Tuesday, 19 August 2014

South Indian Food: A Vegetarian's Delight

                         Idli Sambar

Many people around the world are adopting vegetarianism as a mode of life. While some people take up a vegetarian diet for spiritual reasons, others do it for an environmental cause. According to the United Nations, livestock is one of the biggest contributors to environmental problems in the world. But one of the main reasons why adopting a vegetarian diet is good is because it boosts and improves your health to a great extent. With various programmes and initiatives, a lot of people are being encouraged to give up meat at least for a few days in a week. Unique initiatives like Meatless Monday are thriving in many countries like Brazil, Croatia, USA and Canada. These are aimed at helping people reduce their meat intake in an effective and organized manner.

According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet is extremely safe and healthy for all categories of people from pregnant mothers to children to athletes as long as they are planned in a proper way. A lot of research has proved that eating less meat reduces the risk of heart disease and perhaps even type 2 diabetes and some form of cancer. Vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and tend to be much less prone to obesity, therefore putting them at a lower risk of chronic diseases. In other words, a vegetarian diet tends to be low in total fat, and vegetarians tend to eat proportionally more polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat compared with non-vegetarians. (Animal products are the major sources of dietary saturated fat).

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In this regard, South Indian food has a wide variety of vegetarian dishes that are high on taste, flavor and nutrition. They are immensely popular in many South Indian vegetarian dining houses as they truly depict the cuisine of the region. Some popular vegetarian South Indian dishes include the following:

Idli Sambar: A traditional breakfast dish in South Indian homes, idli sambar is extremely nutritious, healthy, tasty and delicious. Idli is generally made from a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. The fermentation process breaks down the starches, ensuring that it is easily digested by the human body. There are many variations of idlis available in restaurants and they are generally served with sambar or chutney. Sambar and idli today is one of the best possible combination as they completely balance each other in terms of flavor and taste. 

Authentic Coconut Chutney: Another important dish of South India that enjoys immense popularity is authentic coconut chutney. This serves as a perfect accompaniment with many dishes like dosa, vada and idli. Besides every state and restaurant have their own unique recipe of creating authentic coconut chutney, thereby adding a unique twist to this ever popular dish. 
                        Authentic Coconut Chutney

Rasam: Prepared using tamarind juice as a base with addition of tomatoes, chilli pepper, cumin and various types of seasoning and spices, rasam is a form of South Indian soup. Nowadays, rasam powder is easily available in the market, so those fond of cooking can easily make this dish at home. Eaten either as spicy soup or with rice, it has a distinct flavor that is different from sambar though they both might look similar. Rasam has many health benefits as it provides the human body with a good dose of vitamin A and C due to the addition of tomatoes and acidic fruits. It is hence a very good vegetarian dish that provides the body with a lot of nutritional benefits. 

In conclusion, south Indian cuisines is extremely versatile in terms of flavor, taste, nutrition and variety. By properly integrating all aspects of culinary science and techniques in cooking, South Indian dishes have today gained immense popularity not just in India but on a global platform as well. 

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