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Home > Cuisine of India > South India
South Indian Food
• Karnataka • Andhra Pradesh • Tamil Nadu
• Kerala
Fresh FruitSouth India has hot, humid climate and all its states are coastal. Rainfall is abundant and so is the supply of fresh fruit, vegetables and rice. Andhra Pradesh produces fiery Andhra cuisine which is largely vegetarian yet has a huge range of seafood in the its coastal areas. Tamilnadu has Chettinad cuisine, perhaps the most fiery of all Indian food. This style too is largely vegetarian.

From Kerala comes Malabari cooking, with its repertoire of tasty seafood dishes. Hyderabad is home of the Nizams (rulers of Hyderabad) and regal Nizami food rich and flavorful with tastes ranging from spicy to sour to sweet. Hyderabadi food is full of nuts, dried fruits and exotic, expensive spices like Saffron.

Style of food: By and large, South Indian cuisine is perhaps the hottest of all Indian food. Meals are centered around rice or rice-based dishes. Rice is combined with Sambaar (a soup-like lentil dish tempered with whole spices and chillies) and rasam (a hot-sour soup like lentil dish), dry and curried vegetables and meat dishes and a host of coconut-based chutneys and poppadums (deep-fried crispy lentil pancakes). South Indians are great lovers of filter coffee.

South Indian CuisineSouth Indian cuisine is rice based. Rice is combined with lentils to make wonderful dosas, idlis, vadas and uttapams. These items are glorious and delicious besides being nourishing and digestible (due to the fermenting process). They are combined with sambhar (dal), rasam (tamarind dal), dry and curried vegetable and pachadi (yogurt). Their rice preparations are also masterpieces like biryani from Hyderabad, lemon rice and rice seasoned with coconut peanuts, tamarind, chilies, curry leaves, urad dal and fenugreek seeds.

South Indian chutneys are made of tamarind, coconut, peanuts, dal, fenugreek seeds, and cilantro. Meals are followed by coffee. South Indian dals and curries are soupier than North Indian dals and curries. South Indian cuisine is also hotter.

Coconut milk straight from the nut is a common beverage and sight in South India.   Coffee is very popular in South India and Madras coffee is popular in South Indian restaurants throughout the world. The South Indian food is a brilliant amalgamation of taste, colors, seasoning, nutritional balance, aroma, savor, and visual appeal.

The South Indian Tradition of serving a traditional Meal
A typical traditional meal in South India is served on a "vazhaillai", a freshly cut plantain leaf.

The sappad or food that is served on a banana leaf (even the size of the leaf varies from one community to another) is displayed like an identity card. One look and a guest will know the community, the status, the exact wealth of the family, and from where they originate.

Lapped up quickly. While the top left includes a pinch of salt, a dash of pickle and a thimbleful of salad, or a smidgen of chutney. In the middle of the leaf there may be an odd number of fried items like small circles of chips, either banana, yam or potato, hard round discs of spiced, ground dal known as VADA, thin papads, or frilly wafers, or vada.
The top right hand corner is reserved for the heavy artillery, the curries, hot, sweet, or sour, and the dry items. If it is a vegetarian meal, the vegetables are carefully chosen, between the country ones-gourds, drumsticks, brinjals/eggplants-and the English ones, which could be carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower. If it is a non-vegetarian meal, in some cases, a separate leaf is provided for the fried meats, chicken, fish, crab, and so on. But again, the variations are presented carefully, one dry one next to a gravies one.

Sweet RiceThere may be a side attraction such as a puran poli, or sweetened dal stuffed into a pancake, puris, sweet rice or any one of the famed rice preparations such as pulisadam, or bisibela bath.

After having worked through the preliminaries, the long haul starts with the rice, which is generously doused with ghee. Sambhar, the highly spiced dal-based dish containing whatever appropriate vegetable there is in season, follows and this is succeeded by rasam.
After a final round of rice and curds, or buttermilk or both, a traditional meal concludes with a small banana, a few betel leaves and nuts.

Rice- Saadum
Rice is the staple food and is divided into the following categories.
Rice are of 3 basic category:

- Long White Grain Rice - most commonly used
- Short Grain Rice - used to make sweet dishes
- Round Grain Rice - not very popular for worship representing Health, Wealth & Fertility.

Paruppu ( dal/lentil ) is the main spring of the common mans diet. Every meal includes Paruppu.  It may be made a soup, chutney, spicy powder, sambhar, snacks, and sweets.
Sweet in Ayurveda is considered to be an appetite builder.  Taking its cues from Ayurveda the South Indian meal would generally begin with e-ne-ip-pu or sweet.  It may consist of the popular Mysore Pak ( Gram Flour Fudge).

Then comes three courses of rice -
1.  Rice with sambhar.  There are many forms of rice - such as the plain rice- ghee- boiled lentil (sadam - neai- paruppu), coconut rice (thengai sadaam), lemon rice (ellimbichai sadaam), tamarind rice (puliyodarai).
2.  Rice with Rasam - Rasam is a tangy, spicy, watery and soupy tamarind concoction with is served with rice
3.  Yogurt with rice (thayir sadaam). This is served last to cool the mouth and the digestive system.  It may be served with non-spicy assorted vegetable dishes, namely the aviyal (mixed vegetable stew), Kari (dry masala vegetables) & kootu (coconut & vegetable sauté which are not too wet and not too dry).

Finally the palpayasam (milk sweet) a dessert is served.

After the meal, paan or betel leaf & betelnut (vetrielai & paku), which freshens the mouth and aids in digestion.

First Course: Appetisers and drinks.

Second Course: Any mixed rice and vegetables cooked with spices.

Third Course: Plain rice, sambar, rasam and yogurt with pickles (appalam also added for a crisper taste).

Fourth Course: Sweets and paan.
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