Tamilnadu has one of world’s oldest, unbroken culinary heritages. It is Tamilnadu which gave the word 'Curry' .
.In the cook pots of traders, conquerors and workers, Tamil cuisine spread to Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Ceylon, South africa, West Indies etc., having a major impact on their local cuisines.
We can see four distinct cuisines in Tamilnadu.
The pure vegetarian Cauvery delta Brahmin cuisine of Thanjavur and Tiruchy in central Tamilnadu.
The mostly vegetarian, agrarian Kongunad cuisine of western Tamilnadu.
The predominantly non-vegetarian Chettinad trader cuisine of Karaikudi and neighbouring regions and the Muslim cuisine of Tamil speaking Maraikairs, Labbais and Rowtars of South Tamilnadu.
The recipes of the bestselling Meenakshi Ammal’s cookbook “Samaithu Paar” exemplify Brahmin cuisine. This pure vegetarian cuisine is built around tamarind, lentils, yogurt and vegetables.
The orthodox Iyengar cuisine is more ritualistic and frowns upon usage of anything more than the very basic spices. It uses no garlic or spices like cinnamon, cloves, fennel etc.
Kongunadu includes the western districts of Coimbatore , Erode,
Chettinad, being one of the driest areas of Tamilnadu is not conducive to agriculture. Unable to farm, its people, the Chettiars, became highly successful traders, reaching far into
Tamil Muslim Cuisine
Tamil Muslim cuisine is a mixture of Tamil Hindu and Muglai cuisine. Though predominantly non vegetarian, it is tempered with Tamil beliefs, and so does not use beef. Tamil Muslim curries are unique in using whole lime pickled in salt, which is mashed up and used as a souring agent.
Chettinad and Muslim cuisines specialize in non-vegetarian curries and are not covered in detail here.
Let us take a look at the major vegetarian curries cooked across Tamilnadu
0.: Kulambu :: Kulambu is a basic sour curry. Take a spoon of tamarind paste ( or two spoons if you likeit sourer) and dissolve it in a cup of water. Add a couple of pinches of sambar powder, salt and a pinch of jaggery/ sugar, bring to a boil and your basic kulambu is ready. Different types of souring agents like tomato, mango, yogurt are used in place of or in addition to tamarind to cook up a large variety of Kulambus. Add vatral ( sun dried vegetables ) to a kulambu and you have Vatral kulambu. Add fresh vegetables and you have puli kulambu. Add a mix of fresh vegetables and you have Kadamba kulambu and so on. Kulambu is thickened by adding a few pinches of rice flour dissolved in water to the boiling curry
1.: Sambar:: Add boiled and mashed tuvar dal to a Kulambu and you have Sambar , a lentil sour curry.
2.: Rasam, a lentil thin curry, is a watered down version of sambar. (Lazyboy’s rasam : Let the sambar rest after cooking. Use the top watery layer as Rasam). For a regular rasam, mix a bit of tamarind paste in lentil water ( the water in which lentils have been cooked) , add a bit of Rasam powder / sambar powder, simmer for a few minutes and Rasam is ready. Only a few select veggies like tomato and garlic are added to a Rasam.
Garlic- Cumin Rasam, Tomato Paruppu Rasam, Archana’s Tomato garlic Rasam,
3.: Paruppu, the plain lentil curry is nothing but boiled and mashed Tuvar dal / Mung dal. It is eaten mixed with rice and ghee. Being such a simple dish, I could’nt find any model recipes at all !
4.: Kootu , the coconut – cumin curry, is made by simmering vegetables in a paste made from coconut, cumin and green chilies. Vidhya’s Spinach Kootu
5.: Paruppu Kootu Add boiled tuvar dal / mung dal to the Kootu above and you have the Paruppu Kootu ( Coconut – cumin- lentil curry) . See 1001 Kootu for more recipes
6.: Thayir pachadi is nothing but raw yogurt in which various salad vegetables / boiled vegetables are mixed. (Uncooked Yogurt curry). This is very similar to a north Indian raita . In fact, garnish a north Indian Raita with a pinch of fried mustard and curry leaves, and it becomes Thayir Pachadi ! See 1001 Raitas for recipes.
7.: More Kulambu . is a spiced buttermilk curry. A soaked mixture of lentils and spices is blended to a paste with green chili and coconut . This paste is mixed with buttermilk and simmered in to a medium thick curry. (In some versions, buttermilk is not cooked but mixed in just before serving). This is vey similar to the north Indian Kadi. Okra More Kuzhambu, Colocasia More Kuzhambu
8.: Poriyal is a dry vegetable curry made by mixing cooked vegetables with flavouring and spices. A variety of steamed / boiled / stir fried / braised / microwaved vegetables can be mixed with flavouring to create scores of poriyals. (Using precooked vegetables greatly reduces cooking time. B’s Cabbage Poriyal, Beans poriyal, Kalai’s Spinach Poriyal, Kribha’s Colocasia Poriyal, Plantain poriyal
9: Pachadi is a sweet and sour curry made by simmering tamarind paste, green chili, salt and sugar /jaggery with goodies. Think of it as a less sour, more sweet Kulambu, cooked without too much spices. It is usually thickened with rice flour. Okra PachadiIf you have a recipe for a Tamil curry not listed above, please leave a comment. Thanks !