When we talk about food in Tamil Nadu, we often tend to limit it to the stereotypical images of idli and sambar. But in reality, there’s a lot more when it comes to the food of this state. To get a taste of its authentic cuisines, it only makes sense to get a taste of these dishes when you’re actually in the state of Tamil Nadu. Only then would you see its rich culture and heritage reflect on every bite you savor. To help you relish the same, we have curated a list of 10 traditional delicacies of Tamil Nadu that you must try.
Let’s begin by taking a look at one of the best appetizers of Tamil Nadu, Rasam. If you’re someone who has a soft corner for spice, then you have to try this. This steaming hot, spicy-tangy curry dish is a great start to a good South Indian meal. And the credit for its mind-blowing flavor goes to the black pepper, tomatoes, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and other spices.
Don’t fall for the light reddish-brown color of rasam. Pour it over some rice and it almost looks like it didn’t make any difference. But the bursting taste of spices and tomatoes, speaks volumes. While you can enjoy a steaming cup of rasam just about any time of the year, the monsoon and winters are particularly famous to enjoy this curry. During the winter it could even be your dragon that throws fire on its foes! That’s right, the spice element in Rasam makes it a great armor against the cold.
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One of the go-to desserts of Tamilians is the Paruppu Payasam. Paruppu is nothing but moong dal, which is the main lead of this exquisite dessert. If there’s an auspicious occasion coming up on the calendar, you’re meant to expect the special appearance of Paruppu Payasam on the menu. Also, as moong dal is known to have a cooling effect on the body, it is a great drink for the summer.
All that goes into preparing this divine dessert is moong dal, coconut milk, jaggery, ghee, and nuts to garnish. The roasted moong dal is blanketed with the sweet touch of jaggery and the richness of coconut milk to make this heavenly sweet. The rich, creamy concoction is like a party in your mouth. So the next time you’re treated to a traditional Tamil meal, do make sure you conclude it with the lip-smacking sweetness of Paruppu Payasam.
Walk through the streets of Tamil Nadu and you’re sure to find a vendor selling this popular dish called Koozh. And unlike other street foods which have a bad reputation for being unhealthy, this one is a high-nutritious porridge cooked in a clay pot. With finger millet or Ragi as the constant, it has many variations to it and is absolutely delicious!
The show-stopper in this popular dish is the raw mango spiced with chili and salt, which leaves an edgy, tangy flavor to it. Other ingredients include onions, green chilies, and buttermilk. Though it is generally known to be a vegetarian dish, you can also add a non-vegetarian twist to it by adding fish, chicken, or crab. Koozh is an ideal breakfast in Tamil households but, you don’t really need to wait for the right time to relish a bowl of this porridge.
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Starbucks might be your fancy choice, but given a chance you must try a cup of piping hot Filter Kaapi or Filter Coffee. You’ll certainly turn into a Filter Kaapi fan for life! It is a typical choice of beverage in every Tamil household. So, make sure to kick off your mornings with a lip-smacking cup of Filter Kaapi when in Tamil Nadu. Other than the amazing taste, it’s also fun to watch the process of whipping up a cup of Kaapi.
To make a steaming cup, roasted coffee beans are finely ground to a size that’s good to go in an Indian filter coffee pot. Hot water is poured into the filter filled with coffee grounds, and the concoction is topped off with boiling milk and some sugar. Then they keep pouring the coffee from a brass glass into a Dabarah (a brass bowl or saucer-like utensil) until all ingredients are mixed well. When you see the locals do it, you can almost see the coffee fly in the air! The end result is a frothy glass of Filter Kaapi and your surroundings embraced by the warm aroma of coffee.
Sundal is a simple yet delicious traditional dish of Tamil Nadu. Here’s what goes into making it - legumes (gram or black chickpeas), coconut, spices, and curry leaves. The cooked legumes are then tempered with coconut, onion, ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves.
Tamilians consider Sundal to be a quick evening snack and also a holy offering to their gods on auspicious occasions. Navratri, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, and Varalakshmi Vratham are popular occasions when you’re sure to find Sundal prepared in a Tamil household and temples.
If you’re looking for a traditional Tamil Nadu non-vegetarian dish, Chicken Chettinad has to be at the top of your list. It is a specialty of the Chettiyar community of Tamil Nadu. The taste might vary from one region to another, but it is constantly an ultimate package of spice and flavorful aroma.
Chicken marinated in yogurt, and spices like coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and other flavors make it one of the best non-vegetarian dishes you’ll ever have. And the best way to savor it is to serve it with steaming hot rice or fluffy rice flour parathas. By trying Chicken Chettinad you’ll be adding a whole new taste to your palette.
It’s hard to miss one of the most crispy and savory snacks of Tamil Nadu when it comes to their traditional food. Murukku means ‘twisted’ in Tamil, and it fits perfectly with the look of this item. This snack is made in a twisted or spiral shape that comes in a flavor that makes you binge eat it with some tea.
Murukku is prepared with rice flour and urad dal mixed with water, salt, cumin seeds, asafoetida, and red chili powder. These ingredients are mixed together and kneaded into a dough, which is then molded into spiral shapes and deep fried till it gets a golden color finish. Many of you might also know this snack by other names depending on the state you’re in, like Chakli in Maharashtra. If you’re in Tamil Nadu, you need to try some Murukku to compliment your sweet hot tea.
No, we haven’t lost focus. We’re still talking about Tamil Nadu’s traditional foods and not its festivals. Sharing its name with the state’s harvest festival of Pongal is the traditional dish of Pongal. To celebrate this festival women get together and prepare Pongal in colorful clay pots. The name Pongal means “bubbling up” in Tamil, and it makes sense as it is prepared by boiling rice, moong dal, milk, and other ingredients.
There are about four varieties of Pongal - Sakkarai Pongal (made during Pongal with jaggery), Venn Pongal (made with ghee), Puli Pongal (made with tamarind), and Melagu Pongal (made with pepper). Whether you customize it to be sweet or savory, this mushy mixture with a heavenly flavor is sure to make a place in your heart and belly. Pongal is not just a special dish for festivals, but also a great breakfast option. Accompany it with some crispy snacks and chutney, and relish this South Indian version of the North Indian Khichdi.
Ever tried the famous South Indian Tamarind rice? If not, this is your cue to go for it. Puliodarai is nothing but Tamil Nadu’s version of Tamarind rice. It is a mix of spice and sour, naturally as it has tamarind and other delectable spices in it.
Puliyodarai is prepared by cooking rice along with tamarind pulp, sprinkled with special masala made especially for this dish. Tamilians even keep this as an offering to God on special occasions. When you try Puliyodarai, don’t forget to pair it with some crispy fryums or papads or just fresh curd.
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What better way to end the list than with a sweet traditional dish of Banana Bonda? It is pretty obvious that the main character in this dish is a banana. These are basically crispy, round, deep-fried wheat balls with ingredients like banana, and sweet peas as the tasty stuffing.
Originally, Bondas were stuffed wheat balls that have a crispy outer covering and soft potatoes and veggies within. These serve as great snacks to do with tea. But if you’re someone who loves sweets, you would love to try this sweet variation of Bondas that’ll surely make you go bananas!
These are some of the best authentic traditional delicacies of Tamil Nadu. So the next time someone tells you Idli-Sambar is the main food of Tamil Nadu, you can bash the stereotypes by listing these scrumptious dishes. Go ahead and try them all, so you get to know more about the culinary delights of the state.
What Is The Most Traditional Food Of Tamil Nadu?
Some of the most popular traditional foods of Tamil Nadu are:
Why Is Tamil Nadu Food Famous?
Tamil Nadu’s food is pretty popular all around the country and the credit for the same goes for its unique flavors like the sweet infusions, spicy, and tangy twists. Also, the inclusion of several vegetables in a dish be it veg or non-veg makes it pretty popular.
What Is Tamil Nadu Speciality?
Tamil Nadu is known for its ancient and magnificent temples, cool hill stations, traditional food, and rich cultural heritage.
Which Sweet Is Famous In Tamil Nadu?
One of the most popular deserts of Tamil Nadu is the Payasam. It is a creamy dessert made with milk, vermicelli, rice, green grams, or chickpeas.
Which Spice Is Famous In Tamil Nadu?
There are about 63 spices grown all over India, of which the majority are grown in Tamil Nadu. Some of the famous spices found in Tamil Nadu are chili, pepper, cardamom, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, ginger, and garlic.
Is Tamil Nadu Food Spicy?
This depends on the dish you choose to eat. All in all, Tamil Nadu offers a wide range of dishes with a combination of spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors.
Is Idli A Tamil Food?
Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu claim to have introduced the dish Idli, however, there’s no evidence to support these claims. But yes, Idli is a popular dish in Tamil Nadu.
Why Is Tamil Food So Healthy?
South Indian food is often considered to be healthy because of the inclusion of a variety of spices, plenty of vegetables, and cooking methods like fermentation.