When one thinks of South Indian food, unfortunately, most of us cannot think beyond idly, dosa, sambhar or coconut chutney. South Indian food, is far more than the conventional foods that we know of. In fact, food preparations and food choices vary even within one state. Many different regions in a state have their own speciality and unique food preparation styles.
Let us have a look at some South Indian states and how the food varies even within the state.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two states in South India, are known for their rich cultural heritage and unique culinary traditions. The diverse geography and climate of these regions have contributed to the development of a variety of food specialities that are famous across the country.
Let’s explore some of the popular food specialities from different regions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
This region is known for its spicy and flavourful cuisine. There are various ingredients and special Rayalaseema spices that they experiment with and that are distinct from regular Indian food, giving it its unique flavours.
Among the most renowned dishes is the Natu Kodi Pulusu, a thick and flavorful Rayalaseema chicken gravy that incorporates three main ingredients – Guntur chilli powder, garlic, and coconut. Another beloved delicacy from the region is the Kadapa Karam dosa, which is served with a range of spicy chutneys.
Other signature dishes that are unique to the region include Ragi Sangati, Alasanda Vada, Pachi Pulusu, among others.
The coastal region of Andhra Pradesh is known for its rice, lentils and seafood delicacies. The spicy fish curry, Bommidayila Pulusu, is a must-try dish, made with local fish, tamarind, and spices. Another popular seafood dish is the Royyala Vepudu, a spicy shrimp fry. The region is also famous for its traditional sweets like Ariselu and Bobbatlu.
This region includes places like Vishakhapatnam, Viziangaram, Srikakulam. This is yet another coastal region, but the food pallet here is completely different. The food here has a sweeter touch, and the use of jaggery is common in this region. The curries prepared in this region are unique as they make use of different gravy bases like ‘avapettina kura’ (mustard seed paste), nuvvugunda kura (sesame paste) and menthinapettina kura (fenugreek seed paste)
Some well-known foods from this area include: murkku, booralu, anabshahi, putharekulu etc.
This region is famous for its Hyderabadi cuisine, which is a blend of Mughal, Turkish, and Arabic influences. The Hyderabadi Biryani is a must-try dish, made with long-grained rice, meat, and spices. Another popular dish is the Haleem, a thick porridge-like preparation made with meat, lentils, and wheat. The food is known to be rich and delicious including heavy curries made from mutton.
The cuisines of Karnataka are said to date back right up to the Iron Age, which makes it one of the oldest surviving cuisines. Its ingredients and preparation styles are inspired by its neighbouring states. But most dishes are particular to their own region:
North Karnataka is known for its spicy and flavourful dishes. One of the popular dishes from this region is Jolada rotti, a thick unleavened bread made from jowar flour, which is typically served with spicy curries like yennegai or spicy brinjal curry, jhunka, soppina palya and kaalu playa, among others.
Another famous dish from this region is the Dharwad peda, a milk-based sweet made from khova.
South Karnataka, including Bengaluru and Mysuru, is famous for its diverse cuisine. One of the popular dishes is Mysore masala dosa, a crispy dosa filled with spicy potato curry, served with coconut chutney, sambar, and spicy red chutney. Mandya is known for its use of ragi with traditional dishes like ‘Ragi mudde’ or steamed ragi balls, even ragi roti among others.
South Karnataka also offers some popular rice varieties like Kesari bath or saffron rice, Vangi bath or brinjal rice, Bisi Bele bath or lentil rice, hot and sour rice and even rotis made of rice flour which are known as ‘akki rotti’.
Coastal Karnataka, also known as the Karavali region, is famous for its seafood delicacies. One of the popular dishes is Mangalorean fish curry, which is made with fresh fish cooked in a coconut-based gravy with a blend of spices. Another famous dish from this region is the neer dosa, a soft, fluffy dosa made from rice batter and served with spicy fish curry or coconut chutney.
Yet another factor that makes Mangalorean food stand out is the use of coconut oil. This lends a very distinct flavour to the foods. Other famous dishes in the region include Korri rotti, Koli ghassi, Goli bajje, Kadale manoli, Buns etc.
The Malnad region, located in the Western Ghats, is known for its lush greenery and beautiful waterfalls. It is also famous for its unique cuisine, which includes dishes like akki rotti, a rice-based flatbread, and koli saaru, a spicy chicken curry made with a blend of spices and herbs.
Some authentic dishes from Malenadu include Pathrode, Menthya saasve, Pandi saaru, and thambuli.
The Kodagu cuisine includes extensive use of rice. The regional food gets its distinct tangy flavour because of the use of a peculiar vinegar known as ‘Kachampuli’. This ingredient mixed in curries of various types of meat like mutton, chicken and pork is its signature dish.
These are some of the traditional Kodagu dishes: Pandi curry with pork, thambattu, papputtu, or Noolputtu among others.
The cuisine of Tamil Nadu is so much beyond the typical Sambar and filter coffee. The different regions of the state are home to some unique food varieties that are a blend of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian foods.
Regions of Madurai and Tirunelvelli are the regions to go for the authentic ‘kothu parrotta’. This is paired with some mouth-watering meat-based curries including mutton, chicken and fish.
A popular sweet drink named ‘Jigarthanda’ also originated in Madurai. Paaruthi paal, palkova and Pongal are other famous dishes from Madurai.
This is the southernmost tip of India and is covered by water on all sides. Being a coastal region, fish is understandably the staple of this region. Fish preparations from here are unique to this region and stand out for their lip-smacking flavours. This is best paired with rice. Authentic dishes from this area are kothu, pazham pori, maravazhi kilangu etc.
We all would have at least heard of the spicy yet delicious Chettinad Chicken, this chicken preparation originated from the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu.
This region has flavours that stand out due to the extensive use of spices like black pepper, cinnamon, dry red chillies and tamarind. The spicy hot curries are best paired with paniyarams, iddiuppams, and uttapams.
Kongunadu cuisine stands apart from Chettinadu cuisine with its minimal use of certain spices and emphasis on pepper, jeera, and fresh turmeric. This home-style cooking employs locally sourced ingredients like freshwater fish and country chicken, cooked in gingelly or coconut oil. Popular regional dishes include Kambu dosa, Vazhapoo vada, Arisi paruppu sadam, Nannari sherbet, Thenga Paal, Ulundu Kali, and Kachayam, among others.
Being at the Southwestern border of India, Kerala has been a melting pot of influences from many cultures and cuisines due to it being a prominent trading point.
Food from Kerala is characterized by the immense use of coconut, coconut milk, and even coconut oil which gives the food a typical taste. Rice is a staple food throughout Kerala, but the commonly used rice in the area is red-boiled rice and its variants.
This is a popular cuisine of Kerala, it is influenced by Arab, Dutch, and Portuguese cuisines due to its historical trading links. The use of beef, mutton and fish is famous in this region.
Some famous dishes of the Malabari cuisine are the Malabari biryani, Malabar Parrotta, among other non-vegetarian dishes.
Being a typical coastal area, fish is consumed in abundance in this region. The staple of fish and boiled rice or ponnu rice is the commonest meal in this region.
Karimeen pollichatu, ethakka appam and banana halwa are some delectable dishes from the Backwaters.
This cuisine is a confluence of food cultures from Portuguese, the Arabs, French etc. The food culture is distinct and very popular as well.
Thalasseri biryani is the most popular dish in this region. Other than that one can find an array of foods like pazham nirachatu which is a stuffed and fried banana, muttamala which is a sweet dish made of egg yolks. Unnakkai is yet another sweet delicacy which is a plantain that is filled with coconut and jaggery and fried in ghee.
And so we can see that South Indian foods are so varied in terms of flavour profiles, ingredients as well as cultures.
It is yet another proof of the diversity in our country. South India has so much to offer and explore!