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Tamil food considered to be the cradle of Dravidian culture with rich foods that are made from a variety of ingredients. The cuisine is indigenous to the Tamil Nadu region of India.

Historical and Cultural Influences on Tamil Recipes

The region was primarily ruled by a variety of local rulers like the Cholas, the Cheras, and the Pandyas etc. Each dynasty bought its influence onto the culture and the foods of the region. Tamil Nadu itself was rich in grain and cereal production but the Chola Dynasty later on encourage sea travel resulting in the inclusion of a wider range of foods in the local cuisine. After a few years, British settlers bought in their own cuisine adaptations along with local Dutch and French settlers who worked to reduce the spiciness of the local cuisine to make it more adaptable to their tastes.

Classification of Tamil Recipes

Tamil food has no distinct variation in the cuisine but north Tamil Nadu tends to have a distinct vegetarian bent to all the dishes that they make. South Tamil Nadu or the Chettinad area is well known for its rich repertoire of non-vegetarian dishes. A further variation can be made according to the following divisions.

  • The Chettinad region is based along Karaigudi and has a large amount of non vegetarian dishes in its regimen. These Tamil food dishes are very spicy with abundant spices and coconut used in nearly every dish. Chicken is the preferred meat though.
  • Other districts along the south of Tamil Nadu like Madurai, Tirunelveli are also known for their nonvegetarian foods. Special non leavened bread called as parata or parotta is also very popular as a breakfast item in this region.
  • Nanjilnadu based along the Kanyakumari district is well known for its fish.
  • The western Kongunadu region has several recipes too that are rice based and primarily vegetarian.

Ingredients Commonly Used in Tamil Recipes

Rice is the staple of Tamil food. It can be served with every meal in various forms. Fermented rice cakes or idlis, flat rice pancakes or dosai are served at nearly every meal. There are also several variations of the flat pancakes that are made with cereals and grains like moong dosai, uthappam, appam, Paruthipal & Ennaidosai. Rice noodles in thick and thin variations eaten with spicy meals as well as in sweet variations are very common. Apart from the rice staple, local vegetables cooked into gravies or dry dishes are very common. Drumsticks are an essential but brinjals, ladyfinger, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, and carrot are favorite vegetables but many other variations are used. A routine meal may have has many as two vegetables along with a gravy and curd that is served with rice.

Cuisine Trivia

Traditionally, Tamil food is eaten on banana leaves. The tradition is still followed in temples and at weddings.