Tamil Nadu is famous for its deep belief that serving food to others is a service to humanity, as is common in many regions of India. The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional vegetarian dishes. It is characterized by the use of rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater.
Rice and legumes play an important role in Tamil cuisine. Lentils are also consumed extensively, either accompanying rice preparations, or in the form of independent dishes. Vegetables and dairy products are essential accompaniments, and tamarind rather than amchoor is the favoured souring agent. Rice is the chief staple as with the rest of South India, and unlike their northern counterparts, the people of South India regard wheat-based breads of any kind as a poor diet.
On special occasions, traditional Tamil dishes are prepared in almost the same way as they were centuries ago—preparations that call for elaborate and leisurely cooking, and served in traditional style and ambience. The traditional way of eating a meal involves being seated on the floor, having the food served on a banana leaf, and using clean fingers of the right hand to transfer the food to the mouth. After the meal, the fingers are washed, and the banana leaf becomes food for cows. A typical Tamilian would eat Idly/Dosai/uthappam etc. for breakfast and rice accompanied by lentil preparations Sambar, Rasam and curd for lunch.
Because of modernization, urbanization, cosmopolitan culture and the break-up of the joint family system, compromises and adaptations are being made. A movement towards a simpler cuisine can be sensed. Urbanization has introduced Western-style seating arrangements at traditional events with tables, chairs, plates and cutlery becoming the norm, and food being served buffet-style.
Despite changes in practices and their cultural implications, Tamil food retains its basic character in the use of ingredients, and its aroma and flavour remain unchanged.
Read more about Tamil Cuisine: Regional Cuisine, Influence Abroad, Typical Tamil Feast - Virundhu Sappadu, Common Dishes, Specialities, Culinary Influence From Other Parts of The World, Tamil Culinary Terminology Absorbed in English
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