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Tamil cuisine is a culinary style originating in the southern Indian state Tamil Nadu and other parts of South Asia like Sri Lanka. Both Vegetarian cuisine and Non-Vegetarian cuisine is popular among the Tamil people and has been since ancient times. However, meats along with rice, legumes and lentils are also popular. Dairy products and tamarind are used to provide sour flavors. On special occasions, traditional Tamil dishes are served in a traditional manner, using banana leaves in place of utensils. After eating, the banana leaves are then used as a secondary food for cattle. A typical breakfast meal consists of idli or dosa with chutney. Lunch includes Rice, sambar, Curd, kuzhambu, and rasam.
Saappadu (a typical meal), along with other Tamil dishes are served on a banana leaf (vaazhai illai) which adds flavor. Puddings such as payasam are eaten last. Coffee and tea are the staple drinks.
"Virundhu" refers to the core elements of Tamil cuisine offered to the guests on special occasions such as festivals and marriage ceremony. Rice staples, Tomato Rice, Paruppu, sambar, rasam, poriyal and koottu are added with butter or curd to prepare pachadi. Dry and fresh fruits or vegetables are also used to prepare traditional cuisine. They serve salt, pickles, payasam, and aviyal. After the meal, a banana and betel leaf with areca nuts and limestone paste are used to promote digestion. Before eating traditional cuisine, people clean the banana leaf with water. It is used as a large dining table sheet to serve food for guests and family members on which the food items are placed.
Each area where Tamils have lived has developed its own distinct variant of the common dishes. The four divisions of ancient Tamilakam prepare their unique Tamil cuisine.
The cuisine of the Chola Nadu region specializes in several dishes such as Sevai and other varieties associated with different sauces like chutney. The most common dishes are from Chidambaram and Kumbakonam is famous for its filter coffee. The Thanjavur region is one of the prominent producers of rice-based dishes like Puliyodharai, Sambhar sadam, Vegetable rice and Podi sadam. Millet dishes like Kutharai valli dosai are also prepared. The freshwater fishes from surroundings of Trichy are famous for their unique taste.
The Chettinad region and its adjoining areas such as Karaikudi are famous for its typical spicy cuisine also known as chettinad cuisine. Dishes like idiyappam, uthappam, paniyaram as well as meat dishes are common in this region. The Madurai region has its own unique dishes such as Muttaiparotta, Paruthipal, Karidosai, Jasmine Idly, Irameen Kuzhambu and it is the place of origin of the milk dessert Jigarthanda. Non vegetarian dishes from Chettinad and Madurai are one of the most renowned among the South Indians. The Virudhunagar region is famous for the Coin Parotta. Unlike the traditional way of preparation, Coin Parotta is generally deep fried in oil and served with Mutton gravy.
Kongu Nadu cuisine was originally prepared in rural areas. Oputtu, Sandahai and Kola urundai are few among the main dishes. Many dishes in Kongu Nadu are based on Coconut and Onions as there is an abundant supply of Coconut, Onions and Groundnuts. Thengai paal jaggery, Ulundu Kali, Kachayam, Arisimparupu sadam, Kelvaragu Puttumavu, Arisi Puttumavu, Paniyaram, Kelvaragu Pakoda, Thengai barbi, Kadalai urundai, Ellu urundai and Pori urundai are among other dishes prepared by Tamil people. They consume Mutton, Chicken, Freshwater fishes and Quail due to the area being landlocked. Arisimparupu sadam is a unique dish. Most common oils are sesame and ground nut oil. Coconut oil is used for main cooking and as well as seasoning in certain Kongunadu dishes.
The cuisine of this regions shares similarities with Telugu cuisine due to geographic proximity. Hot and spicy vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes are prepared. Idli, dosai, bhajji, koottu, murukku, vada curry and chicken 65 are common dishes in this region.
Tamil culinary terms in English
- "Curry" comes from the Tamil word kari.
- The Tamil phrase milagu thanneer refers to "pepper soup", literally pepper water or mulligatawny
- "Congee" is derived from the Tamil word kanji.
Rice is the staple food of most Tamil people. It is generally eaten during lunch and sometimes dinner. Choru is served along with other food items such as sambar, poriyal, rasam, kootu, Keerai and curd.
- Idli is a steamed rice-cake prepared with fermented batter or rice and black gram. It is usually served with different kinds of traditional dishes such as chutney, sambhar or vadacurry.
- Dosai is prepared from a fermented batter and black gram with a small quantity of sambar or chutney. Several varieties like saada dosai, kal dosai, muttai dosai, neer dosai, rava dosai and paasi paruppu dosai are prominently available in Tamil Nadu.
- Vadai is based on the ingredients used and served along with idlis.
- Pongal is a traditional cuisine where rice is cooked in a matki with water and milk. The word (pongal) directly translates to the action of boiling over the container due to the starch.
- Paniyaram is a dumpling shaped dish made using dosa batter.
- Appam is prepared with a fermented batter of rice and black gram mixture. Appam generally has thin corners with a soft center.
- Uthappam is a dosa-based dish that is slightly thick, fluffy, and soft. It can be made from regular idli/dosai batter.
- Puttu is a steamed, layered, cylindrical cake made from flour or rice.
- Kozhakkattai is a steamed dumpling made with rice flour.
- Sevai or idiyappam are rice noodles usually in steamed rice cakes.
- Adai is prepared with a mixtures of lentils. It contains fiber and calcium. It is used as a recipe by the Tamil people.
- Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder made with tamarind, broth and freshly grounded spices.
- Chutney varieties consumed by the people are coconut chutney, onion chutney, tomato chutney, corriander chutney, kara chutney, garlic chutney and puli chutney.
- Vada curry is a classic dish which is also famous among Chennai people.
- Thovaiyal is a wet ground paste that contains several ingredients.
- Kaapi is the most popular beverage. Its preparation is generally done with gourmet coffee beans. The preparation of filter coffee is a ritual. Sometimes chicory is added to enhance the aroma. Hot milk with sugar and a small quantity of decoction is then served in a tumbler set, a traditional coffee cup.
- Koozh is also known as Congee or (rice congee).
- Sharbat is a drink made from fruits or petal flowers.
- Paanakam is a drink made from lemon juice or tamarind water, jaggery, dried ginger and cardamom.
Lunch and dinner dishes
- Plain rice
- Thakkali Soru - Tomato rice, Tomato coconut milk rice
- Sambar Soru - Rice cooked with lentils, vegetables with a glaze of tamarind juice
- Thengai Soru - Coconut rice
- Milagu Soru - Pepper rice
- Paruppu Soru - Lentil rice
- Karuvepillai Soru - Curry leaves rice
- Thayir Soru - Curd rice
- Nei Soru - Ghee rice
- Urulai Soru - Potato rice
- Muttaikos Soru - Cabbage rice
- Kudaimilagai Soru - Capsicum rice
- Kootansoru - Mixed vegetable rice
- Kothamalli Pudina Soru - Corriander and mint rice
- Manga Soru - Mango rice
- Thatta payaru arisi paruppu Soru - Cow pea and lentil rice
- Vetrilai poondu Soru - Betel leaves rice with garlic
- Brinji Soru
- Elumichai Soru (Lemon rice) - A seasoning of onions, tomatoes, curry leaf, red chilly, salt and lemon juice made with rice
- Ghee pongal
- Sweet pongal
- Kalkandu pongal
- Puli pongal - Tamarind pongal
- Thinai pongal - Foxtail millet pongal recipes
- Puliyodarai, is a popular Tamil dish which is a mixture of fried tamarind paste and cooked rice. Fried tamarind paste with sesame oil, asofoetida, fenugreek powder, chilly, groundnuts, chickpea, black gram, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, 'curry leaves, turmeric powder, jaggery and salt.
- Biryani such as thalappakatti briyani and mushroom briyani
- Ladiesfinger sambar
- Potato, tomato and carrot sambar
- Carrot and beans sambar
- Arachuvitta sambar
- Bitter gourd pitlai
- Sambar for idly/dosa/pongal
- Mango Sambar
- Mixed Vegetable Sambar
- Vendhaya Keerai sambar
- Brinjal Sambar
- Onion Arachu vitta Sambar
- Drumstick Sambar Iyer style (without onions)
- Pasi Paruppu Sambar (tiffin sambar)
- No Onion No garlic Carrot Sambar
- Keerai Thandu Sambar
- Mor Sambar/Curd Sambar
Kuzhambu (Curry) varieties
- Thatta payiru kathirikkai kozhambu/Cow pea Brinjal curry
- Murunga keerai kozhambu/Drumstick leaves curry
- Pidukkam paruppu kozhambu/Shelled field beans curry
- Kaalan kozhambu/Mushroom curry
- Vendhaya kozhambu/Fenugreek seeds curry
- Mochai kozhambu/Field beans curry
- Pattani kuzhambu/Dry peas curry
- Ennai kathrikkai kozhambu/Oily eggplant spicy curry
- Vendaikkaai kaara kozhambu/Ladies finger spicy curry
- Kathrikkai kaara kozhambu/Brinjal spicy curry
- Mulai payaru kozhambu/Moong sprouts curry
- Ulli theeyal/Onion theeyal curry
- Kadalai theeyal/Channa theeyal curry
- Murungakkai theeyal/Drumstick theeyal curry
- Mochai theeyal/Field beans theeyal curry
- Poondu theeyal/Garlic theeyal curry
- Peerkangaai paal kozhambu/Ridgegourd curry
- Kollu kozhambu/Horse gram curry
- Keera kadaisal/Spinach smash curry
- Avarakkai paruppu kuzhambu/Broad beans lentil curry
- Milagai mandi/Green chilli curry
- Kaaramani puli kozhambu/Black eyed tamarind curry
- Urundai kozhambu/Lentil dumplings curry
- Murungakkai puli kozhambu/Drumstick tamarind curry
- Poondu kozhambu/Garlic tamarind curry
- Poosani paruppu kootu/Pumpkin lentil curry
- Vatha kozhambu/Turkey berry, black night shade curry
- Soya kozhambu/Soya curry
- Sakkarai valli kizhangu kozhambu/Sweet potato curry
- Pavakkaai pitla/Bittergourd curry
- Pavakkaai puli kozhambu/Bitter gourd tamarind curry
- Jeeraga kozhambu/Jeera seeds curry
- Milagu kozhambu/Pepper corns curry
- Karunai kizhangu kozhambu/Yam curry
- Parangikkaai ellu poriyal/Pumpkin fry curry with sesame seeds
- Arasanikaai poriyal/Yellow pumpkin fry
- Sorakkaai verkaadalai poriyal/Calabash peanuts fry
- Kizhangu pottalam/Madurai potato fry masala
- Senai kizhangu poriyal/Yam roast in banana leaves
- Urulai milagu varuval/Potato pepper fry
- Senai chops/Yam chops
- Vengaaya thalai poriyal/Spring onion fry
- Murungakeerai poriyal/Drumstick leaves fry
- Urulai podimaas/Potato podimas
- Ennai kathrikkaai masala/Stuffed small eggplant oily masala
- Chinna vengaayam poriyal/Shallots fry
- Kaaramani poriyal/Yard long beans fry
- Carrot beans thovaran/Carrot beans in coconut masala fry
- Vendhaya keerai kadalai poriyal/Methi leaves channa fry
- Cheppankizhangu varuval/Arbi fry
- Chettinad urulai poriyal/Chettinad spicy potato fry
- Chettinad urulai pattani poriyal/Chettinad spicy potato peas fry
- Agathi keerai poriyal/Agathi keerai fry
- Avarakkai poriyal/Broad beans coconut fry
- Kovakkai poriyal/Ivy gourd fry
- Carrot kose poriyal/Carrot cabbage fry
- Kaalan milagu varuval/Mushroom pepper fry
- Vendakkaai poriyal/Ladiesfinger fry
- Beetroot poriyal/Beetroot coconut fry
- Chow chow poriyal/Chayote squash fry
- Vaazhakkai podimas/Raw banana fry
- Peerkangaai poriyal/Ridgegourd fry
- Mullangi poriyal/Raddish fry
- Maravalli kizhangu poriyal/Tapioca stir fry
- Thanneer muttaan kizhangu poriyal/Asparagus fry
- Pudalangaai poriyal/Snake gourd fry
- Payaru thovaran/Green gram fry
- Pappaalikkai poriyal/Raw papaya fry
- Vendhaya keerai poriyal/Fenugreek leaves fry
- Kudaimilagaai milagu poriyal/Capsicum pepper fry
- Cauliflower milagu pirattal/Cauliflower pepper fry
- Vaazhaipoo kootu/Plantain flower stew
- Vendakkai kootu/Ladiesfinger stew
- Murungakeerai paruppu usili/Drumstick leaves lentil stew
- Paruppu beans usili/Beans and lentils stew
- Kootaviyal/Aviyal cooked with all country veggies
- Keerai mandi/Chettinad spinach stew
- Sorakkaai kootu/Bottle gourd stew
- Vaazhai thandu kootu/Plantain stem curd stew
- Keerai paruppu poondu kootu/Spinach lentil garlic stew
- Mulakeerai kootu/Amarnath leaves lentil stew
- Pudalangai kootu/Snake gourd stew
- Kothavarangaai kootu/Cluster beans stew
- Poosanikkai kootu/Yellow pumpkin lentil stew
- Manathakkaali keera kootu/Black night shade leaves lentil stew
- Chow chow kootu/Chayote squash stew
- Thakkali kaai kootu/Green tomato lentil stew
- Kathrikkai rasavaangi/Eggplant lentil stew
- Mor keerai kootu/Buttermilk spinach stew
- Muttaikose kootu/Cabbage lentil stew
- Pachai payaru kootu/Moong bean stew
- Poosanikaai mor kootu/Ash gourd curd stew
- Chenaikizhangu kootu/Elephant yam stew
- Kadamba kootu/Mixed vegetable stew
- Noolkol kootu/Kohlrabi stew
- Tirunelveli Sodhi
- Murungakkai kootu/Drumstick lentil stew
- Avarakkaai kootu/Broadbeans lentil stew
- Kathrikka kootu/Brinjal stew
- Sutta kathirkkai Gotsu/Burnt Brinjal stew
- Parangikkaai paal kootu/Pumpkin stew in coconut milk
- Pappaalikkaai kootu/Raw pappaya stew
- Palakkaai kootu/Raw Jackfruit stew
- Vallaarai keerai kootu/Brahmi booti stew
- Arachivitta kozhi curry/Chicken in spicy thick coconut gravy
- Varuthu aracha kozhi curry/Chicken in spicy fried and ground coconut gravy
- Kozhi milagu varuval/Chicken pepper fry
- Kozhi vellai kuruma/Chicken in white gravy
- Chicken 65
- Chicken pakora
- Chicken sukka
- Chicken ghee roast
- Kozhi milagu masala/Chicken pepper masala
- Naatu Kozhi kuzhambu/Country chicken curry
- Naatu kozhi rasam/Chicken soup
- Chicken Chinthamani
- Kozhi pachai curry/Chicken corriander and mint curry
- Pallipaalayam chicken fry
- Chicken Kola urundai kozhambu/Chicken dumplings curry
- Madras kozhi kozhambu/Madras chicken curry
- Chicken chettinad
- Seeraga samba chicken biryani/Chicken biryani cooked with Seeraga samba rice
- Ambur chicken biryani
- Thalapakkatti chicken biryani
- Chicken 65 biryani
- Kovai biriyani
- Aatukkal paaya/Mutton trotters stew
- Nenju elumbu soup/Mutton rib bones soup
- Mutton kuzhambu/curry
- Mutton korma in thick coconut gravy
- Mutton in fried ground coconut gravy
- Muttom elumbu rasam/Mutton bone soup
- Nalli elumbu masala/Goat Bone marrow masala
- Mutton curry dosa
- Ratha poriyal/Goat blood fry
- Mutton Sukka
- Mutton milagu varuval/Mutton pepper fry
- Mutton Kola urundai kozhambu/Muttom dumplings curry
- Kongunaadu vella mutton biryani/Kongunaad White mutton biryani
- Seeraga samba mutton biryani/Mutton biryani cooked with Seeraga samba rice
- Ambur Mutton biryani
- Thalapakkatti Mutton biryani
- Meen puli muzham/Fish in thick coconut tamarind gravy
- Meen karutha curry/Fish black curry[in fried coconut, shallots, garlic, dried ginger, peppercorns, corriander seeds, red chillies, oregano and other spices]
- Thengai paal meen curry/Fish in spicy coconut milk gravy.
- Sura puttu/Fishpittu
- Iraal masala/Prawn spicy masala
- Iraal milagu varuval/ Spicy prawn pepper fry
- Coconut fish fry
- Nethili meen curry/White bait/anchovies curry
- Nethili meen varuval/Spicy deep fried anchovies
- Prawn ghee roast
- Fish briyani
- Prawn briyani
- Meen maanga curry/ Fish mango curry
- Spicy chettinad prawn masala
- Fish curry in ginger and coconut milk
- Spicy Vanjaram fry/Spicy salmon fry
- Chettinad fish curry
- Nandu masala/Crab curry
- Nandu omelette/Crab omelette
- Nandu rasam/Crab soup
- Chippi appam - an appetizer made with curried rice flour and oysters. This is a favorite among the Muslim population in the Kanyakumari District.
- Muttai thokku/Egg masala
- Muttai aviayal/Egg aviyal
- Muttai milagu varuval/Egg pepper fry
- Chettinad spicy egg curry
- Muttai paniyaaram/Egg Paniyaaram
- Odachi oothina muttai curry/ Egg poached curry
- Muttai kalakki/Egg Kalakki
- Muttai korma
- Egg in thick coconut milk gravy
- Egg in spicy coconut and tamarind gravy
- Udachu vitta Mutta Kaara Kuzhambu
- Mutta kuzhambu
- Arisi thengai payasam/Rice coconut pudding
- Pasiparuppu paaysam/Moong dhal pudding
- Kadalai paruppu paayasam/channa dhal pudding
- Aval paayasam/Puffed rice pudding
- Khasa khasa paayasam/Poppy seeds pudding
- Vazhai pazha paayasam/Banana pudding
- Adai Paayasam/Cooked rice flakes pudding
- Paal Paayasam/Milk pudding
- Thengai Paayasam/Coconut pudding
- Pala pazha Paayasam/Jackfruit pudding
- Mampazha paayasam/Mango pudding
- Javvarisi paaysam/Tapioca sago pudding
- Samba godhumai paayasam/Cracked wheat pudding
- Semiya paayasam/Vermicelli pudding
- Thinai paaysam/Foxtail millet pudding
- Carrot paayasam/Carrot pudding
- Badam paayasam/Badam pudding
- Rice paayasam/Rice pudding
- Sorakkai paayasam/Calabash pudding
- Elaneer paaysam/Tender coconut pudding
- Brown rice kheer
- Sweet potato kheer
- Apple kheer
- Thengai bholi/Coconut bholi
- Paasi paruppu bholi/Moong dhal bholi
- Then mittai/Honey comb sweet
- Ingi marappa/Ginger fudge
- Pori urundai/Puffed rice jaggery balls
- Kadalai mittai/Peanut jaggery balls
- Maalaadu/Roasted channa dhal sweet balls
- Paasi paruppu laddu/Moong dhal sweet balls
- Ravalaadu/Rava sweet balls
- Thinai laddu/Fox millet sweet balls
- Godhumai laddu/Wheat sweet balls
- Raagi nilakadalai laddu/Raagi peanut balls
- Ellurundai/Black sesame seeds sweet balls
- Vella elluruandai/White sesame seeds sweet balls
- Coconut laddu/Coconut sweet balls
- Aval laddu/Poha sweet balls
- Sweet somas
- Mangaadi/Sweet mango in jaggery stew
- Sakkapalathirattu/Jack fruit in jaggery stew
- Thirattu paal/Paalguva
- Palambali/Kongunaadu style rice pudding
- Nei appam
- Unni appam
- Ammini appam
- Paal kozhukattai
- Pazham Paniyaram
- Sakkarai kozhukattai
- Sakkarai Pongal/Sweet pongal
- Aval pongal
- Kalkandu pongal/Sugar candy pongal
- Sweet seedai
- Mundhiri Kothu
- Rava Kesari
- Pineapple kesari
- Mango kesari
- Aval kesari
- Halwa varieties - thirunelveli halwa, ashoka halwa, jackfruit halwa, wheat halwa.
- varieties of Mixture
- Kara Sevu
- types of vadai (ulundu, Kara, aama)
- Thattu vadai/nippetu'
- .Kara pori
- aval pori
- Elumichai oorkaai/Lemon pickle
- Poondu oorkaai/Garlic pickle
- Ingi oorkaai/Ginger pickle
- Thakkali oorkaai/Tomato pickle
- Vengaaya oorkaai/Onion pickle
- Mangaai oorkaai/Mango pickle
- Nellikaai oorkaai/Gooseberry pickle
- Naarthangaai oorkaai/Citron pickle
- Carrot oorkaai
- Milagai oorkaai - Green Chilly pickle
- Red Chilli pickle
- Sun dried tomato pickle
- Mor Milgai/Sun dried big chillies
- Puli ingi/ Ginger tamarind pickle
Podi varieties/chutney powder
These are the dry chutney powder varieties to be mixed with cooked plain rice and ghee.
- Paruppu podi/Lentil chutney powder
- Poondu podi/Garlic chutney powder
- Idly milagu podi/ Idly chutney powder as a side dish for idly and dosas
- karuveppilai podi/Curry leaves chutney powder
- Milagu podi/Pepper chutney powder
- Ellu podi/Sesame seeds chutney powder
- Kollu podi/Horse gram chutney powder
- Nilakadalai podi/Groundnut chutney powder
- Kothamalli podi/Corriander chutney powder
- Mint chutney powder
- Raw banana chutney powder for infants and toddlers
- "Amma canteen: Where an Indian meal costs only seven cents". BBC News. 4 July 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Shankar, Shylashri (16 December 2016). "A coffee break in tradition". Open the magazine. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
- "Curry; Define Curry at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- "mulligatawny, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003.
- "congee". Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
- "Puliyodharai, Iyengar Puliyodharai Recipe, Kovil Puliyodharai Recipe". Kannamma Cooks. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- Mukund Padmanabhan, Subash Jeyan and Subajayanthi Wilson (26 May 2012). "Food Safari: In search of Ambur biryani". The Hindu.
- "Biryani bistro". The Hindu. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
- Ammal, Meenakshi, S., The Best of Samaithu Paar: The Classic Guide to Tamil Cuisine: Penguin Books India
- DeWitt, Dave and Nancy Gerlach. 1990. The Whole Chile Pepper Book. Boston: Little Brown and Co.