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. 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 first. Coffee and tea are the staple drinks.
A vegetarian meal in Tamil Nadu
"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.
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. Tirunelveli is famous for its wheat halwa. Especially a shop named "Iruttukadai" literally meaning dark shop is very famous for its halwa. Thus forming a famous phrase "Tirunelveli Iruttukadai Halwa".
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.
Idly and Medu Vada (Ulundhu Vadai) with tomato chutney, Sambhar and coconut chutney served on banana leaf
Dosai made at home
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.
Vada curry is a classic dish that 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.
Puliyodarai, is a popular Tamil dish that 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.