INDIA. As part of morning rituals in South India, a traveler might have to savor masala dosa and filter Kaapee (coffee) daily in restaurants. The restaurants are always full of customers, and busy attendants, refilling the bowls on each table with sambar and colorful chutneys at regular intervals.
The entire ambiance is usually very active and the smell of the food can make anyone hungry. A food scientist might find the situation just perfect to frame the matter of his Tasty dissertation.
Move beyond Idli and Dosas
South Indian food is famous for scrumptious dishes like Chakra Pongal, Dosa, Vada, Idli, Uttapam, Sambar, Kadala Curry, Appam, Kebabs, and Hyderabad Biryanis. However, there is much more to South Indian cuisine than these foods. A foodie can experience this by traveling more through the southern states. The colorful and spicy kaleidoscope served at the tables regularly enriches their taste buds.
In India, cuisine changes every 50 km that one travels through and that’s true for southern Indian states too. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana and also the union territories of Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands offer a wide variety of unique vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Essential ingredients of South Indian food
South India is the Rice Basket of India and it is also the Spice kingdom of the world. Due to the high production of coconuts, it is also known as the Coconut empire. Hence, most of the dishes here are based around rice, coconuts, and exotic spices.
Food in South Indian states is quite similar to each other as they primarily use rice, spices, lentils, coconut, native fruits, and fresh vegetables in their cuisine. However, it is the level of spiciness which differs from state to state.
A world of flavors in South Indian cuisine
Food in South Indian is generally categorized into six tastes — sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent, and astringent. All the south Indian meals use these six tastes which are considered good for health, appetite, and digestion.
The sweet taste comes from dairy products, wheat, ghee, rice, and honey. On the other hand, the sour taste comes from limes and lemons, citrus fruits, yogurt, mango, and tamarind. The saltiness in food comes from salt and pickles. The bitterness comes from using bitter gourd, greens of many kinds, and turmeric in the food. The pungency is provided by chili, peppers, ginger, black pepper, clove, mustard. Lastly, the astringent taste is provided by beans, lentils, turmeric, and vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage.
Meals in a typical South Indian household
A typical day starts with breakfast consisting of idlis, vadas, dosas, upma, and savory pongal served with sambhar and chutneys. Along with the breakfast, a tumbler of filter coffee is a must in South India.
The South Indian lunch/dinner or a full meal consists of at least three to four courses, with rice serving as their staple food. A typical south Indian meal contains starters like Paadams,Podi (powdered spice mix), Vendakka Pachadi, or the lady’s finger Raita, Banana fries, jaggery coated banana fries, and Mullu Murukku (Chakkali). The main course starts with the traditional paruppu and ghee; a mix eaten with rice which serves as an appetizer. Next to follow would be a kuzhambu or sambhar, which is mixed with rice; this is usually the main course.
If one has to summarise South Indian food, the main course might contain:
Aatu Kari Kolambu (Rustic mutton dish), Chicken Pepper fry, Chepala Pulusu (Tangy Andhra style fish curry with tamarind), Kola Urundai (Deep fried Mutton Dumplings), and Ambur Chicken Biryani (Tamil Nadu style biryani).
Chepankizhangu Varuval (Colocasia stir fry), Kosu Pattani Kootu (cabbage and green peas curry), Karivepillai Kuzhambu (curry leaf flavoured gravy with brinjal), Paneer tomato ka kut (paneer cooked with tomato), Nimbe Hannu Chithrana (lemon rice), and Tomato pappu (yellow lentils cooked with tomatoes).
Beverages served along with meal
Along with all the meals drinks are a must and besides Kaapee, made with gourmet coffee beans of the premium Peaberry and locally brewed strong tea, you also get a cold drink which is called a Nannari sherbet (Sarasaparilla).
The sweet dishes served as the last course of a meal includes items like Badam Ka Halwa, Badam Kheer, Besan Burfi, Besan Laddo, Boondi Ka Laddoo, Coconut Burfi, Fruit Kheer, Kesari, and many more. Interestingly most of the non-dairy based desserts are sweetened with jaggery and not refined sugar.
The everlasting relation of Bananas and Paan with the South Indian cuisine
Serving bananas is a must after all the meals in South India. And then it’s finished with a Paan; that comprises of nicely folded betel leaves filled up with lime and betel nuts. Paan is considered to have digestive properties.
Eating rituals in South India
South Indian meals are served on a banana leaf which is cleaned with warm water. Vegetables are placed on the top half of the leaf, and rice, sweets, and snacks on the other half of the leaf. The banana leaf should be folded after completing the meal.
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