Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil Culture - the Heart of Tamil National Consciousness > Tamil Cuisine - the Food Tradition of an Ancient People > Tamil Food Recipes - An Online Index


Kalayana Samayal Saatham
Books on Tamil Cuisine at Tamilnation Library
What�s cooking? Preparing and sharing food in Ambai�s Tamil short stories - Lakshmi Holmstr�m "Food can be a means of defining a group identity.."
Dining for Women - Making Connections, March 2007


Selvakumaran, Germany


Tamil cooking in all its splendour - Hindu 6 March 2007
Rice and ritual: the Tamil art of cooking  - Thilaka Baskaran UNESCO Courier,  March, 1984
Then Indhiya Samayam Iravu:An evening of South Indian Cooking - Power Point Presentation - Anita Subramaniam Ph.D.
When we eat what we eat: Classifying Crispy Foods in Malaysian Tamil Cuisine Dr. Theresa W. Devasahayam, 2003 "This paper examines the gastronomic rules that determine when and why � crispy foods� are eaten within the Tamil community of Malaysia"
விருந்து உண்ண வருக - நா. கணேசன்  "உணவு இல்லாமல் உயிர்கள் இல்லை. தமிழர் உணவைப் பலவகையாகப் படைத்துச் சுவைத்தனர். விருந்தினரை விரும்பி உபசரிப்பது தலைசிறந்த பண்பாடு என்று கொண்டாடினர். உண்டிக்கு அழகு விருந்தோடு உண்ணல் என்பது முதுமொழி..."

Cooking in Kanchipuram -Chantal Boulanger....

இந்த இணையத் தளமானது பெரிய நகரமும் அல்லாத, சிறிய கிராமமும் அல்லாத நாகபட்டினம் சிறுநகரில் இருந்து தொடங்கி நடத்தப்படவுள்ளது. இதுபோன்ற இணையத்தளங்கள் இனிவரும் காலங்களில், சிறு சிறு கிராமங்களில் இருந்தும் தோன்றி வளர இது ஒரு முன்மாதிரியாக அமைய வேண்டும் என்பது இதன் உள்நோக்கம்.

தினம் ஒரு புது உணவு வகை

South Indian Recipes at

Num Kitchen
'our kitchen' in Tamil
Samayal Arai


Tamil Cooking Guide in Tamil
Samayal - a true taste of Tamil Cuisine
Tamil Food Recipes
About Curry Leaves in USA
Tamil Cuisine of Tamil Nadu "Tamil Nadu provides the visitors with a wide variety of delicacies, both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians, though most food in Tamil Nadu consists of grains, lentils, rice and vegetables. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste to this cuisine, which uses chili liberally"
Kongunad Cuisine Comes From 50 Cities Of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Menu Card & Festival Dishes
Tamil Cooking - Kulambhu , Rasam Koottu, Vegetable Curries, Pachadi Thuvaiyal, Payasam, Mixed Rice, Sweets, Savouries, Spice Mixes, Pickles, Chips, Sundals, Eggless Cakes
Ruchihealth.com - Three Tamil recipes cooked with soya products.
TamilSpider.com - Large number of visitor contributed recipes ranging from vegetarian curries to pickles.
South Indian Vegetarian Cuisine - Easy to prepare dishes that are a part of everyday life in Tamil Nadu.
Make like a Tamil & Cook - Tamil Students Association
Fat Free South Indian Cuisine
Pondy Kitchen - Small collection of recipes from the Pondicherry kitchen.

Clare Ferguson's
Tamil coconut chilli Chicken

Ammas Cooking

"The importance of cuisine to national culture varies greatly among nations. National cuisines are nurtured by national elites and promoted by tourist organisations. They result from various cultural and political ideologies, associated with imperialism, class, gender and ethnicity. African national cuisines have emerged only recently but are well-developed in a few countries such as Cape Verde or Senegal. In Latin America, national cuisines were created following a long struggle between the culinary influences of the Iberian colonisers, the Native Americans and their complex pre-Columbian culinary traditions, together with the 'foodways'; of African slaves. As with most nationalist ventures, what is hailed as being part of a long tradition is often a recently invented myth as in the case of Chiles en nogada a Mexican national dish supposedly presented to the Emperor Agustín de Iturbide in 1821 yet only traceable to the 1930s. On both sides of the Atlantic, national cuisines are far from innocent concoctions. Dr Igor Cusack ( University of Birmingham) in Far from Innocent Concoctions: the National Cuisines of Africa and Latin America 18 February 2009


" Tamil cuisine is perhaps the oldest representative of the continuous vegetarian cultures of the world. The delicious dishes from the state are relished all over the country and abroad. The cuisine has important delicacies like dosa, idli and vada served with sambar and chutneys. There is a wide range of rice and vegetable preparations. The meals are traditionally served on banana leaves."

 "Tamil cuisine is known for its aromatic, flavourful and sometimes spicy food. These recipes create an unique blend of spices, that makes the food very appetising, nutritious and wholesome. Vegetables, Meats and Dairy products are the foundation. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander, Coconut, Rosewater etc, flavour the food and remind us of the sweetness of life. Curry Powder, Ginger, Garlic, Chillies, Pepper etc add the zest.."

Tamil Meal on Bannana Leaf

Introduction to Tamil Eelam Food by Nesa Eliezer
An Overview of Tamil Nadu Food
Selected Tamil Food Recipes

From the Introduction by Nesa Eliezer to * Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils - Edited by Nesa Eliezer, Compiled by Rani Thangarajah

"The food traditions of a people express their attitudes to life. They are expressive not only of their geographical psyche but also of their beliefs about health and nutrition. They frequently summarise a people's views on interactive behaviour and etiquette.

In the case of the Tamils of the north and east of Sri Lanka, the regions referred to by Tamils as the Tamil Homelands or Tamil Eelam, the food traditions are characterised by a remarkable resourcefulness in their use of the locally available ingredients. In the Jaffna Peninsula (Yaalpaanam) the soil is harsh and arable only in pockets. But from this limited plenty the Tamils have created a cuisine that is so distinctive that it warrants closer interest than has been given it thus far. Tamils love their cuisine and wherever they go they relish the memories of it and try as far as possible to inculcate a love for it in their children.

I hope that this book recalls some of those memories, especially of the Jaffna Peninsula, in a meaningful way for the millions of Jaffna Tamils flung all over the globe. The mention of "Karupani" or "Susiyam" or "Pori Arisi Maa" brings a delighted twinkle to the eyes of Tamils in faraway lands. "Ah, yes, I remember my Amma used to.... " and off they go into warm, enchanting tales of a Jaffna childhood.

This book takes its spark from the warmth of that love for their land. The baths at Keerimalai the tall, tufted Palmyra trees swaying in cholai winds, the onion fields, the swollen kurakkan ears of grains on the sheaves. the oil monger grinding the goodness of the sesame seeds with his melancholy bull at the yoke . . . These memories are recounted in excited tones of beloved Tamil over hot meals of Odiyai Kool or Egg Hoppers in far-off lands.

The recipes have been lovingly compiled by Rani Thangarajah in Melbourne from friends and relatives both here and from Tamil Eelam. While every care has been taken to give a fairly comprehensive selection, this book cannot be exhaustive.

The book is intended mainly for Tamils who have settled overseas, from choice or necessity. I hope that a will provide them with a real link to their rich heritage.

Puttu & Murukku Makers
 Puttu & Murukku Makers

As in all recipe books, the weights and measures and methods are those of the cooks. Every cook in the kitchen will make adjustments as her spirit and knowledge of taste lead her. Less chilli here. more salt there, a little more tamarind, leave out this, add that . . . what delights the trying of a recipe brings! I hope this book will prove to be no less exciting for lovers of Jaffna Tamil food everywhere. Outside South and South East Asia. almost all the ingredients are available in most Asian groceries specialising in Sri Lankan and Indian produce in the major cities of Australia, Europe and the United States.

This book could not have been written without the help of the women of Melbourne who contributed the recipes from the storehouses of their mothers' and grandmothers' collections: I thank Dr Kanthi Kanavathipillay for help with translation from the Tamil. I also thank the family of the late S. Arumugam of Kuala Lumpur for permitting me to use excerpts from their family letters."

Ammi - Flat Granite Grinder used in Tamil Homes
Ammi - Flat Granite Grinder used in Tamil Homes

What�s cooking? Preparing and sharing food in Ambai�s Tamil short stories - Lakshmi Holmstr�m, Fellow, East Anglia University, United Kingdom[also in PDF]

"...Food can be a means of defining a group identity: other people stereotype the �Madrassi� by what and how she eats... while someone from Tirunelveli defines himself as much by regional landscape as by local foods... On the other hand, where a protagonist perceives her �self� as fluid and changing, tastes and smells of food still feature prominently among the ragbag of memories, sense impressions including music, and emotions that make up her particular history.."

There is an abundance of tropes to do with food, cooking and eating in modern Tamil fiction. They appear consistently in the short stories of Ambai, a contemporary author in Tamil, who writes from a feminist perspective. She uses examples of food and cooking to highlight certain themes in her work: frames and boundaries; order, control and power relations within boundaries, and pleasures outside them. As a writer who grew up in Tamil Nadu but now lives in Bombay, a recurrent theme is the quest for identity, or sense of the self.

Food can be a means of defining a group identity: other people stereotype the �Madrassi� by what and how she eats (�Arat, a sparrow), while someone from Tirunelveli defines himself as much by regional landscape as by local foods ( �Journey 2�). On the other hand, where a protagonist perceives her �self� as fluid and changing, tastes and smells of food still feature prominently among the ragbag of memories, sense impressions including music, and emotions that make up her particular history (�A rose-coloured sari�).

Ambai also sees food and cooking as ways of imposing control within the family, and maintaining boundaries between communities. She questions the value of hospitality, which merely reflects the status and importance of the pater familias.�A kitchen in the corner of the house� examines the mother-in-law�s illusory authority in the kitchen, the establishment of a hierarchy within it, and how that authority can be subverted through �food wars�. In other stories (e.g. �Parasakti and others in a plastic box�), a mother�s food brings order to the day and the seasons ofthe year, but this order limits flexibility and choice. Outside the boundaries areforbidden foods: for example, impure foods sacrificed to the non-Sanskritic goddess Mariamman and then cooked into delicious chicken pulao; mouth-watering butun healthy street foods (�Journey 3�) or palm toddy (�Forest�).

These cross caste and class lines; they are dangerously close to �pain, blood and death�, and they afford the delights of indulgence and excess. Sharing food is a continuing theme in Ambai�s stories. Sharing food also means crossing boundaries between generations, communities and cultures (�Gifts�,�Age�, �Camel ride�). The ideal feast is one where the cooking is shared equally and spontaneously (�Forest�). Everyone eats together, no one �serves� another: the opposite of the hierarchy described in �A kitchen�. The feast also asserts the right to pleasure, which sometimes has to be earned through pain. The women in �Forest�cook their feast together, to the rhythm of Bahini Bai�s lyric which one of them sings:Arr�, sansara, sansara, life is like a griddle on which you cook your baakris: It is only when you have burnt your hand that you get your baakris.

An Overview of  Tamil Nadu Food - From Dining for Women - Making Connections, March 2007 Courtesy: http://www.diningforwomen.org/

Most Tamils are vegetarian by cultural tradition or necessity. The food tends to be fiery�so adjust chile amounts to whatever you can take comfortably (recipes below have been adjusted). Tamil cooking almost always involves a process called �tempering��quickly sauteing a few spices that become the base of (or are added to) most dishes.

Tamils (and most south Indians) follow an eating pattern that is a different from that of northern India as well. Rice, as in most of north India, is the basis of the meal. It is served, however, with three basic types of accompaniments. In this order, a Tamil meal would include rice served with a sambar (a rather thin curry, often made with tamarind); rasam (a tart and spicy soup�really, almost a drink); and finally �curd� or yogurt (plain or mixed with vegetables or fruits). Other drier types of curries, chutneys and pickles, and Indian breads might round out a meal.

Tamils love milk-based desserts such as payasam (thin, soup-like puddings often based on rice or thin noodles). This despite the fact that most south Indians of Dravidian descent are lactose-intolerant! Some nutritionists speculate that since meals almost always include yogurt as well, the lactose in the desserts is offset by the good enzymes and bacteria in the yogurt.

Of course, most poor Tamils sustain themselves with a little rice or ragi gruel and maybe a rasam and some yogurt. Ragi is a red grain grown in south India. When I asked an anthropologist friend of mine who lived in South India about it, he did not recommend that we try to recreate it. Having eaten it a lot himself, he warned that it can cause severe digestive problems, especially for those unaccustomed to it. You can find finely-ground ragi flour (commonly used in India rota breads) in Indian stores. The ragi consumed by poor Indians is generally much coarser.

A note on South Indian ingredients:

Tamarind is the date-like fruit of a large Indian tree. Indian groceries will usually carry tamarind pulp, which contains seeds. Tamarind pulp must be soaked in hot water, which is then strain to remove the seeds, before use. You can also buy tamarind concentrated, seedless tamarind paste. You add it to hot water and stir to dissolve before using in recipes.... I use 2-3t of tamarind paste per 1c of soaking water called for in recipes. Tamarind is quite sour; lemon juice can be substituted when called for in tiny amounts. Asofoetida (�heeng�) usually comes in powder form and is made from a dried resin. It is very, very pungent and on its own not very desirable. It�s one of those things like anchovy (think Worchestershire Sauce) that rounds out dishes and is indistinguishable in judicious amounts. You would only use a pinch in most dishes and you can omit it. Some cooks use a little garlic as a substitute.

Toor Dal are split and spinned pigeon peas, sometimes confusingly called �red gram dal.� They are yellow. Toor Dal is a central ingredient (adding body) in sambars and rasams. Cooking it in water is the first step in making either. I find that toor dal takes about 30-40 minutes to cook to a very soft state necessary for these dishes, although time may vary. You should be able to mash it easily with a fork. In Tamil recipes, you do not drain the dal before adding it to sambars and rasams.

Whole Spices and Dried Coconut and Legumes are often ground to make pastes that season and thicken south Indian dishes. If you use a recipe that calls for a paste containing these ingredients, be sure to grind them very, very finely�otherwise the texture won�t be very pleasant. I�ve adapted the recipes here so that you don�t need to worry about this.

Ghee is clarified butter from which the milk solid have been removed so that it can be used for frying. (Milk solids in butter burn at a relatively low temperature�think about how fast butter browns�thus making whole butter a poor frying medium.) Ghee is sold in Indian stores and many others, but process is easy to do and you�ll find directions easily on the internet. For the recipes I�ve included, whole butter will work fine as long as you are careful with your cooking temperature and watch it carefully.

Curry Leaves are small and flavorful but have nothing to do with curry powder (a spice blend). They are used in tempering. Fresh are best and many Indian stores will carry them. If you can�t find them, however, don�t worry.

Sambar and Rasam Powders are spices mixes, just like curry powder. You can make your own or purchase the mixes in Indian stores. They vary by brand and by cook, but generally contain the same basic ingredients.

Selected Tamil Recipes [see also Tamil Recipes: An online index of blogged authentic Tamil dishes... by Revathi, USA]



Vegetable Curries

Vegetarian Kulambhu


Rasam & Sothi

Vegetarian Poriyal


Sea Food



Pachadi, Podi, Pickle, Chutney



  Samaiyal, Chandravathanaa Selvakumaran, Germany

Kuchen - Cake


உருண்டை‌க் கறி குழம்பு

ஒடியல் கூழ்

ஒடியல் பிட்டு

கடலை பருப்பு பகோடா



Tamil cooking in all its splendour, Hindu 6 March 2007
CHENNAI: C.K. Gariyali, Principal Secretary to the Governor, had only one complaint. "As I am a vegetarian, I am not able to eat some of the best dishes here ... "

Going by her comments, and that of the other guests, the `Tamilaga Unavu Tiruvizha' (Festival of foods of Tamil Nadu) at the MGR Institute of Hotel Management and Catering last week was a grand success.

The annual food festival organised by the college on Friday featured over 30 recipes, a majority of them non-vegetarian. It was a spread to do justice to Tamil cuisine: Kancheepuram idly, Tirunelveli halwa, Pudukkottai idiyappam, Thengapal and Namakkal Vadai, among others, for vegetarians. For non-vegetarians, the fare included Chennai meen kozhumbu, Erode mutton chukka, Ramanathapuram era varuval, Nagapattinam sura puttu, Sivagangai Chettinad koli kolambu.

Finally, all these washed down with piping Kumbakonam degree coffee.

Institute principal K. Damodharan (Chef Damu), college chairperson D. Meenakshi Ammal and managing trustee A.N Radhakrishnan were at hand to look after the guests.


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