Food is an integral part of Tamil life and culture. Although largely known for its vegetarian dishes, Tamil cuisine has many non-vegetarian dishes to its credit too. Tamil cuisine pays a lot of importance to the flavours and hence you will find an interesting blend of spices, including curry leaves, tamarind, ginger, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, coconut.
In the past, meals (called Saapadu) would be typically served on banana leaves. People would sit on the floor to eat. A typical Tamil meal would consist of rice, paruppu (pulses), ghee, sambhar, rasam, kuzhambu (curry/stew), curd, poriyal (vegetables), appalam, and pickles, payasam or any other dessert. Non-vegetarians would add a fish or a meat dish to their meals. Often, buttermilk was also served as an accompaniment. Breakfast mostly consisted of idli, dosa, upma served with chutney.
Depending on the seasonal availability of vegetables, Tamil kitchens use them to prepare poriyal, a kind of dish prepared by frying or sautéing the vegetables.
Another key element of Tamil cuisine is the kozhambu, One of the popular non-vegetarian dish is the karuvadu kozhambu (karuvadu meaning dried fish) popular in the coastal region.
While food connoisseurs are acquainted with Chettinad cuisine of Tamil Nadu, especially the spicy Chettinad chicken, you will be surprised to find that each region in the state has its own specialised cuisine.
The temple town of Thanjavur, which was once ruled by the Marathas, shows conspicuous influences in its cuisine too. The kola urundai can be compared with the Marathi shunti kebab. The Tamil version is prepared by tying the fish in banana leaves shaped like a ball and then fried. You can also try the mutton kola urundai. Thanjavur is also the place to try traditional Iyer Brahmin food.
No discussion on Tamil cuisine can be complete without mentioning the temple food. The naivedyam or food served to the gods not only consist of some amazing dishes but are also records of recipes which are often centuries old. It is said that the recipe for preparing the selvar appam (consisting of rice, unrefined sugar, banana, coconut, cumin, and a dash of pepper) served to the gods in many temples, is more than 800 years old. The popular dish called Puliyodharai, essentially a spicy tamarind rice dish, originated as part of divine temple food. Tamil festivals are also marked by a variety of special dishes, especially sweets. Considered as auspicious, payasam (essentially made of sweetened milk and rice or vermicelli) is an integral part of most festive and social occasions.
Some Famous Dishes from Tamilnadu:
Kozhi Milagu Varuval
Vendakkaai Kaara Kozhambu
Naatu Kozhi Kuzhambu