South Indian cuisine is distinctly different from its northern counterpart in so many different ways. South India consists of 5 different states, two union territories, backwaters, coastal plains, rocky plateaus, sprawling grasslands and undulating river valleys. Tasting the different dishes in South India is just like going on a sumptuous ‘cuisinical’ journey – one that would leave you delighted and blissful.
When you visit South India, you can tempt the taste palette in many different ways and enjoy a kaleidoscopic adventure of culinary delights offered by the friendly natives. Have a look at eight mouth watering dishes you must try out during your next visit to South India.
Top 8 Indian Dishes – A Delicious Indian Food List
#1. The Traditional Sadya
When you are visiting Kerala, you must try the sumptuous sadya or feast prepared and served on a plantain leaf. This is a heavy meal as it consists of about 24-48 dishes and hence served as lunch. If you have any reservations about eating with your hands, you would soon throw caution to wind and attack the food with a vengeance because the arrangements are done so attractively that you wouldn’t be able to resist them.
Each of the dishes prepared for the sadya complements each other so when they are consumed in small portions, they would aid in your digestion. If you do not care about making a mess while eating once in a while, then slurp and lap up these delicious preparations.
Sambar is a tangy dish made with plenty of vegetables and Moong dal as the base. In some places, only a single ingredient is used to prepare the sambar (for example, beans), while in many others, a number of vegetables are used.
The vegetables are of course chosen as per the personal interest of the chef or the guest. The consistency of the sambar could vary from light, flowing curry-like to thick gravy. Idlis, dosas and lentil donuts are the perfect accompaniments to sambar. Some people also consume it with rice.
#3. Lentil Donuts
You must try lentil donuts (known as uzhunnu vada) or onion donuts (sabola vada) when you are visiting Tamil Nadu or Kerala. You can eat these fried donuts (with crisp edges) either with a spoon or use your fingers.
Dip these donuts in chutney or sambar and you can enjoy a really delicious snack. These are not sweet donuts, but made by adding salt and chilli. If you like yoghurt, then you must try donuts covered in tamarind sauce and thick yoghurt. They have a classy taste you cannot resist.
Many a visitor has gaped in wonder at the huge parchments of dosas that make an appearance on their tables. Dosas or crepes are made after fermenting the mix of urad dal and raw rice. The mix is made after soaking the urad dal and raw rice in water for 4-5 hours.
Many people prefer to have it as “masala dosas”, called so, because of the potato stuffing on the insides of the dosas. You can eat dosas with your hand, by cutting it into small pieces, using your fingers preferably, and dipping the same in sambar or coconut chutney before consuming.
#5. Hyderabadi Biryani
Biryanis are popular everywhere in South India and if you visit any state in this region, you must try their Hyderabadi Biryani, the most popular of all biryanis. This dish holds the most important place in any function or event where non-vegetarian items are allowed.
Made with half boiled rice, layered with meat of your choice, garnished with cucumber and cooked with butter, curd and piquant spices, you can never resist the aroma they give off. Soon, you will find yourself succumbing to the tingling of your taste palette, and you’ll be surprised to note that it is not as spicy as you imagined it to be.
#6. Steamed Rice Flour and Channa Curry
The combination of steamed rice flour and Channa curry is a famous breakfast option in Kerala. The rice flour is lightly watered after adding the adequate amount of the mix. The flour would then be mixed thoroughly, so the rice flour mix when taken in the palm of your hand would hold together.
Most people add grated coconut to this rice flour mix, but you can add grated carrots as well. Steamed rice flour is extremely popular in Kerala, and when consumed with chickpea curry or Channa, you have one of the best combinations that the locals rave about.
#7. Chicken Chettinad
This is a spicy dish, but devoured by people who like to experiment with food. Chicken Chettinad is not a fry or a curry because it falls somewhere in between, and some people add cashew nuts and coconut paste to further enhance the taste. The spicy and aromatic masalas added to the dish make it a spicy treat that can be had with chapathis, parathas, roti, naan or even plain bread.
#8. Paal Payasam / Rice Pudding
Paal Payasam is a dessert dish made from milk, broken rice, sugar, raisins and nuts. This delicious rice pudding is also known as Kheer in other parts of India. Saffron and kewra are added to increase the aroma of the rice pudding. The taste is so delicious that you will definitely have more than one helping.
These payasams normally grace every Hindu wedding or event, and are thus an indispensible part of their festivity. Nothing like a lovely, sweet dish to top off your South Indian meal! Now you will know what you’ve been missing all these years.
Here is a brief advice on eating South Indian dishes:
People in the India eat with their right hand, leaving their left hand clean, either for taking more helpings or for drinking water. But that’s not the only reason why people eat with their hands. According to Vedic wisdom, when you eat using your fingers, you are placating not just your hunger, but pleasing your mind and spirit as well in the process.
This is because each of the five fingers in your hand represent the five elements – fire or Agni, which is your thumb, finger, Vayu or air, which is your forefinger, Akash or sky, which is your middle finger, Prithvi or earth, which is your ring finger and finally, gel or water, which is your little finger. In fact, you should try it out at least once. Eating with the fingers of your right hand and then licking off them (just like how the natives do it) is a heavenly experience.
A visit to South India is a celebration of different cultures; it is also a celebration of different cuisines! So, come on over and join in the celebration!
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Sunu Phililp is the Inbound Marketing and Creative Head for Paradise Holidays, Cochin – a Kerala based tour operator. She loves reading, exploring new places and trying out new cuisines!