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 Tamil Cuisine—The Tastes of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is a delight for the foodie. The food available here is varied and tickles the taste buds.

In addition to the traditional food items like idli, dosa, pongal, uppuma, and so on (the list is endless) that is available across the state each area in the state offers something special. Who can forget the rich Chettinad food, which is now available all over the world? A small digression here— Chettiars are   traditionally vegetarians though Chettinad food which is supposed to be Chettiar cuisine is more well known for the non-vegetarian food. Even now, most of the Chettiars are vegetarians.

Some districts in the state have some special food items to offer— here is a brief look at some of them.

Niligiris Chocolate

I am sure all of you would have enjoyed the home-made chocolates available at the numerous small shops at Ooty. The weather and the good quality of the ingredients ensure that the chocolate tastes divine. There are numerous varieties — with dry fruits, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts and so on. They are cut into small slabs and sold and very popular among tourists and the locals.

Tirunelveli Halwa

The most well known is the “Iruttu Kadai” halwa. This shop — a family enterprise for more than three generations— sells a thick very sweet desert made up of wheat and ghee. It is sinfully sweet and people who have a sweet tooth swear by it. “Iruttai kadai” means a dark shop. In the olden days, there was no electricity and the workers used to make this sweet in poorly lit rooms. The work would start in the morning and the halwa will be ready by the evening. Now, of course, it is no longer made in darkness, but the name has stuck!

Manaparrai Murukku

Different versions of murukku are available in Tamil Nadu, but the best known is the murukku, which is a crispy savoury snack, comes from Manapparai. Murukku is made from broken rice powder mixed in a certain proportion with urad dal.

Srivilliputur Palgova

The palgova made in this region is hugely popular all over the state.How palgova originated in Srivilliputur is an interesting story. The story goes like this: A woman farmhand started some milk and forgot all about it and went off to work in the field. When she came back, the mike had thickened into a thick consistency, Not wanting to throw if away, she added some sugar and gave it the children in the village. All of them liked it and asked for more. Now, making of palgova is a major cottage industry here.

Dindigul Briyani

This briyani is called “ Thalapakattu briyani” is made from serakasamba rice — a short-grained rice—and not basmati rice like the other briyanis. It is slow-cooked on firewood. Only the tenderest meat is used to enhance the taste.

Madurai Jigarthanda

It is also called”Jil jil jigarthanda,” which means “hearty cooler” in Hindi. This drink is a mixture of condensed milk and a form of seaweed called “ Kadal Paasi.” This drink was introduced in Madurai by the Muslim settlers. A person trying this drink for the first time might not like the drink because it is a cultivated taste.

Kancheepuram Idli

Though the idlis available in Tamil nadu are soft and fluffy everywhere, the ones available in Madurai and Chettinad are supposed to be the best. The Kancheepuram idli is a different from the usual fluffy ones. It is a spicier one with peanuts, cashew nuts, dhal mixed with the fermented rice batter.

Coimbatore Paniyaram

Though many carieities of paniyaram are available in the Chettinad area, Coimbatore also is known for its paniyaram. This paniyaram is made from a rice batter and poured into moulds. They are crispy, made up of very little oil and eaten with spicy chutneys.

Kalladakurichi Vadaam

This small town near Tirunnelveli is known for its vadaam. Vadaam is used like padad, fried in oil, and eaten along with rice. Vadaam is made up of rice. Different types of vadaam are made here, and they available in different colours also. Making of vadaams is a major cottage industry here.
This list can go on and on. Tuticorin is famous for it macorone —a biscuit made up of egg whites, cashew nuts which just melts in your mouth. Sattur, near Virudhunagar, is known for its sevu– again, a form of murukku made from dhal. This murukku is quite spicy. Kanyakumari  is known for its sweet—muscote halwa.


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