Most common things that come to our mind when we think of Tamil Nadu are dosas and idlis. But there’s a lot more to the cuisine of this state, right from tangy tamarind, to sweet jaggery, to sour lemons. Here’s a list of twenty things to try when you’re in the state that houses some of the best temples in the country, and undoubtedly some of the best food too!
This breakfast dish is kind of the South-Indian pancake: simple, easy to make, and tasty. Uttappam is made with leftover idli or dosa batter and has all toppings right in the batter itself. Every bite of this soft spongy food will give you bliss! The best part though is the variations you can have with the toppings. You could just have it plain, make it a veggie delight, or go fusion-style and make it Mexican, Chinese or even Italian.
Aviyal is definitely for the vegetable lover. If you are a health conscious person and want something wholesome and delicious, this one is for you. Made with a whole load of veggies, curd, coconut, and a few other ingredients, it proves tasty and healthy need not be radicals. It is mostly served with rice, but tastes so good that you can just eat it off the dish you cooked it in!
Kootu is another dish filled with all kinds of vegetables. The base curry is lentils cooked in some aromatic spices, to which we add the vegetables. Peas, Pumpkin, brinjals, beans, carrots, cabbage, and what not! You can go all kinds of crazy with the vegetables you add to kootu and make your own!
If South-Indian shad discovered soup, it would be rasam. The base for it is tamarind juice, to which we add lots of spices. To amp it up, you can add tomatoes or drumsticks. As a final touch, some mustard seeds and curry leaves are fried in a bit of oil along with some asafoetida and added to the rasam. Some fresh chopped coriander gives a little freshness and also serves as the perfect garnish. Every spoonful of this delicacy is sure to leave you wondering what it is that you’re tasting: be it sweet, sour, tangy or spicy! Traditionally it is served with piping hot rice.
Puliyodarai is a traditional rice dish made mainly for prasadam in the temples or during special occasions and festivals. A powder of spices like coriander seeds, and fenugreek seeds among others forms the seasoning, while a tamarind paste boiled with some jiggery is the base flavour. This thick paste is mixed well with rice. Peanuts, curry leaves, and red chillies fried in a little oil are added to it and mixed well. This serves as a garnish and adds an extra punch to the dish. This sweet and sour dish is something that should be on your food bucket-list for Tamil Nadu.
6 Kola Urundai
Kola urundai are South India’s meatballs. They are made of minced mutton mixed with a blend of spices, balled up, and then deep fried. It is a dish unique to Chettinad, a region in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is perfect as an appetizer during weddings or other special occasions. It has all good things in life: frying, meat, and spices. Make sure you taste these authentic balls of goodness if you get a chance!
The city of Madurai is famous for various things, the most prominent of which are temples and food. The Kari dosai or meat dosa is one of the signature dishes of the city. While the simplest version involves a preparation of mutton put on a dosa, the options are endless. You can add eggs, tomatoes, and onions, lemon, herbs, etc.!
Eating this will give you a new perspective on how creativity can do wonders. South Indians have taken the standard layered paratha and turned it into something completely amazing. It is a popular street food in Tamilnadu. It has meat tossed in a gravy of onions, tomatoes, and some spices. To this, we add small pieces of the paratha and toss it again to mix everything thoroughly. It is extremely quick and tastes divine: like street food is supposed to!
9 Nanjilnadu Fish Curry
The Nanjilnadu region, lying along the coastal line, is famous for its sea food. They have a variety of ways to cook their seafood including prawns, fish head curry, among them all. This particular dish starts off with marinating some fish in tamarind juice and some aromatic spices and chilli powder for 5-10 minutes. While the fish is marinating, prepare a thick gravy of coconut, onions, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. To this, add the well-marinated fish, and serve with the staple food-rice, or rotis.
10 Urlai Roast
Urlai Roast is a potato dish takes less than half an hour to make and is so good; it can compete with French Fries! Nah, we’re kidding! French Fries is love. But, Urlai Roast comes pretty close to it too. Boiled baby potatoes tossed in a mixture of Chettinad masala, onions, and tomatoes in oil. And it’s done. In a flash! If there were a version of Fries that you would’ve friend-zoned, this would be it!
What’s life without sweets? Dull, and Boring as hell. So a dessert being on this list is inevitable. Palkova is one of the most popular sweets of Tamilnadu. Making it is also a cakewalk, for it’s that easy and takes only two ingredients to make, although time-consuming. All you need is a little patience and love. Take about four cups of milk, and simmer until the quantity reduces by half. Then keep stirring until it begins to thicken, and add about one-third cup of sugar. Continue stirring the mixture until the liquid content almost evaporates. And you’re done. Serve it hot or cold;it tastes great both ways.
Meduvada is one of the most famous breakfast dishes in South India. These crispy donut shaped vadas are crunchy on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. When paired with sambar and coconut chutney, there’s nothing that could taste better! It is made by mixing some coriander, green chilies, etc. to the vada batter, and then frying them up. You could add peanuts or even cashews if you love them for an extra bit of happiness!
A cup of tea is never fulfilling unless there is something sweet or crunchy to go with it. And murukulu are just what you need. These scrumptious fried rings taste superb. They make that crunch sound when you break them and have a buttery after-taste. Try it, and you can’t eat just one and will want to finish the entire plateful. You can take our word for it!
Although not a dish in itself, molagapodi is something that the state is synonymous with. Everyone, right from a kid to an old man, swear by MolagaPodi. A plate of idli or dosa is never complete unless you have it with molagapodi. Coarsely ground urad dal, chana dal, sesame seeds and red chillies are what go into making it. Add various seasonings as per your tastes and it is ready. It makes the perfect accompaniment for a lot of breakfast items, and of course tastes best when licked off your fingers!
15 Thengai Sadam
If you’re in a hurry and need to whip up something quick for lunch, this is your go-to recipe. Saute some fresh grated coconut in oil along with some curry leaves, red chillies, cashews, chana dal and urad dal. Add in the boiled rice, and serve hot garnished with freshly chopped coriander. Preferably to be eaten with curd if you love mild flavors or a spicy curry otherwise. It is mild, yet so creamy and decadent! You should try it out.
16 Coconut Chutney
Just like molagapodi, coconut chutney is also an accompaniment to various breakfast items like idli, vada, uttapam, Pongal, etc. It takes these breakfasts already taste good to another level altogether. It consists of a blend of roasted chana dal and red chillies; and some crushed coconut, curd, and lemon juice. It is topped off with mustard seeds, and curry leaves sauteed in some oil. There are of course many variations to this chutney, but whichever one you try, you’ll never regret it!
Idly is THE most popular food item in South India. And when we think of idli, we can never imagine it without sambar. They go hand in hand, and for a good reason too! Idli is the healthiest breakfast of all time. It has no oil or fat and is very filling. And sambar is the perfect partner with its tangy tomatoes, aromatic spices, and lip-smacking deliciousness. A plate of hot steaming idlis in sambar just taken off the stove, on a winter morning. Need we say more?
Pongal is a delicacy named after the festival of Pongal. It is a festival celebrated after the crop of rice is harvested, and we make this dish from the newly harvested rice itself. It is a dish with subtle flavors, yet has a unique taste that can’t be forgotten in a day. Dressing it with some ghee, roasted cashews, and ginger apart from cumin and peppercorns roasted in oil with some asafoetida give it its signature taste. Using a banana leaf as a plate to serve it in takes it up a notch both to look at, as well as to eat.
19 Unni Appam
If Americans have banana bread, we have unni appam. All you need is some wheat flour, bananas and sugar to make this decadent dessert. Simply mix all ingredients well to form a semi-thick paste by adding water. Then put small amounts of dough in oil and fry it on both sides. And voila, your unni appams are ready!
South Indians have a thing for sweets that are easy to make! Payasam is another dish that can take you just about ten to fifteen minutes to make. There are close to ten varieties of making this sweet, but all of them involve the same basic principle: the goodness of thick boiling milk infused with some cardamom and other spices. To this, rice or semiya is added and cooked until soft. Although it tastes best when eaten hot, leave it in the fridge for about an hour if you want a thick creamy dessert on a hot summer’s day.