Posts Tagged ‘south indian’

Tiffin/Palaharam in Tamil Nadu was once usually served in the evening as snacks.  That snack has been upgraded to breakfast fare, served with atleast one vegetable-lentil/coconut based side dish, thogayal/ chutney and curd. (If like my appa, you subsist on 95% vegetable diet, you will add a salad/soup).  In the not so distant past, people  ate what we eat for lunch as breakfast, a practice that is not uncommon even today. You know you are in Tamil Nadu if you see people waking up at 5am to eat a gigantic lunch at 9am.

Paniyaram with Poricha Kuzhambu, Green Tomato Chutney and Curd

No breakfast is repeated for atleast a month at Amma’s. Yes, she is that rare breed of modern day Tamilian not to have Idli/Dosa Maavu forever in the fridge, because she makes them just once in a month. And she doesn’t even go beyond the South Indian cuisine much as far as breakfast is concerned.  This isn’t surprising considering the agriculture obsessed South Indian culture that not just worships the grains but prepares them using a wide range of techniques. At times the breakfast may just consist of steamed or roasted vegetables served with suitable sides.  Variety needs inspiration, and it is a value to be incorporated from the earlier generation. Even on the standard Iyengar diet that excludes entire food groups including many vegetables, my Patti put together meals that were diverse with  fresh experiences in flavour and texture. Cooking techniques, not just the spices, were used to render different flavours.

Thayir Paniyaram

Thayir paniyaram is one such inspired recipe, created by altering the method of cooking for an existing dish (no prizes for guessing, but you may try).

tbsp=tablespoon, tsp=teaspoon, cup=standard metric cup measuring 250ml


  • Par Boiled rice – 1 cup
  • Urad dal – 1 tablespoon
  • Grated coconut – 2 tbsp (heaped)
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Red chillies – 2
  • Sour Curd (Yogurt) – 1 cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1 tbsp


  1. Wash and drain the par boiled rice and urad dal. Add to the sour curd(yogurt) and soak overnight for 6-8 hours.
  2. Grind to a smooth batter adding grated coconut, red chillies and salt. Add curry leaves towards the end of grinding the batter.  The batter must be thick but of pouring consistency (similar to cake batter).
  3. Heat the paniyaram pan, add a drop of oil to each of the moulds and pour the batter.
  4. Cover and cook over a medium flame. When the paniyarams start to puff up and  separate from the pan, turn them over and cook the other side. Transfer to serving dish. Repeat for the rest of the batter.

I served it with Green Tomato Chutney and Poricha Kuzhambu.


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Women, men, children – entire villages – dressed in yellow and red undertaking a barefoot journey to Samayapuram Mariamman Kovil. This long trail of pilgrims, we encountered on National Highway 210 started at Pudukottai and continued till we reached Samayapuram. They must have covered about 60-70kms barefoot.

Padyatra/ Nadaipayanam usually refers to the journey one undertakes by foot (mostly barefoot) to a holy shrine or place of spiritual significance and are fairly common in Tamizh Nad.  Besides the famous and visible padyatras undertaken to the Palani Murugan temple, every year in August/September, droves of pilgrims from all over Tamizh Nad make their way by foot to the Basilica at Velankanni for the annual 11 day feast of Our Lady of Health. Pilgrims from Chennai cover more than 300 kms by foot to make this journey.

We encountered these pilgrims on our way back from Karaikudi, a town in Tamil Nadu.

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Recreating dishes my Patti lovingly prepared for us is therapeutic. Not a day passes by without Amma or I reminiscing about the joyous moments we shared with Patti. I have had the privilege of tasting the worst tasting yam dish of all seasons and centuries  while pursuing  my Masters, not once or twice, but every week for an entire two years. The Poricha Kuzhambu with Yam that my Patti prepared offers a study in contrast. The sourness of tamarind perfectly combines with the yam, rendering it itch free (post consumption that is) with a sweet ,earthy, creamy taste.  The yam was left to dry for several days before use to avoid the infamous itch, especially while cutting.

Poricha Kuzhambu was usually prepared on Amavasai (new moon) when lentil based dishes (with the exception of moong dal) were avoided.  Amavasai Tarpanam,  ritual of water oblations, was performed. Food prepared was offered to ancestors and their blessings were sought. Traditional meal planning always included holidays for consumption of specific categories of food, including avoidance of all grains on certain days.

Poricha Kuzhambu

Poricha Kuzhambu

I made Poricha Kuzhambu for the morning’s breakfast to go with some mor paniyarams.  Since I din’t have yam on hand, I used Colacasia (Seppankizhangu) which works as delightfully with this dish.

tbsp=tablespoon, tsp=teaspoon, cup= standard metric cup measuring 250ml


  • Yam/ Colacacia (Seppankizhangu) – 11/2 cup (steamed and diced)
  • Black Chick Peas (Kala Channa) – 4 tbsp
  • Tamarind – lemon sized ball
  • Turmeric
  • Hing – a pinch
  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 twig
  • Sesame Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
For the paste
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Channa dal – 1 tbsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Black peppercorns – 1 tsp
  • Red Chilli – 1
  • Grated coconut – 3 tbsp
  • Sesame Oil – 1 tsp
Paniyaram with Poricha Kuzhambu, Green Tomato Chutney and Curd
Paniyaram with Poricha Kuzhambu, Green Tomato Chutney and Curd
  1. Soak the Black chickpeas overnight.
  2. Wash and pressure cook the Yam/Colacasia and the Black Chickpeas (with water  and a pinch of salt). Peel and dice the yam/colacasia into big pieces.
  3. Soak tamarind in warm water for 10 minutes and squeeze pulp with 2 cups of water.
  4.  Heat sesame oil and roast all ingredients  for the paste, except coconut, until golden.
  5. Take off flame and grind to a paste.
  6. Heat sesame oil in a pan,  add mustard seeds.
  7. When the mustard starts to splutter,  add curry leaves, and on a low flame add the tamarind extract, turmeric, hing and salt.
  8. Bring to a boil and add the steamed yam/colacacia and the black chickpeas.  Simmer for three minutes.
  9. Add the ground paste and simmer for three more minutes.
Serve with Rice or Rice based tiffin varieties.

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I know, I know, I promised to make a pickle today and show you how easy pickling can be with the North Indian Podi for Pickles that I posted yesterday. 

Its pouring in Chennai.  A huge tropical storm has hit many parts of Tamil Nadu and  left 32people dead, washed out many houses and devastated crops. The whole of Chennai is badly flooded. The last I remember witnessing such heavy rains in Chennai is about three years back when we had to use boats to commute in many parts of the city.  With all this howling wind and heavy rain, I can almost sense the doors of my balcony coming off the walls. There’s lots of water coming into my kitchen through the exhaust – most definitely not a good time for pickling. 

South Indian Pickle Podi is a spice mix that one can prepare and store for furture use while pickling in the south indian style. 


Makes: approx 500 gms of the powder/spice mix used for pickling


  • Fenugreek – 1/2 cup
  • Mustard Seeds – 1 cup
  • Turmeric – 1 tbsp
  • Red Chillies – 2 cups (tightly packed)


Ingredients – photograph does not represent actual quantities needed for recipe


  1. Microwave fenugreek and red chillies together on high for a minute. Or dry them out in the sun – so they lose any external moisture that may be present. 
  2. Grind all ingredients together to a powder.

Store in an air tight container. Keeps well for months. Use whenever you want to pickle anything the South Indian way. 

South Indian Pickle Podi – for the Recipe Marathon


Fellow recipe marathoners:

DKSiriSrivalliRanjiPJCurry LeafMedhaPriyaBhawnaRaajiRuchii
AnuKamalaRoopaDivya KuduaRekhaDivya MRaagaLakshmi VenkateshSripriyaViji,  Kamalika,Pavani, RoochiKaruna

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South Indians are famous for their aromatic perfect filter coffee. I prefer to drink coffee made in my home only! Every visitor to my home would never say no to my coffee. So I always keep the decoction ready. 🙂

Coffee estates in Coorg produce some of the best coffee seeds in the world. These are roasted, powdered and sold in various outlets throughout the world. There are mainly two varieties of coffee seeds, peabery and plantation. Chicory is also added to the powder to give a good colour. But for me the best coffee is made from a powder with 50% peaberry and 50% plantation seeds. Which ever outlet I buy the coffee powder I always get it ground in this proportion. Coffee powder stored in Tupperware containers stays fresh for 15 days. It is always good to buy once in a week.

Preparing a decoction is a technique to perfected by practice. At the end of the post I will give some important tips for brewing the perfect coffee.

For making 2 cups coffee.


  • Coffee powder – 3 level tablespoons (or 2 tablespoons heaped)
  • Hot water – 3/4 cup
  • Milk – 1 and 3/4 cup
  • Sugar – 2 teaspoons


  1. Fill the upper part of the filter with coffee powder. Slightly tap on the counter, a few times.
  2. Place the upper container over the lower one.
  3. Pour hot water very slowly. Close and allow the decoction to collect into the lower container.
  4. Heat milk till it reaches boiling point. Pour in to two cups.
  5. Add around 3 tablespoons decoction and 1 teaspoon sugar to each cup. Serve hot.  (Increase as per taste if you prefer your coffee really dark)


Never heat the coffee after mixing with decoction.

If you use decoction stored in the fridge, heat the decoction separately by placing it in boiling water.

You can also make cold coffee using this decoction.

Some filters have bigger holes. After filling the coffee powder you can slightly press it with your fingers.

Some filters have small holes which tend to get blocked. Make sure the holes are clear.

The filter should be totally dry when you add the powder.

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Kunukku is a traditional snack, prepared more often than bhajjis in tamizh households. Deep fried snacks are welcome with evening tea during winter months. I always use a lot of vegetables with these snacks to increase their nutritional value. While lot of people totally avoid deep fried snacks, I always believe in eating what ever we like in limited quantities. We have consciously included a lot of physical activity in our daily routine to avoid unwanted weight gain which leads to various health problems. So go ahead and enjoy all the deep fried snacks this winter and include a lot of physical exercise in your daily routine.



  • Par boiled rice or raw rice – 1 cup
  • Toor dal – 1/2 cup
  • Channa dal – 1/2 cup
  • Urad dal – 2 tablespoons
  • Curry leaves – 2 twigs
  • Grated coconut – 2 table spoons
  • Finely chopped brinjal – 2 cups ( Large variety tastes best)
  • Red chillies – 4 nos
  • Hing – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil for deep frying – 2 cups


  1. Wash and soak the rice and dals separately for 1 hour.
  2. Drain the water well.Grind the rice coarsely, add the dals, redchillies, curry leaves, coconut, hing and salt and grind to a coarse thick batter.
  3. Mix finely chopped brinjal. Heat oil in a kadai in a medium flame. Make 1 inch balls out of the batter and fry in hot oil till golden brown.
  4. Serve hot with coconut chutney or sauce.

Tips for deep frying

Temperature control is very important for deep frying the right way. Maintaining oil at a constant temperature – not allowing it to over heat or cool too much is very important.

The flame should be high while dropping the balls so that the batter does not disintegrate or scatter in the oil.

Lower the flame to medium to allow even cooking.

The temperature of oil should never go beyond smoke point. If oil begins to go beyond smoke point, replace with fresh oil.

Oil should be cleaned of any remaining smaller food particles before you proceed with each batch.

Food should be removed when golden in colour to best retain flavour and nutrition and should not turn dark brown.

Drain well while removing from oil to avoid excess oil sticking to the snack. Perforated ladles are best suited for deep frying. Drain on a rack or perforated vessel after removing from oil.

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