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Tamil cuisine is a culinary style of Tamil people originating in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and neighboring Sri Lanka.[1] 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.

Typical meals

A vegetarian meal in Tamil Nadu

Saappadu (a typical meal), along with other Tamil dishes are served on a banana leaf vaazhai illai, which adds flavor. Puddings such as paayasam are eaten first. Coffee and tea are the staple drinks.[2]

"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, kuzhambu, poriyal and koottu are added with buttermilk or curd to prepare pachadi. Dry and fresh fruits or vegetables are also used to prepare traditional cuisine. They serve salt, pickles, vada, payasam, appalam and aviyal. After the meal, a banana and a betel leaf (paan) with areca nuts and limestone paste are served 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.

Regional cuisine

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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.

Chola Nadu

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. Kumbakonam is famous for its filter coffee. The Thanjavur region is one of the prominent producers of rice-based dishes like puliyodharai, sambar sadham, vegetable rice and podi sadham. Millet dishes like kutharai vali dosai are also prepared. Freshwater fish from the area of Thiruchirapalli are famous for their unique taste.

Pandiya Nadu

The Chettinad region and its adjoining areas such as Karaikudi are famous for its typical spicy cuisine also known as chettinad cuisine.[3] 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 Idli, 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

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.[4] 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 groundnut oil. Coconut oil is used for main cooking and as well as seasoning in certain Kongu Nadu dishes.[5]


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


Idly and Medu Vada (Ulundhu Vadai) with tomato chutney, Sambhar and coconut chutney served on banana leaf
Ven Pongal
Dosai made at home
Kuzhi Paniyaram

Rice is the staple food of most Tamil people. It is generally eaten during lunch and sometimes dinner. Soru is served along with other food items such as sambar, poriyal, rasam, kootu, Keerai and curd.

Breakfast dishes

Main dishes

Side dishes


Lunch and dinner dishes

Main dishes

Rice varieties

Sambar varieties

Rasam Varieties

Kuzhambu (Curry) varieties

Poriyal/stir-fry varieties

Kootu/stew varieties

Chicken varieties

Mutton varieties

Seafood varieties

Egg varieties

Sweet dishes

Traditional snacks


Podi varieties/chutney powder

These are the dry chutney powder varieties to be mixed with cooked plain rice and ghee.

See also


  1. ^ "Amma canteen: Where an Indian meal costs only seven cents". BBC News. 4 July 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. ^ Shankar, Shylashri (16 December 2016). "A coffee break in tradition". Open the magazine. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Use of spices in chettinad cuisine". The Times of India. 25 April 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  4. ^ NandhiniK31 (29 December 2020). "South indian cuisines".
  5. ^ NAGARAJAN, REMA (26 March 2011). "Taste some cuisine from Kongunadu". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  6. ^ "Curry; Define Curry at". Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  7. ^ "mulligatawny, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003.
  8. ^ "congee". Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  9. ^ Eliezer, Nesa (2003). Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils: Odiyal Kool, Kurakkan Puttu, and All That--. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 978-81-250-2502-3.
  10. ^ "Puliyodharai, Iyengar Puliyodharai Recipe, Kovil Puliyodharai Recipe". Kannamma Cooks. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
  11. ^ Mukund Padmanabhan, Subash Jeyan and Subajayanthi Wilson (26 May 2012). "Food Safari: In search of Ambur biryani". The Hindu.
  12. ^ "Biryani bistro". The Hindu. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2012.

Further reading