Monday, 7 April 2014

The Best of South Indian Cuisines

Cuisines from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu all form part of the South Indian cuisine group. Most South Indian dishes are rice based and it is also combined with lentils to make dosa, idli, vadas and uttapams. These items are not just high in terms of nutrition but are also extremely delicious and popular throughout the country.

Kerala cuisines is a perfect mix between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. While the Hindus, particularly the Nambudiris and Nairs have a predominant South Indian Vegetarian dining, the Christian and the Muslim communities lean towards a more non-vegetarian dominated cuisine. Since Kerala has a lot of coconut trees, coconut finds its way into most of the dishes of the state. Additionally, seafood in the state is popular and enjoyed by a lot of people around the state.
Andhra cuisine is the most spiciest of all Indian cuisines with a generous dose of chili powder and tamarind that make their dishes extra tangy and spicy. There are three major areas of Andhra Pradesh namely Telengana, Rayalaseema and coastal region have their own unique set of cuisines with their own set of dishes. The capital of the state, Hyderabad has its own characteristic cuisine that is heavily influenced by Nizams or Muslim rulers.

The south Indian dishes that form a part of the Karnataka cuisine are very diverse and unique. It is relatively less spicier than the rest of the South Indian cuisine and there is generous dosage of sugar and jaggery in most of their dishes. Also vegetarian dishes are much more popular in the state and Udupi cuisine forms an integral part of the cuisine of the state. The cuisine of the state can be divided into four categories namely North Karnataka cuisine, coastal Karnataka cuisine, Coorgi cuisine and South Karnataka cuisine.

Tamilian cuisine on the other hand is a perfect mix between spicy and non-spicy dishes. It is again dominated more by non-vegetarian dishes than vegetarian dishes. The dominance of rice is also prevalent as it is one of the most staple food of the region. There are five main categories of Tamilian cuisine namely gravy dishes to be mixed in rice, accompaniments (mixtures like kootu, kari,poriyal, pickles, and papadum), standalone snacks (vadai,bonda,bajji, soups, various chutneys, and thayir Pachadi), dessert, fast foods, or light meals (various types of idlis, dosai, poori, pongal, uppma, idiyappam, aappam, etc.).

So while most dishes of the South Indian cuisines might still be only popular among their respective states, some of the South Indian dishes have managed to cross the national barriers and enjoy national and sometimes even global popularity. The three most popular among them are dosa, idli, and vada.

Dosa is a pancake made by combining rice batter and lentils and is popular  in almost all the South Indian as well as in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Considered as highly nutritious and tasty it is rich in carbohydrates with almost no sugar or saturated fats. It is also gluten free and is rich in proteins and vitamins as well. Dosa is also stuffed with vegetables and sauces to make a quick meal and are usually served with a combination of chutneys and sambar. Due to its high level popularity, dosa enjoys a special place among South Indian restaurants that are spread across the country.

A traditional breakfast in most South Indian home and highly popular in restaurants across the country is Idli Sambar which is made from a batter of fermented black lentils and rice. Generally eaten as a snack or during breakfast, idlis are served in pairs and are accompanied with chutney and sambar. There are a number of variations of the original idli that are being used in various restaurants depending upon the availability of time and choice of the cook. From mallige idli to rave idli, restaurants are always trying to innovate and bring unique dishes to customers to enrich and delight their taste palate.

A popular snack from South India that enjoys popularity all over the world is vada which is generally prepared at home but is also found in all major restaurants and street corners. Known as vades in South Africa, they are also very popular in the Indian railways where they are available as a snack all through the day. Bele vada (masala vadai) and Uddina vada (medhu vada) are the two major forms of vada. While Bele vada is made from split dehusked black chickpeas, Uddina vada is made from dehusked black lentils. Also while bele vada is circular and slightly flat, uddina veda is wheel shaped with a hole in the middle. Both are enjoyed better with either chutney or sambar of any kind.

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