Due to Tanjore becoming the heartland of Tamil Brahmins, almost all its famous recipes are Brahmin recipes, with an almost total absence of Non vegetarian recipes.
Deep fried & spiced tuvar dal / chana dal paste becomes Vada. Steamed and crumbled, it becomes the Usili. In fact you can use leftover / store bought masal vadas, in this recipe in place of the steamed lentil paste and not many would spot the difference !
While researching for this book, I was engrossed in the bloody Muslim occupation of Madurai and Tanjore. Tamilnadu had been fortunate in escaping the massacares, temple razings and looting which plagued North India between 1000 and 1200 AD. Its luck ran out in 1311 when it experienced the brief but brutal Sultan occupation. . One of the sultans, Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani seems to have been especially brutal.
Ibn Batuta, the great Islamic traveller records: “…the Hindu prisoners were divided into four sections and taken to each of the four gates. There, on the stakes they had carried, the prisoners were impaled. Afterwards their wives were killed and tied by their hair to these poles. Children were massacred on the bosoms of their mothers. Then, the camp was raised, and they started cutting down the trees of another forest (for more impaling stakes). This is shameful conduct such as I have not known any other sovereign guilty of. It is for this that God hastened the death of Ghiyath-eddin”.
And “I was another time with the Sultan when a Hindu was brought into his presence. I rose hurriedly (to leave). He understood my reason, smiled, and ordered the hands and feet of the idolater to be cut off. On my return I found the unfortunate swimming in his blood”.