South Indian Recipes
South Indian includes the five states of Telangana (Northeast), Andhra Pradesh (East), Karnataka (West), Tamil Nadu (Southeast), and Kerala (Southwest) as well as the small union territories of Lakshadweep, Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
In such a vast territory, it is only natural, that you will find some similar South Indian recipes but also many differences and variations in the food.
This diversity originates from the different histories, religions, and cultures as well as from the contrasting landscapes. Customs don’t stop at administrative borders, so there are a lot of overlapping traditions in South Indian recipes.
All five states have a long coastline but, some regions use the maritime to produce more fish than the others.
The big mountain range in the west (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala) produces other ingredients and dishes than the jungle in some areas of Tamil Nadu.
The religious diversity is particularly interesting in Kerala. Many explorers landed on the Malabar coast and brought goods, wars and other believes.
One of the oldest Jewish communities worldwide still practices their faith in the old synagogue in Cochin.
Incidentally, Cochin was also the place where the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama was initially buried.
Like everywhere on the subcontinent, the predominant cuisine is vegetarian.
What most South Indian recipes have in common is the use of rice, varieties of lentils, coconut, local fruits and vegetables, and spices, particularly chilis.
It is said that the cuisine of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is the hottest in India. The level of spiciness in many dishes is already a challenge for non-Indians, but being able to process such hot food seems almost superhuman to an outsider.
It is also worth noticing that Southern Indian recipes from Hyderabad (capital of Andhra Pradesh) often include chicken, lamb, fish, and other seafood.
Moving westward to Karnataka, the spice level drops significantly (except for the northern regions). Dishes are diverse and almost always vegetarian. However, along the coastline fish and seafood is also part of the daily diet.
The various religious influences in Kerala are reflected in its cuisine. South Indian recipes from here include Syrian Christian dishes as well as much-loved Muslim dishes. Everything contains some form of coconut and fish curries from the Keralan backwaters are famously delicious.
Tamil Nadu has a higher percentage of non-vegetarian South Indian recipes. Apart from beef and pork, you will find most meats on the menu. Steamed rice is eaten with almost every meal. There is a wide range of chutneys, sauces, and curries to accompany the rice often topped with a boiled egg. Pickles and salted vegetables are part of many meals.
Puducherry on the East coast deserves a special mentioning. This small state was under French government until the middle of the 20th century, and a lasting French legacy can be seen there until today. It is particularly apparent in the style of cuisine. Where in India would you start the day with a croissant and a coffee, go shopping for baguettes, olive oil and red wine and cook a French-Indian fusion dish in the evening?