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South Indian cuisine

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South Indian cuisine

South Indian cuisine includes the cuisines found in the five southern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

Similarities and differences among cuisines

The similarities among the five states' cuisines include the presence of rice as a staple food, the use of lentils and spices, dried red chilies and fresh green chilies, coconut, and native fruits and vegetables including tamarind, plantain, snake gourd, garlic, and ginger. The four cuisines have much in common and differ primarily in the spiciness of the food.

jowar, while the Telangana state uses more jowar and bajra. Consumption of rice is more common among certain Brahmin communities.

Andhra food

Pesarattu served with Ginger Pachadi
The cuisines of Andhra are the spiciest in all of India. Generous use of chili powder and tamarind make the dishes tangy and hot. The majority of a diverse variety of dishes are vegetable- or lentil-based.

Regional variations

The three regions of Andhra Pradesh have their own variations. Telangana region shares some of the Central Indian and Vidharba region of Maharashtra. The area has more jowar- and bajra-based rotis in their main staple menu.

The Rayalaseema district shares borders with eastern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and its cuisine has similarities to that of those regions.

The more fertile Andhra coastal region has a long coastline along the Bay of Bengal, and its cuisine has a distinctive flavor with various seafood. Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, has its own characteristic cuisine, which is considerably different from other Andhra cuisines. The Nizams patronise the Hyderabadi cuisine, which is very much like the Nawabs of the Avadh and Lucknowi cuisine. The only difference is that the Nizams of Hyderabad prefer their food to be spicier, resulting in the Hyderabadi cuisine, which includes kacche gosht ki biryani, dum ka murgh, baghara baingan, and achaari subzi during the reign of the Nizams.

Popular Andhra dishes


Tiffins: pesarattu (mung bean pancake), attu, bobbatlu, pulihora or pulihaara (tamarind & lemon rice), upma

Pickles (pachhallu): ఊరగాయి(ఆవకాయి)(cut raw mango) pickle, maaghaya, gongura pachadi, pandumirapakayala pachadi, tomato pachadi, allam (ginger) pachadi, dosakaya pachadi, dosavakaya, chintakaya (tamarind)

Curries (kooralu): gutti vankaya, bendakaya fry, dondakaya fry, cabbage pesara pappu, carrot fry

Pappu (lentils)(పప్పు) varieties: thotakura (amaranthpigeon pea stew) pappu, chukkakoora pappu, menthikura pappu, palakura pappu (spinach – pigeon pea dal), dosakaya (yellow cucumber – pigeon pea stew), tomato, beerakaya, sorakaya

Pulusu: palakoora pulusu, sorakaya pulusu, thotakoora pulusu, anapakaya pulusu, gongura pulusu koora

Chaaru: tomato chaaru, miriyala chaaru (pepper), ulava chaaru

Chaaru and curd variations: perugupachadi/majjiga chaaru with potlakaya (snake gourd), sorakaya (bottle gourd)

Snacks: sakinalu, chekkalu, murukulu, jantikalu, chakkilalu

Sweets: pootarekulu, kaaja, ravva laddu, boondi laddu, pesara laddu, sunnundalu, thokkudu laddu, ariselu, nuvvula laddu

Chutney and pickles

Raw pachadi-vankaya pachadi, dosakaya vanakaya pachadi, tomato pachadi, cabbage pachadi, pickles of avakaya (mango), usirikaya (Indian gooseberry), ginger, citroen, gongura, tomato, garlic


Hyderabadi biriyani and various Hyderabadi meat dishes make up part of Hyderabadi cuisine. The rest of Andhra cuisine has a various versions of lamb and chicken, and the coastal region has extensive varieties of seafood. Dishes include kodi iguru (chicken stew), kodi pulusu (chicken gravy), chepa pulusu (fish stew), fish fry and prawn curry.

Karnataka food

Lunch from Karnataka served on a plantain leaf.

Karnataka cuisine is very diverse. Described as the mildest in terms of spice content of the four southern states' cuisines, there is a generous use of jaggery, palm sugar and little use of chili powder. Since the percentage of vegetarians in Karnataka is higher than other southern states, vegetarian food enjoys widespread popularity. Udupi cuisine forms an integral part of Karnataka cuisine.

Regional Karnataka cuisine

North Karnataka cuisine

In north Karnataka, the staple grains are jowar and bajra. Rottis made out of these two grains, along with side dishes made of eggplant, fresh lentil salads, spiced and stewed lentils are popular. North Karnatakans also consume a variety of spicy condiments including chutney powders and pickles. Of all the other regional cuisines in Karnataka, this is known for its fiery spice level and heat. Eateries called Khanavalli, often run by families, serve inexpensive but tasty home-style food. Most of them are run by Veerashaivaa and are vegetarian, but Khanavallis serving non-vegetarian food are not uncommon.

Coastal Karnataka cuisine

The cuisine of coastal Karnataka is marked by widespread use of seafood, coconut and coconut oil. Rice is the staple grain and is the centerpiece of every meal. Gravies called "gassi" made from chicken, fish, meats are served with rice. Lentils and vegetables cooked with coconut, spices and tempered with mustard, curry leaves, and generous asafoetida, in a dish called huli, is also served with rice. A rasam-like preparation called Saaru, is also served with rice. The meal will also contain vegetable side dishes called palya. Other accompaniments include curd-based tambli, sweet-tangy gojju, pickles and happala, sandige(fryums) or papads. Some of the distinct breakfast foods served here include bun, biscuit rotti, goli bajji, and patrode.

Popular pickles dishes include appemidi (found in Dandeli forest), bettada nelli, lemon, amateykai, and mixed vegetables. Chutneys varieties include ground nut chutnety, coconut chutney, and onion chutney.

Coorgi cuisine

Kokum is generously used in their cooking. The staple food remains rice and rice-based preparations like kadambattu, steamed rice dumplings and rice rottis.

South Karnataka cuisine

The south Karnataka or the old Mysore cuisine is dominated by ragi, or finger millet, and rice. Ragi in the form of ragi mudde of dumplings or steamed rice is the centerpiece of a meal. Often served with these two dishes are vegetable sides or palya, gojju, pickles, tovve (mildly-spiced lentils laced with ghee), huli (lentil curry), and tili saaru (a peppery, thin, watery curry almost like rasam). Certain preparations like bas saaru (is a spiced lentil with vegetable or greens stock, along with seasoned vegetables or greens), Upp Saaru (a lentil stock-based accompaniment to rice or mudde), Mosoppu (mashed spiced greens), and Maskai (mashed spiced vegetables), are typical homestyle food from south Karnataka.

Avare kal (Indian beans) is a popular vegetable consumed during winter. They are used in a variety of dishes including usali, upma, huli, and hitakida bele saaru. Rice preparations usually served as the second course of a traditional meals include bisi bele baath, chitranna, and hulianna.

Yogurt is a typical part of every meal in all the regions of Karnataka and is probably the most popular dairy product. Generally, yogurt with rice constitute the final course of a meal. Buttermilk laced with spices and curry leaves is also served with meals, especially during the summer. Ghee and butter are popular cooking mediums for those who can afford them, and are mostly reserved for festivals and special occasions.

Udupi hotels

The credit for popularising these foods elsewhere in India goes to Udupi hotels. In north India, Udupi hotels are often synonymous with south Indian food, even though the range of foods they serve is mostly restricted to the Karnataka cuisine. These small establishments serve inexpensive vegetarian breakfast dishes throughout the day all over India. The hotels are mostly run by people native to the Canara region. The famous masala dosa traces its origin to Udupi cuisine and was subsequently popularised by Udupi restaurants.

Karnataka dishes

People from Karnataka are notorious for their sweet tooth. Mysore pak, obbattu/holige, dharwad pedha, pheni, and chiroti are popular sweets. Other lesser-known sweets include "hungu," kajjaya, coconut mithai, karjikai, rave unde, sajapa, pakada pappu, chigali, a variety of kadubus, tambittu, paramanna, and hayagreeva. Most of these sweets are not milk-based, unlike the popular sweetmaking tradition elsewhere in India, but rather are made using jaggery instead of refined sugar.

Some typical breakfast dishes include masala Dosa, ragi rotti, akki rotti, Vangibath, menthya baath, tamato baath, khara baath, kesari baath, shavige baath, davanagere benne dosa, uppittu, plain and rave idli, mysore masala dosa, kadubu, poori, and avalakki.

Lunch items include (sambar) huli, (rasam) thili, kootu, gojju, a delicacy called bisi bele baath, chitranna, kosambri (salad), pachadi, and mosaru bajji.

Snack items include kodabale, chakkali, nippatu, maddur vade, aamb vade, golli bajji, and mangalore bun.

Kerala food

a typical Kerala lunch on plaintain leaf
Syrian Christian fish curry

Kerala cuisine is very diverse, a diversity is best classified on the basis of the various communities. The Syrian Christian dishes and Malabari Muslim dishes are famous. Since Kerala's main export is coconuts, almost all of the dishes, irrespective of the variety in the cuisines of the different communities, have coconuts associated with them, either in the form of shavings or oil extracted from the nut. Seafood is also very popular in the coastal regions and eaten almost every day.

Popular Kerala dishes:

Vegetarian: olan, paalpradaman, nendarangai chips, aviyal, pulissery, erucherri, sambar, rasam, kalan, upperis, pachady, and kichadi

Non-vegetarian: shrimp coconut curry, fish curry (various versions depending on the region), fish fry, chicken fry with shredded coconuts, fish pickle, podimeen fry, meen thoran (fish with coconut), karimeen (pearl spot fish) pollichathu, shrimp masala, chicken stew, mutton stew, duck curry, malabari fish curry, kakka (shells) thoran, kalllumekka, crabs, malabar biriyani, thalassery biriyani, pearl spot fish, jewel fish, mussels, squid, kappa boiled, kappa (tapioca) vevichathu with non- vegetarian curries

Malabar biriyani is a rice cuisine using khyma rice instead of basmati rice. The main variants are thalassery biriyani and kozhikode biryani.[1]

Snacks: upperi, payasam, banan fry (ethaykkappam or pazham pori), ullivada, kozhukkatta, avalosunda, unniyappam, neeyyappam, unnaykka, thira, churuttu, boli, modhakam, paal vazhaykka, cutlets, halwas, cakes, vattayappam, kinnathappam, and irattymadhuram

Breakfast: puttu (with banana or kadala curry, egg curry, or beef fry), Appam (velayappam, palappam) with curry, vegetable stew, fish molee, chicken or mutton stew, beef curry, duck roast, pork masala, and idiyappam, pidi with mutton curry or chicken curry, porotta with chicken curry or mutton curry, idli, dosai with chutney, kanji with dry beans, pickle, pappad made with coconut

Typical Indian masala dosa (Kerala style), is a combination of shredded, cooked, and fried vegetables with Indian sauce and several spices as the basic stuffing, enveloped by a thick brown dosa made out of a dal and rice batter. To embellish this unique preparation, it is served with hot sambhar and coconut chutney.

Tamil food

Veg Meals in Tamil Nadu traditionally served in banana leaf
Idli-Sambar,a typical Tamil breakfast dish.
Dosa with chutney and sambar traditionally served in banana leaf
Medhu Vadai is a popular snack in Tamil Nadu served with chutneys.
Masala Dosa as served in Tamil Nadu, India.Masala dosa was listed as one of the World's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN
Veg Mini Meals in Tamil Nadu served with Sambar rice,Tamarind rice, Curd rice, Sweet Pongal,Chappathi with gravy and chips.
Murukku, a crunchy savoury.
Homemade Tamil Nadu Fish Fry

A typical Tamil meal consists of many spicy and non-spicy dishes. Except for Brahmins and a couple of non-Brahmin castes, Tamils eat more non-vegetarian food. However, on a typical day, a Tamil family will eat mostly vegetarian food, and the intake of meat is much lower compared to Western countries. Many of these dishes are typically mixed and eaten with steamed rice, which is the staple food of the region.

Tamil cuisine groups dishes under five slightly overlapping categories.

Gravy dishes to be mixed in rice

First are the dishes that necessarily are mixed with rice. The sub-categories under this head are: kuzhambu, sambhar, Paripu, rasam, thayir, and kadaiyals. There is a great variety of dishes under each sub-category. For example, under "kuzhambu", common dishes include kaara kuzhambu, poondu kuzhambu, vaththal kuzhambu, payaRRuk kuzhambu, mOr kuzhambu.


Foods in the second category are the side dishes that accompany such mixtures, including kootu, kari, poriyal, Pickles in India and Pakistan, and Papadum.

Standalone snacks

In the third category are the short snacks and their accompaniments, including vadai, bonda, bajji, soups, various chutneys, and thayir Pachadi.


The fourth category encompasses the rich, sweet dishes that serve as desserts, including payasam, kheer, Kesari bhath and a plethora of other Indian sweets.

Fast foods, or light meals

The fifth category includes "tiffin," or light meals, which includes various types of idlis, dosai, poori, pongal, uppma, idiyappam, aappam, adai, parotta, and paniyaram. Preparations from the fifth category are served for breakfast and dinner, but usually not as a midday meal.

Tamil cuisine offers primarily light breakfast, lighter dinner, a heavy midday meal and evening snacks, often served with tea or coffee. The rasam is mixed with rice, usually eaten accompanied by crisps. The last of the courses will invariably be rice with curd or yogurt, usually taken along with pickles.

Throughout the meal, the side dishes are served and eaten with the courses, depending upon one's taste or choice. Side dishes are constantly replenished during any meal. Desserts are served as a last course. After the meal, guests retire to the living room and conclude with banana and freshly made paan, consisting of betel leaves, betel nuts and lime. Paan is considered a digestive aid.

Tamil non-vegetarian meals are similar, except that the first and second courses are usually replaced by various biryanis and non-vegetarian gravies.

In either case, a typical meal (lunch or dinner) will be served on a banana leaf. Meals are often accompanied by various pickles and appalams.

Food is generally classified into six tastes–sweet, sour, salt, bitter, pungent and astringent. Traditional Tamil cuisine recommends that one includes all of these six tastes in each main meal eaten. Each taste has a balancing ability and including some of each provides complete nutrition, minimises cravings and balances the appetite and digestion.

  • Sweet: milk, butter, sweet cream, wheat, ghee (clarified butter), rice, and honey
  • Sour: limes and lemons, citrus fruits, yogurt, mango, and tamarind
  • Salty: salt or pickles
  • Bitter: bitter gourd, greens of many kinds, turmeric, and fenugreek
  • Pungent: chili peppers, ginger, black pepper, clove, and mustard
  • Astringent: beans, lentils, turmeric, vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage, and cilantro

Chettinad cuisine

Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of a variety of spices in preparing mainly non-vegetarian food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas, and topped with a boiled egg that is usually considered an essential part of a meal. They also use a variety of sun-dried meats and salted vegetables, reflecting the dry environment of the region. The meat is restricted to fish, prawn, lobster, crab, chicken and mutton. Chettiars do not eat beef and pork.

Most of the dishes are eaten with rice and rice-based accompaniments such as dosais, appams, idiyappams, adais and idlis. The Chettinad people, through their mercantile contacts with Burma, learnt to prepare a type of rice pudding made with sticky red rice.

Chettinad cuisine offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Some of the popular vegetarian dishes include idiyappam, paniyaram, vellai paniyaram, karuppatti paniyaram, paal paniyaram, kuzhi paniyaram, kozhakattai, masala paniyaram, adikoozh, kandharappam, seeyam, masala seeyam, kavuni arisi and athirasam.

Popular Chettinad dishes:

Vegetarian:kevar kalli, idli, sambar, vadai, rasam, dosa, thayir sadam (yogurt rice), thayir vadai (yogurt-soaked fritters), kootu (vegetables in wet style), poriyal/kari (vegetables in dry style), murukku, uthappam, idiappam, appalam (deep fried lentil-flour crisps) and papadum (baked lentil-flour crips), freshly made thayir pachidi (yogurt mixed with fresh vegetables)

Non-vegetarian: karuvattu kuzhambu (salted, dried fish in sauce), chettinad pepper chicken, fish fry, and Kanji with "old fish" gravy


  1. ^ My Singapore Kitchen : Thalassery Biriyani
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