Tamil Nadu Beyond Idlis and Dosas

Tamil Nadu Beyond Idlis and Dosas
Find out more of the variety of foods from Tamil Nadu Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you are a fan of coconuts and tamarind, you are sure to find something you like on this list

Sahana Iyer
October 23 , 2019
09 Min Read

“I love Tamil food.”

“What do you like?” 


“Idli and Dosa” 

This is a typical (rather exhausting) conversation involving discussion of food from Tamil Nadu. While the appeal of soft idlis and crisp dosas is understandable, there are many other options that are hardly ever even mentioned, let alone tasted. Portions of coconut, vegetables, spices and tamarind mixed together in various proportions to make many delectable concoctions. If you ever get a chance to visit the state down-south, these are dishes you have to know about, if not to taste, at least to increase your knowledge of food from Tamil Nadu.

Tip: You will come across a lot of dishes with ‘zh’ in their name, this is pronounced as ‘r’ without rolling your tongue.

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A post shared by Shanthi Ramachandran (@shaanthram) on Jul 26, 2018 at 10:51pm PDT


Vatha kuzhambu

If you are a fan of intense spicy gravies, this one is ideal for you. This spicy, dark gravy is made with sun dried vegetables or berries or vathals. There are a few versions of this dish depending on the ingredients. The flavour has complex layers with sour, bitter, spicy components swimming on your tongue. The intense heat of the dish is generally balanced with a serving of curd rice along with the gravy. Tamarind is another key ingredient in the dish. 

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A post shared by Julia George (@julias_keralakitchen) on Sep 13, 2019 at 11:21am PDT


There are various dishes in Tamil cuisine that are often not the star element of a meal at all. However, these additional dishes add interesting flavour profiles to the meal. One such dish is pachaddi. This accompaniment is a sweet and sour addition to one’s rice and (generally) kozhamba (lentils with coconut). While the ingredients do vary in different recipes or versions, tamarind usually is present in most of the lists.

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A post shared by Winston Raja (@thedebonairmaven) on Jul 1, 2018 at 12:31am PDT

Aatu Kari Kozhambu

Something that is not well-known to people is that a lot of food in Tamil Nadu is created with the help of powders (lentils and spices ground). These add various flavours to the dish. One such dish is Aatu Kari Kozambu, which is a delicious mutton curry. With strong notes of coconut, coriander seeds and spices, this mutton gravy is generally eaten with rice (as are most things in the south). The dish is easy to make and does not require a ton of preparation. 

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A post shared by Sini (@siniscollection) on Apr 25, 2019 at 8:34pm PDT

Banana Bonda/ Sweet Paniyaram

Golden, deep-fried dough balls of banana, just the description sounds delicious. This dish is typically served as a snack in late afternoons or evenings. The backdrop of rainy weather would be ideal. The main ingredient is obviously, bananas. These are mixed with ginger and cardamom powder to make a batter and then deep-fried. The result is a crispy on the outside, soft and spongy on the inside ball. 

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A post shared by Vasudevan Prasanna (@vpraz74) on Oct 4, 2019 at 7:49pm PDT


This one is soon to be every health freak’s favourite. This snack is low on fat and oil, protein-rich and best of all, delicious. Boiled chickpeas tossed in less oil and then combined with grated coconut, this dish is appetizing and filling. It is often served as prasadam after a pooja (prayer). The addition of spices and herbs add to the taste of the dish. 

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A post shared by 🔸வாழà¯Â,வாழவிà®ÂŸà¯Ââ— (@_aishukarthik) on May 29, 2018 at 8:02am PDT

Mampazha Sambar

Now, we all know sambar. The delicious, flavourful dip for your piping idlis. But did you know that Tamilians combined the two greatest eatables into one irresistible dish? Mango and sambar together create Mampazha (mango) Sambar. Sweet, spicy and a punch of flavours, the dish is in every Tamil household in the summers. This gravy is generally served with a pile of rice. While the idea sounds like a dessert, it is certainly not. It is a meal gravy eaten just as any other version of Sambar is. 


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