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South Indian Cuisine - Tamil Nadu

Updated on June 28, 2011

 South Indian Cuisine

South Indian Cuisine or desi cuisine is a term used to refer to the cuisines found in the four southern states of India including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Below you will find some of the popular South Indian foods.

South Indian breakfast foods - Tamil Nadu:

South Paper dosa with sambar, coconut chutney and tomato chutney
South Paper dosa with sambar, coconut chutney and tomato chutney

In South India, the popular breakfast food item consists of idli, dosa, poori, vadas, pongal, uppuma, chapati, puttu and appam. Idli, dosa and vada are served with sambar, coconut chutney and tomato chutney. Poori are served with potato curry or sambar. Puttu and appam are served with coconut milk.

Idli and dosa are made with rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds.

South Indian lunch food items:

In Tamil Nadu, lunch items fall into four categories:

1. The first category is sambar, kuzhambu, rasam, 1 or 2 vegeatable curry, appalam and pickles. These are served with white rice, which is the staple food of the region. Lunch items are often served with plantain leaf or banana leaf

2. Second are the side dishes which include kootu/kari, and veggie poriyal.

Kootu - vegetables in wet style.

Poriyal - Vegetables in dry style.

3. Third are the desserts. Favorite South Indian sweet dishes incude payasam, kheer and kesari.

4. Fourth one include betel leaves or beeda.

South Indian lunch
South Indian lunch

 Sambar is a vegetable stew and is prepared using tamarind pulp, toor dal, herbs, spices and vegetables. You can use any kind of vegetables such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, brinjals, beans, okra, drumsticks, carrots, raddish etc. Also you can use any one or a mix of these vegetables. Sambar powder can be made in large quantities and stored up to 6 months or 1 year.

Sambar preparation:
Soak the lemon size tamarind in a cup of water for ten to 15  minutes. Boil the half cup of toor dhal in a pressure cooker with turmeric powder and asafoetida. Extract the tamarind juice keep it aside for later use. Cut your favorite vegetables into small pieces. Heat a little oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, sliced onions, tomatoes and green chillies and fry for a minute. Now add vegetables and pour 200 ml of water, sambar powder, tamarind extract and salt to it. Keep boiling for 15 to 20 minutes on medium flame. After that add the cooked toor dhal and let it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Delicious sambar is ready to serve.

 Rasam is a popular South Indian soup and often served with white rice. Rasam is good for fevers, coughs and cold.  Rasam powder is prepared using coriander seeds, cumin seeds, asafetida, whole red chilli, black pepper and mustard seeds.

Other popular dishes include bisibele bath, vangi bath, tamarind rice, coconut rice, lemon rice, and tomato rice. These are some the variety rice eaten by tamilians.

Non vegetarian foods: Common meats in South India include mutton (goat), chicken, fish, mutton liver, and prawns. Some of the popular non vegetarian foods incude chicken biryani, mutton biryani, chicken curry,  fish fry, chicken 65, and prawn curry.

Chicken curry
Chicken curry

 Filter coffee:

Tamil Nadu is famous for its filter coffee as most Tamils have a subtle contempt for instant coffee. Filter coffee is made with roasted coffee beans 80% and chicory 20%. Then the coffee powder is put into a filter coffee set and hot water is added to prepare the decoction. It is then allowed to set for about 15 minutes. The liquid is then added to milk with sugar to taste. Delicious filter coffee is ready to drink.

 Common spices used in South Indian foods: Some of the spices include, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, garlic, cloves, turmeric powder, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.

Some of the common south Indian spices incude sambar podi or sambar powder, rasam powder, idli podi and freshly ground garam masala. Garam masala is a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

Spices used in South Indian Cuisine
Spices used in South Indian Cuisine

How to make paper dosa and idli:


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    • Planetpink profile image


      5 years ago from London,Ontario


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      how much it cost?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice chicken curry

    • profile image

      Indian Spices 

      7 years ago

      I am very happy to read your articles it’s very useful for me,

      and I am completely satisfied with your website.

      All comments and articles are very useful and very good.

      Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in

      turn you are sharing with each one!…

      Indian Spices

    • brazilianjeans profile image


      7 years ago

      I would love to try Biriani, could someone post this recipe? Thanks!

    • Palak Verma profile image

      Palak Verma 

      7 years ago from Sunnyvale

      Love south Indian dishes...Good post..!

    • profile image

      delaine cools 

      8 years ago

      Being a vegetarian, I am looking forward to my south indian trip and trying out all the meatless alternatives! yummmy yum yum!

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Kate P 

      8 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      If only we could get all of this authentic Indian cuisine in every town in the US! I miss it sooo much. Wonderful article! YUM! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Mouth watering preparations. very nice. Some time these are essential. Congrats.


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