Tamil foods represent an extraordinary culinary cuisine in the South of India. Rice, lentils, and legumes are really popular among the Tamil people. When visiting this region, you will see people often use banana leaves as a container for the food, fascinating, right?
Tamil citizens also love the sour taste of tamarind, so if you find this cuisine interesting. Don’t wait any longer and dive into this post. I’m sure these specialties will treat you well.
Table of Contents
This section will fill your stomach and give you a lovely savory experience. Hop on to this expedition and unfold these food stories and tastes now!
1. Sambar (Lentil-Based Stew)
In the South of India, Sambar is a must-try stew dish with a pleasant aroma from lentils. The first appearance of Sambar is still a myth, but it first appeared in the 17th century in literature by K. T. Achaya, a food historian.
Traditionally, the dish is a slow-cooked dish with a nutty and savory flavor from lentils, tamarind broth, and other ingredients. Sambar is also a well-loved dish in Sri Lanka and Burmese cuisines. It is a typical companion for the famous Burmese curries.
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To complement the dish flavor, you can pair Sambar with Idli, Dosa, or rice. The dish is often served as a breakfast or an excellent side dish in India. Sambar is packed with nutrients that benefit your whole body, so don’t hesitate to try it.
2. Upma (Semolina Breakfast Dish)
Hey! Do you want to discover a delectable morning dish in Tamil? Upma, with its fragrant aroma and delicate sweetness, will treat your mouth gently. The dish has many other names like Uppittu, Upeet, and Uppumavu.
The dish is a typical breakfast dish in India, Sri Lanka, and some neighboring regions. The dry-roasted Rava is cooked until you have a thick porridge. Depending on each area, there are plenty of vegetables that people will add while making Upma.
You can also check the vegan recipe if you are on the ‘no-meat’ diet. You can choose any version of Upma; from sweet, savory, or nutty, the dish will be a present to your taste.
3. Chettinad Kozhi (Chicken Chettinad Or Chicken Curry)
Amazing! This savory Tamil midday dish will allure you with its pleasant aroma and spiciness. In fact, Chettinad Kozhi is considered one of the spiciest dishes in India. The dish is packed with flavor that you should try at least once.
The main ingredient – chicken, is marinated in yogurt, coconut, and turmeric for a soft texture and excellent yellow color. The dish is usually served with Sambar or simply just add some rice.
You can perfume the dish with chopped coriander leaves to evoke a signature aroma that will make your mouth water.
4. Pongal (Rice Dishes)
Pongal (also known as Pongal or Huggi) is a traditional rice dish in Tamil. The dish is crucial in the Pongal festival (a harvest festival in the Tamil community). The word Pongal means ‘bubbling up’ describing the dish when it is nearly done.
Pongal has four variants: ‘Chakkarai Pongal’ is sweetened with jaggery, ‘Puli Pongal’ is made with tamarind, ‘Venn Pongal’ has clarified butter in its ingredients profile, and ‘Melagu Pongal’ has black pepper with a little spicy taste.
The delicious Pongal is a perfect breakfast when served with chutney for vada (a fried snack in India).
This is a lovely dinner dish from Tamil that you should try. During the Pongal festival, the sweet version appeared more frequently. You will find Melagu Pongal with a spicy flavor and Puli Pongal with a sour touch from tamarind.
5. Rasam (Clear And Spicy Soup)
Here comes a spicy Tamil soup that you can treat your family and friends with. Rasam and Sambar might have a similar appearance, but their flavor is different due to the ingredients added to each specialty.
In Kannada, people call this dish ‘Saaru’, while in Telugu, ‘Chaaru’ is a more common name. The word Rasam means ‘juice’ in Tamil, describing the presence of jaggery, tamarind, and tomato cooked to perfection with juicy broth.
The dish is usually served with a veggie side dish or plain rice. The dish is perfect for heating your palate or helping you recover from a cold.
This is how you enjoy an authentic Rasam in Tamil.
6. Karuveppilai Sadam (Curry Leaves Rice)
Sadam is a special way to cook rice in Tamil. They add curry leaves to embellish and perfume their ordinary rice with a beautiful aroma. The dish is so simple and easy that you can make it in around 10 minutes.
If you have leftover rice, the dish is a perfect choice for you. You just need to warm the rice, and it is ready to use. Basmati rice, hand point rice, Sona Masoori rice, or brown rice are some typical choices that you can use to make the dish.
Sambar Sadam is a popular version of this rice with the savory Sambar stew. Both these dishes will treat you with the most exquisite flavor.
7. Madras Kozhi Kozhambu (Madras Chicken Curry)
Don’t miss this tasty dish from Tamil Nadu’s cooking style. Madras Kozhi Kozhambu is a Tamil-style chicken curry with a thick or semi-gravy texture. The dish, of course, has a signature spicy flavor that most citizens in the region adore.
You will find a refreshing and slightly rich flavor from coconut in certain regions too. The dish is often a breakfast choice in this country, but you can enjoy the dish at any time of the day.
Pair the dish with rice or naan (a traditional type of Indian bread). Don’t forget to sneak some chopped coriander before serving the dish to boost the fragrance to another level.
8. Koozh (Millet Porridge)
This millet porridge is a masterpiece of Tamil cuisine with a unique way to enjoy millets. The dish is a typical meal for breakfast in Tamil with an excellent flavor. Cumbu or Kezhvaragu flour (a type of millet) with broken rice are the main ingredients for Koozh.
You can easily run into a street food vendor selling Koozh across the country. People usually make it in large quantities and serve it in smaller containers. If Koozh goes through a fermenting process, it will have a beautiful tangy flavor.
Green chilies, red pepper, and mango are some outstanding pairings for Koozh. The pearl millet variant is one of the healthiest versions with a refreshing taste.
These following sweet treats will satisfy your sweet tooth with a one-of-a-kind flavor that you have never tried before. Explore their taste now!
9. Payasam Or Kheer (Sweet Rice Pudding)
Wondering what is a delicious Tamil specialty to try? Payasam is an excellent option to satisfy your desire. This is a sweet wet pudding often made of milk, rice, and jaggery (or sugar).
Nei Payasam is a popular Payasam variant often associated with God’s food and is served in most temples in Kerala. Other ingredients are rice, jaggery, and sometimes dry fruits from India with coconut bits. Nei Payasam is also a religious dish in Onam and Vishu celebrations.
Another famous variant is Paruppu Payasam. This version has a roasted Moong dal flavor with jaggery syrup. People will garnish the dish with roasted cashew nuts with an extremely creamy flavor.
Desiccated coconut, cardamom, raisins, and other tasty ingredients are some yummy choices that you can pair with Payasam. Feel free to pick the ingredients that fit your taste.
Don’t hesitate and explore how to make Nei Payasam right now!
10. Puttu (Steamed Coconut Cylinders)
Allow me to treat you to an outstanding Tamil sweet course, Puttu. This dessert has a tube-like shape with mouth-watering white color from coconut shavings and rice. The dish could have a sweet or savory flavor, depending on your preference.
Traditionally, Puttu is perfect to pair with grated coconut and jaggery. Sometimes in Tamil Nadu, people add some sweetened coconut milk to enrich the dessert.
Besides rice, people can use other grains to make this dessert. Wheat flour, tapioca, cornflour, or ragi (finger millet) are some tasty choices with a beautiful aroma that you can use to make this treat.
Banana or egg curry are some tasty fillings people often use to substitute coconut. Besides the tube shape, you will find Puttu in a ball shape too; this version is called ‘Manipputtu’.
11. Dosa (Thin Pancake)
Dosa is a special crepe-like sweet course in South India that your family will like. The dish has a thin structure and a pleasant flavor. This pancake is a must-try street food in India with a lovely aroma.
You can have this dish for breakfast or enjoy it as a light snack to refill your energy during the day. Dosa has tons of variants across the country that will amaze you.
Masala Dosa (made from rice) and Rava Dosa (made from semolina) seem to be the most common version. As the pancake is a little thin, you will find it is more crispy than other pancakes in the world.
Tamil people often serve the cake lying on the plate or forming a conical shape. Sambar and chutney are some everyday pairings to boost the flavor for this lovely treat.
12. Idli (Savory Rice Cake)
Trust me! You will be stunned by the incredibly soft texture of this Idli. The treat is traditionally seasoned with a savory taste, but you can expect a delightfully sweet taste from its sweet version.
The batter of this cake includes two main ingredients: rice and fermented black lentils. The most famous variant of Idli is ‘Rava Idli’ with a beautiful aroma from semolina. People usually serve Idli hot with savory condiments like Sambar or Chutney.
This is one of the best Indian sweet courses that you should try. The dish is naturally a vegan and gluten-free dish, but you can add extra ingredients as long as it does not affect your diet. Idli is a healthy choice, so don’t hesitate and grab one now!
This magnificent Idli is a great idea to treat your friends.
13. Filter Kaapi (Indian Filter Coffee)
Want to try an authentic drink from India? This Filter Kaapi from the Southern Indian region will make it to your favorite drink list. Try a glass of this special coffee and wake up your gloomy morning!
In the Southern region of India, people usually offer a cup of tea or coffee to treat their guests. Filter Kaapi is an ideal choice for a delicate welcoming drink. Jaggery, granulated sugar, or honey are typical sweeteners for this drink.
Coffee started getting its position in Indians’ hearts in the early-mid 1900s. Then, in the early 1940s, the unique filter coffee in South India began to gain its reputation. Frothed and boiled milk are mixed with this Kaapi coffee, and the masterpiece is ready to serve.
Usually, you will find the coffee served in a metal tumbler with a Dabarah saucer around. This saucer could be cold to form a unique flavor. This filter coffee is also recognized as a drip brew coffee outside the Indian territory.
14. Idiyappam Or Putu Mayam (Sweet Rice Noodle)
Idiyappam is tasty street food in India with a plain friendly flavor. This dish is prominent in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Traditionally, street food vendors serve Idiyappam with desiccated coconut and sugar blocks.
The name Putu Mayam best depicts this dish. Putu means ‘rice cake’ in Malayan, and Mayam originates from the word ‘Mayang’, which means ‘desiccated coconut’. This is an antique Tamil cuisine that appeared around the 1st century AD.
Tamil citizens make this noodle via a sieve (often a rattan basket with holes). They press the dough through this extraordinary tool to achieve beautiful noodles. Then, people will steam the noodles in this basket for a gentle wood-like scent.
Let’s enjoy these tasty Putu Mayam in the exploding streets of India.
15. Paruppu Poli (Yellow Sweet Flatbread)
It’s not over yet! The Southern region of India will treat you with another sweet course called ‘Paruppu Poli’ right now. The dish, sometimes called ‘Puran Puri’ or ‘Puran Poli’, is a flatbread made out of wheat flour, jaggery, and ghee.
On festival occasions like Bogi and Avani Avittam, you will find local citizens making this cake everywhere to celebrate the festival. You can serve the dish with Payasam on top of it to evoke an outstanding flavor.
Don’t hesitate to toss some bananas on top of the treatment for a touch of fruity flavor. Just like pancakes, the Paruppu Poli flavor matches flawlessly with the sweet taste of bananas.
Little did you know that Tamil cuisine has beautiful snack recipes. This section also has a unique condiment from Tamil. Keep on scrolling and discover them!
16. Chutney (Spicy and Savory Condiment)
Chutney is a unique condiment that has many variants worldwide. This sauce, of course, has a version that follows Tamil Nadu Style with a spectacular flavor and a beautiful thick texture.
In Tamil, you will find the two most common chutney versions with a slightly different flavor. Kara chutney has a piquant flavor and a beautiful reddish-orange color. Coconut chutney, on the other hand, has a gentle flavor with splendid white color.
Chutney is a typical side dish for Dosa or Idli to flavor these plain dishes with a sophisticated savory taste.
17. Bonda (Deep-Fried Bread Balls)
If you feel a little bit hungry in the middle of the day, you can fill your stomach with this Bonda from Tamil. The cover of Bonda has incredible crispiness after being deep-fried, hiding a soft and delicate filling inside.
The dish was first mentioned in a Sanskrit encyclopedia called ‘Manasollasa’ back in the 12th century. These balls can have a sweet or savory feeling to satisfy your taste. Sweet potato, green peas, and bananas are some tasty fillings for the dish that you should try.
Bonda is a popular snack in Kerala. The Banana Bonda seems to be the most adored variant in this region.
18. Murukku (Savory And Crunchy Pastry)
When it comes to Tamil cuisine, you can not skip this delightful Murukku snack that is tremendously crunchy and crispy. The word ‘Murukku’ means ‘twisted’ in Tamil, which depicts the signature appearance of this pastry.
Murukku is made by deep-frying rice flour or urad dal flour until the dough turns a nice golden color. The dough is traditionally twisted to create a spiral or coil shape.
Tamil people usually make this shape by hand or a special mold. It gives you a salty and slightly spicy taste but is very catchy; I admit that once you try it, you may be stunned.
The crispiness of this Murukku will satisfy your hunger.
19. Medhu Vadai (Breakfast Fritter)
Why don’t you give this Indian-version doughnut a shot? I promise that you will fall in love right away! Medhu Vadai originates from Southern India and Sri Lanka cuisines from centuries ago.
The dish is generally made with black lentils or as a combination of all-in lentils to enhance the creaminess and nutrition. You can use the fritter as a handy breakfast with some yogurt or coconut chutney.
Besides, you may want to consume an appropriate portion of the dish because it is a deep-fried food, so it may be a reason to cause diabetes or heart disease.
20. Kozhukattai (Rice Flour Dumplings)
Suppose you are looking for a new recipe to try for dinner, dessert, or basically just a lunch snack, I recommend you try this Kozhukattai, a most-like Indian rice flour dumplings.
The dish is made aggressively during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, one of the essential traditional days. In addition, the dish’s flavor is so delicious, with a gentle creaminess exposed from every single bite.
In fact, these rice dumplings are made with a tender and chewy white dough filled with grated coconut and jaggery syrup. Therefore, it’s not just a creamy taste but also a delightful sweetness that follows behind.
21. Sundal (Chickpea Snack)
Sundal is a traditional Tamil snack that is very popular in many Hindu cuisines, especially on the festival of Navratri celebrated in the autumn season. During this occasion, the religious person tends to look for nutritious dishes to energize their health while taking this ceremony.
Besides hummus, the famous recipe for chickpea originates from the Middle East area, Sundal can also be used for this delightful sundal as a side dish for rice.
Plus, this vegetarian dish is very nutritious and can provide many vitamins, fibers, and minerals. As a result, these nutrients will help you manage your weight or improve your digestive issues.
Although Tamil people are not a large ethnic group, its cuisine inspires many other nations. From India, Sri Lanka, to Malaysia, Tamil culinary culture plays a vital role in the diversity of these countries.
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