Tag Archive: Tamil cuisine

Food has been a very important component of lives in this earth regardless of the nature of the organism consuming it. Hunger is common for all organisms and in some species, new borns are born with the skills to squander for food immediately after birth. Food has been interspersed with culture from time unknown. Food also intersperses with society and individualistic ethnic practices across the world. Tamilians do have a very ripe culinary history and it becomes important for anthropologists and social learners across the world to know about the culinary practices of one of the most ancient and diverse cultures in the world.

I was reading about Tamil food as I am interested in cooking. However, whatever I found, gave me the ingredients and recipes but no history. That’s when I found this book and few more books by Prof.Bhaktavatsala Bharathi on Tamil anthropology. History inspires me. I haven’t yet any of his books completely, but was impressed with the details provided in the books. Presently reading Tamizhar Unavu – An anthropological chronicle written by Professor Bhaktavatsala Bharathi, who works for Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics & Culture (PILC).


This is a compilation of articles that were published in Kalachuvadu issue on September 2005 along with requested articles from eminent writers from Tamilnadu. Writers as diverse as Perumal Murugan, Po.Velsamy, Naanchil Naadan, Solai.Sundara Perumal, Pazhamalai, Melanmai Ponnusaami, Kazhaniyooraan, A.Muthulingam, and Shyamala Gowri have contributed to this book. This is just a partial list. The complete list includes few more eminent writers in Tamil.

The book also includes a foreword by Bhaktavatsala Bharathi which is very informative. Starting from age old practices of food consumption to the most recent invasion of the food industry by Mansanto, the historians and writers have given a wonderful account of Tamil culture. In fact, I should say, when I complete this book, I will opt for Tamilian cuisine anytime rather than the fried and fast foods offered by American restaurants and food chains. The cuisine and the culture and the society are intermingled and this has been analysed geographically and anthropologically. It is a book worth reading.

Try it – It costs INR 250.

You can buy it here – தமிழர் உணவு.


The local foods I love

Hi All,

After the seafood post, I have come back with another topic on local food/snack items I love. This post is oriented only to Tamilnadu and Pondicherry. Foods from other states are not included. Let us move on to the list.

Rank # 10 – Vada pav in Sowcarpet, Chennai

Sowcarpet is famous for its north Indian population composed predominantly of Marvari’s. I have tasted Vada pav in Mumbai and in interior parts of Maharashtra (Kolhapur, Miraj, Sangli, Nagpur etc.) The vada pav available in chennai cannot be as good as those. But still, 1 place where I got stumped was Sowcarpet. There are quite a few joint’s in Mint street where you get Vada pav’s. Mukesh, a friend of mine, took me there for a visit and I had a sumptuous lunch with vada pav’s only. I don’t remember the shop’s name. Maybe I will catch up with Mukesh and post the name in the comments here. Smile

Rank # 9 – Curry bonda in Pondicherry

We used to travel by motorcycle’s to Pondicherry while in college. Once during a visit, few friend’s went ahead and were waiting for us near the entrance to Pondicherry (Near the university in ECR). While waiting, they stumbled across this roadside eatery that was selling bonda’s. When we joined them, they suggested it to us. The outcome was just awesome. We have had masala bonda’s, mysore bonda’s and even turnip bonda’s in a variety of places, but never had tasted mutton bonda’s or beef bonda’s ever. This eatery served those stuff. The prices were unbelievable. I think they charged us INR 2 for a mutton bonda. I had a suspicion that the bonda’s had beef, but never mind, they tasted good and the beef/mutton was well cooked. No regrets. I haven’t seen that joint after that visit. Maybe someone from pondicherry can help us locate it again.

Rank # 8 – Muttai masala in Red hills, Chennai.

Muttai (egg) masala was introduced to me by my friend Rajesh. Rajesh is a practicing dentist in the Red hills area. When we eventually met during our first year of college, he took me to red hills and showed the awesome burmese cuisine available on the roadside eateries there. There were many varieties – Atho, Moina and Muttai masala. Of these, the one I was/am still fascinated about is the mutta masala. It is not the typical egg curry you get to eat with dosa in restaurants like ponnusamy etc. Its a boiled egg cut into two with a custom made masala thrust into the centre. The masala is partly crispy and the egg containing it has to be thrust into the mouth fully and then chewed. This is one wonderful food you could get in Redhills. Never miss it when you cross Redhills.

Rank # 7 – Muttasu in Aruppukkottai.

Muttasu is a variety of sweet which is available very easily in the Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli districts in Southern part of Tamilnadu. Its a jalebi kind of sweet made of jaggery. If you go to Aruppukottai bus stand, you will find all shops having towers of Muttasu. They are very cheap, probably not very hygienic. But as I have earlier said, for me, taste matters. I don’t mind getting poisoned with food as long as it is tasty. You can try this. It’s not bad always!

Rank # 6 – Asoka halwa in Tanjore.

Asoka – the sweet is called that. Its a type of halwa predominant in the Tanjore district of Tamilnadu (Thiruvaiyaaru to be specific). It’s an awesome sweet dish that took me by surprise. The taste still lingers. Made of yellow split lentils (moong dal/Payattham paruppu), this one is high on its ghee and sweet content. Diabetic’s can taste it once in a year!

Rank # 5 – Kaaraa chevu from Sattur and Kovilpatti

Sattur and Kovilpatti are small towns located in the Madurai – Tirunelveli highway. Sattur is famous for its sevu. Sevu is a spicy snack, consumed very commonly in the southern districts of Tamilnadu. I don’t know what they add to make the sattur sevu special, but it’s definitely special. My uncle, who works as an English professor in SR Naidu college in Sattur brings home the sevu, everytime he comes home. That is my Dad’s favourite. They also make wonderful Muttasu!

Rank # 4 – Godhumai halwa at Laala kadai, Madurai.

Madurai is a foodie’s heaven on earth. I will do a separate post on the foodstuff’s available in Madurai. It would actually take more than 3-4 posts to cover them totally. But no one can miss this godhumai (wheat) halwa in Madurai. Right opposite to the railway station, the Laala kadai starts serving halwa at 4 am in the morning and goes on until midnight. This is one place where you can get hot hot halwa.

Rank # 3 – Kovilpatti kadalai mittai

Kovilpatti is famous for its kadalai mittai (Peanut candy). A booming small scale industry in that region, preparation of the kadalai mittai is a versatile opportunity there. Just like how dindigul is synonymous with biriyani, kovilpatti is synonymous with kadalai mittai. They mix peanuts with jaggery and allow it to set. When its almost set, they are cut into small squares or rolled into small balls and are packed. Try it to remember the taste. No kadalai mittai in the world can beat kovilpatti kadalai mittai.

Rank # 2 – Tirunelveli halwa

The name says it all. There are a variety of shops that sells halwa in Tirunelveli, but only a few are actually good. Iruttu kadai located opposite the Nellaiyappar temple, Shanthi sweets located close to the junction, Ganesh pasumpaal stall near the Nellaiappar temple tank are few outlets where you get wonderful halwa. I am planning to do a shoot in the Ganesh halwa shop as the owner is known to my in-laws. You can expect a detailed photo story on halwa making in a few months. Caution – You may find numerous Shanthi sweets across Tirunelveli. None of them is original. Please enquire locals and get the halwa. Else you will regret the taste.


Rank # 1 – Jigartanda in Madurai.

Again, the name says it all. Jigar means heart. Tanda means cool. A drink which will keep your heart cool is Jigartanda and it stays true to its name. It is also a drink/dessert that will make you throw away all those coke/pepsi kind of drinks. A coolant made of agar-agar, badam ice cream, a unique solution known only to the makers and an essence to add flavour, Jigartanda is Madurai’s own drink. You don’t get it elsewhere, and if you get it, it’s not Jigartanda. Jigartanda is very good in two shops I know. One near vilakkuthoon and another one in Manjanakaara theru – both in Madurai. Don’t ever try that in Murugan idli shop or any other outlet. Or rather try it there and then try it in these outlets. You, for sure, will know the difference. Two pictures for Jigartanda because it wins the first place.

There are many more.

Macaroons in Tuticorin

Rose milk in Modern Restaurant, Madurai

Jalebi in Rohini’s, Porur, Chennai

Basundhi in Nandhinee sweets, Valasaravakkam, Chennai etc.

Since the post is about my favourite’s, I will settle with the above-mentioned. What are your favourite’s?


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கனவுகளுக்கு பதிலாக அறிவியல், கண்ணீருக்கு பதிலாக போராட்டம். போராட்டமே நம் இருத்தலுக்கான அடையாளம்.


experiences - travel - photography

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