

Masala Paal (masala milk):
this is also commonly served and is sweetened milk with aromatic spices

Recipes
CHICKEN CHETTINAD  

CHICKEN CHETTINAD

 
This traditional south Indian chicken dish is a treat for spicy food lovers.  
Feast On  
COCONUT RICE  

COCONUT RICE

 
A delicious rice recipe that blends coconut flavour with authentic south Indian seasoning.  
Feast On  
CURD RICE  

CURD RICE

 
Light and wholesome, this South Indian staple is perfect as a break from heavy, festive eating. Lightly spiced and full of flavour, it can be enjoyed anytime!  
Feast On  
MASALA VADA  

MASALA VADA

 
A crunchy, spicy snack, ideal for breakfast or evening tea. Made with the goodness of black gram and spiced with green chillies, this is an anytime snack!  
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MIXED DAL DOSA WITH VEGETABLE FILLING  

MIXED DAL DOSA WITH VEGETABLE FILLING

 
A multi-grained, protein rich South Indian delicacy with the filling of vegetables. A healthy and good to eat meal.  
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MULTI GRAIN DOSA  

MULTI GRAIN DOSA

 
A south Indian delight, dosa is a favourite across the country.Its a multigrain version combines the goodness of wheatflour, rice flour, oats & semolina along with the spinach and carrots too.  
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SAMBHAR  

SAMBHAR

 
A widely popular South Indian vegetable stew made with tamarind and arhar dal.  
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TOMATO UPPUMA  

TOMATO UPPUMA

 
A quick and easy breakfast recipe is ideal to break the routine of the usual toast and milk. Children will love the flavour of tomato combined with easy to eat 'sooji' and a smattering of peanuts too!  
Feast On  
 
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