You are on page 1of 62

INTRODUCTION

Tamil Nadu is famous for its deep belief that serving food to others is a service to humanity, as it
is common in many regions of India. The region has a rich cuisine involving both
traditional non-vegetarian and 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.
Veg Mini Meals in Tamil Nadu served with Sambar rice, Tamarind rice, Curd rice, Sweet Pongal,
Chappathi with gravy and chips.
Rice and legumes play a significant role in Tamil cuisine. Lentils are also consumed extensively,
either

accompanying

rice

preparations,

dishes. Vegetables and dairy products

are

or

essential

in

the

form

accompaniments,

of

independent

and tamarindrather

than amchoor is the favoured souring agent. Rice is the chief staple as with the rest of South
India.
On special occasions, traditional Tamil dishes are prepared in almost the same way as they were
centuries agopreparations 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 Tamilan would eat Idli/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.[citation needed]
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.

Masala Dosa(colloquially Masal dosa) as served in Tamil Nadu, India. Masala dosa was listed as
one of the world's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go.com
Over a period of time, each geographical area where Tamils have lived has developed its own
distinct variant of the common dishes in addition to dishes native to itself. The four divisions of
ancient Tamilakam are the primary means of dividing Tamil cuisine.
The Chettinad region comprising Karaikudi and adjoining areas is known for both traditional
vegetarian dishes like idiyappam, uthappam,paal paniyaram and non-vegetarian dishes made
primarily using Chicken and mutton. Chettinad cuisine has gained popularity in non-Tamil
speaking areas as well.

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The study is to know about the authentic foods of tamiladu


The study is to know details about the foods and its tricks.
The study is to know various techniques about the authentic foods.
Study details the Hotel hoppers entertain the guest.

LIMITATION

The time constraints were very less to collect the data.


The collection of data was difficult to approach bar.
The study cant be conducted magnificently because of lack of time to meet the
managers.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
There are two methods of collecting informations
1. Primary
2. Secondary
The method used here to collect information is secondary. Following are the sources for the
secondary method.

Books
Journals
Websites.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Food studies is the critical examination of food and its contexts within science, art, history,
society, and other fields. It is distinctive from other food-related areas of study such
asnutrition, agriculture, gastronomy, and culinary arts in that it tends to look beyond the mere
consumption, production, and aesthetic appreciation of food and tries to illuminate food as it
relates to a vast number of academic fields. It is thus a field that involves and
attracts philosophers,

historians,

scientists,

literary scholars,

sociologists,

historians,

anthropologists, and others.


WHAT IS FOOD STUDIES?
Food studies are an emerging interdisciplinary field of study that examines the complex
relationships among food, culture, and society from numerous disciplines in the humanities,
social sciences, and sciences. Food studies is not the study of food itself; it is different from more
traditional food-related areas of study such as agricultural science, nutrition, culinary arts, and
gastronomy in that it deals with more than the simple production, consumption, and aesthetic
appreciation of food. It is the study of food and its relationship to the human experience. This
relationship is examined from a variety of perspectives lending a multidisciplinary aspect to this
field encompassing areas such as, art, sociology, education, economics, health, social justice,
Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies.
WHY FOOD STUDIES?
Food studies looks at peoples relationships with food and reveals an abundance of
information about them. Food choices expose a group or a persons beliefs, passions, background
knowledge, assumptions and personalities. Hauck-Lawson (2004) introduced the concept of food
voice. She suggested that what one eats or chooses not to eat communicates aspects of a persons
identity or emotion in a manner that words alone cannot. Food choices tell stories of families,
migrations, assimilation, resistance, changes over times, and personal as well as group identity.
So why do we need to study food in a non- epicurean manner? Food studies can challenge us to
look deeply into the common daily occurrence of eating and find deeper meaning in this ordinary
practice. It can help us understand ourselves and others better. It can help debunk stereotypes and
promote acceptance across individuals and groups. In essence, food studies, why not?

EATING VERSUS FEEDING


Food provides animals the nutrients needed to maintain life and growth when ingested.
When most animals feed, they consume foods needed for their well-being and do so in a similar
way at each feeding. Humans, however, do not feed, they eat. This trait distinguished humans
from other animals. Humans gather, hunt, cultivate plants, and raise livestock for food
consumption. Humans also cook, use utensils to eat and institute a complex set of rules following
a code of etiquette to govern how to eat appropriately. The human trait of sharing food is
exclusive to its species. Humans relate to food in a in a way they is unique to mankind. We do
not simply feed.
FOOD AND IDENTITY
Kittler, Sucher, and Nelms (2012) coined the term food habits (also known as food
culture or foodways) to describe the manner in which humans use food, including everything
from how it is chosen, acquired, and distributed to who prepares, serves, and eats it. They stated
that the significance of the food habits process is that it is unique to human beings. They
pondered why people spend so much time, energy, money, and creativity on eating. A familiar
saying that epitomizes the idea of food and identity is, You are what you eat. This expression
addresses two of the questions considered in the research: What does the food on my plate
signify? and How do food practices contribute to personal identity? These questions address the
concept of food as a cultural signifier and encompass fields as diverse as literature, anthropology,
sociology, and history. Research shows that the relationship between the foods people eat and
how others perceive them and how they see themselves is remarkable. Sadella and Burroughs
(1981) surveyed individuals about their perceptions of themselves as consumers of food and how
they viewed others based on their dietary habits. The researchers listed foods which were
distinctive to five different diets: fast food (pizza, hamburgers, and fired chicken), synthetic food
(Carnation Instant Breakfast, Cheez Whiz), health food (yogurt, protein shake, and wheat germ),
vegetarian (bean sprout sandwich, broccoli quiche, avocado, and brown rice), and gourmet food
(French roast coffee, caviar, oysters). They learned participants in the study associated different
personality types with the food choices made for each of the five diets.

FOOD AND SYMBOLISM


Food has symbolic meanings based on association with other meaningful experiences.
An example of the symbolic meanings including food references can be found in many of our
common expressions. Bread is a good example of the symbolism found in foods. When people
sit together with friends at a meal they are said to break bread with one another. This expression
symbolizes a setting where friends come together in a warm, inviting and jovial manner to eat.
Bread has been called the staff of life. The type of bread consumed by a person has been known
to indicate social standing. For instance, white bread has traditionally been eaten by the upper
class (also known as the upper crust a bread reference) while dark bread is consumed by the
poor. Whole wheat bread is the bread of choice in todays society by persons concerned more
with their health than their status. An affluent person has a lot of bread. In some cultures, bread
is shared by couples as part of their wedding ceremony. In the Christian religion it represents the
body of Christ in the sacrament of communion. Superstitions about bread have also been
documented. Greek soldiers take a piece of bread from home into battle to ensure their safe and
triumphant return home. Sailors traditionally bring a bun on their journeys to prevent
shipwrecks. English midwives would place a loaf of bread at the foot of a new mothers bed to
prevent the woman and her child from being kidnapped by evil spirits.
CULTURAL IDENTITY
Culturally speaking, in essence, what one eats defines who one is and is not. This
statement addresses the third question asked in the research, what are examples of how food and
food habits contribute to the development and transmission of culture? Culture is defined as the
beliefs, values, and attitudes practiced and accepted by members of a group or community.
Culture is not inherited; it is learned. The food choices of different cultural groups are often
connected to ethnic behaviors and religious beliefs. Kittler, P.G., Sucher, K.P., & Nelms (2012)
addressed the influence of food habits on an individuals self-identity by stating, Eating is a
daily reaffirmation of [ones] cultural identity. Many people affiliate the foods from their
culture, their childhood with warm, good feelings and memories. The food is part of who we are
and become. It ties us to our families and holds a special worth to a person. Foods from our
culture, from our family often become the comfort foods we seek as adults in times of frustration
and stress.

As an Italian American, the author began to consider how her heritage, handed down
through the food on her plate, signified who she has become today. During the seminar held in
Naples, Italy, a focus of the lectures was an examination of how Italian food and the
Mediterranean diet are marketed and have affected the socioeconomic reality of the region.
During a lecture, the author asked about food traditions in Italian families. She learned a custom
was the Sunday dinner. Every Sunday, the matriarch of the family prepared a large pot of
spaghetti. The entire family then gathers together to eat pasta and enjoy each others company at
Nanas (Grandmothers) house. The author is a second generation Italian American. As a child,
every Sunday morning her father (first generation Italian) and sometimes her mother (nonItalian)
made spaghetti. It was a family tradition. Dear old Aunt Julia would come by precisely at dinner
time with a hot loaf of bread (another Italian tradition is bring bread as a gift when invited for
dinner) and the family ate and laughed and shared stories with one another. The warm buttered
bread and a big salad were always served with the spaghetti. The memory as well as the spaghetti
was delicious. This memory, connected to familys heritage and culture, confirmed to the author
that food is much more than nutrients. There were emotional connections, a sense of belonging,
and ethnic pride found in the food on the authors Italian plate. Cultural identity, however, is not
restricted by the specific foods one associates with a given ethnic or racial group. Ones social
class, standing in the community, and profession are signifiers of culture as well. For instance, in
American society there are norms and standards which are followed in social settings when
dining. The proper use of food and behaviors connected with civilized eating habits, also known
as manners or etiquette is an expression of group membership. In the United States a certain set
of appropriate dining expectations exist for a variety of dining occasions. One does not speak
with a mouth full of food, especially during formal dining occasions. Certain conversational
topics would be inappropriate to share at the dinner table. Sharing a meal with another person
connotes equality and is a way to show acceptance of one another professionally and personally.

FOOD USED TO BE TRADITIONAL FOOD FOR TAMIL PEOPLE

Life in the Sangam Period


People lived in five different landscapes and their food habits were very much
influenced by their environment. The herdsmen of mullai (forest tracks) region enjoyed maize,
beans, thinai rice (millet), and milk, yogurt, and ghee made from buffalo milk. Farmers of the
marutham (farm land) region cultivated rice, sugarcane, mango, jackfruit and plantains for food.
They were familiar with irrigation methods and used water stored in reservoirs in their fields.
They ate their white rice and rice gruel with roasted flesh of fowl. Fishermen of the neithal
(coastal) region ate fish and drank a potage of rice and warm toddy kept in wide mouthed jars. In
the kurunchi (mountainous) region they ate millet, flesh of rams, honey, and drank rice toddy.
They also cultivated fruits and vegetables and gathered honey. In the Palai (dry land) region
hunters

lived

on

red

rice

and

animals

they

hunted.

Food in the Sangam Period


The early inhabitants of the south were by no means vegetarians. Rice was the staple
and they ate it with the meats of rams, deer, fowl, iguana, fish, crabs and pigs cooked with ghee
and spices. Mangoes, jackfruit, sugarcane and honey provided the sweet component to their
meals. Their foods also included edible roots, buffalo curd preserved in bamboo pipes, Sweet
cakes resembling honey combs, pasties made of coconut and sugar and pickled fruits. Toddy was
in

abundant

supply

and

was

consumed

by

all

classes

of

people.

Hospitality was considered virtue and both the rich and the poor delighted in serving
their guests, and ate what was left. On festive occasions the king and the rich held free feasts and
several delicacies were offered. The food that the king provided to his court poets, soldiers and
subjects is often descried in detail. Several of these old poems describe of foods of the common
people and feasts that were prepared and served at the palaces, at festivals, and at weddings.

FOOD AND CULTURE


People also connect to their cultural or ethnic group through similar food patterns. Immigrants
often use food as a means of retaining their cultural identity. People from different cultural
backgrounds eat different foods. The ingredients, methods of preparation, preservation
techniques, and types of food eaten at different meals vary among cultures. The areas in which
families live and where their ancestors originatedinfluence food likes and dislikes. These
food preferences result in patterns of food choices within a cultural or regional group.
Food items themselves have meaning attached to them. In many Western countries a box of
chocolates would be viewed as an appropriate gift. The recipient of the gift would react
differently to a gift of cabbage or carrots than to chocolate. In other countries chocolates might
be a less appropriate gift.
Nations or countries are frequently associated with certain foods. For example, many people
associate Italy with pizza and pasta. Yet Italians eat many other foods, and types of pasta dishes
vary throughout Italy. Methods of preparation and types of food vary by regions of a nation.
Some families in the United States prefer to eat "meat and potatoes," but "meat and potatoes" are
not eaten on a regular basis, nor even preferred, by many in the United States and would not be
labeled a national cuisine. Grits, a coarsely ground corn that is boiled, is eaten by families in the
southern United States. A package of grits is only available in the largest supermarkets in the
upper Midwest and would have been difficult to find even in large Midwestern supermarkets
twenty years ago.
Regional food habits do exist, but they also change over time. As people immigrate, food
practices and preferences are imported and exported. Families move to other locations, bringing
their food preferences with them. They may use their old recipes with new ingredients, or
experiment with new recipes, incorporating ingredients to match their own tastes. In addition,
food itself is imported from other countries. Approximately 80 percent of Samoa's food
requirements are imported from the United States, New Zealand, or Australia (Shovic 1994).
Because people and food are mobile, attempts to characterize a country or people by what they
eat are often inaccurate or tend to lump people into stereotypical groups.

Nevertheless, what is considered edible or even a delicacy in some parts of the world might be
considered inedible in other parts. Although food is often selected with some attention to
physical need, the values or beliefs a society attaches to potential food items define what families
within a cultural group will eat. For example, both plant and animal sources may contribute to
meeting nutritional requirements for protein; soybeans, beef, horsemeat, and dog meat are all
adequate protein sources. Yet, due to the symbolism attached to these protein sources, they are
not equally available in all societies. Moreover, even when the foods perceived to be undesirable
are available, they are not likely to be eaten by people who have a strong emotional reaction
against the potential food item.
Some food beliefs and practices are due to religious beliefs. Around the world, Muslims fast
during Ramadan, believed to be the month during which the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, was
given from God to the Prophet Muhammad. During this month, Muslims fast during daylight
hours, eating and drinking before dawn and after sunset. Orthodox Jews and some conservative
Jews follow dietary laws, popularly referred to as a kosher diet, discussed in Jewish scripture.
The dietary laws, which describe the use and preparation of animal foods, are followed for
purposes of spiritual health. Many followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism are
vegetarians, in part, because of a doctrine of noninjury or nonviolence. Abstinence from eating
meat in these traditions stems from the desire to avoid harming other living creatures. Despite
religious food prescriptions, dietary practices vary widely even among those who practice the
same faith. Such variations may be due to branches or denominations of a religious group,
national variations, and individuals' or families' own degree of orthodoxy or religious adherence.
In addition to impacting food choices, culture also plays a role in food-related etiquette. People
in Western societies may refer to food-related etiquette as table manners, a phrase that illustrates
the cultural expectation of eating food or meals at a table. Some people eat with forks and
spoons; more people use fingers or chopsticks. However, utensil choice is much more
complicated than choosing chopsticks, fingers, or flatware. Among some groups who primarily
eat food with their fingers, diners use only the right hand to eat. Some people use only three
fingers of the right hand. Among other groups, use of both hands is acceptable. In some
countries, licking the fingers is polite; in others, licking the fingers is considered impolite (and
done only when a person thinks no one else is watching). Rules regarding polite eating may

increase in formal settings. At some formal dinners, a person might be expected to choose the
"right" fork from among two or three choices to match the food being eaten at a certain point in
the meal.
The amount people eat and leave uneaten also varies from group to group. Some people from
Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries might leave a little bit of food on their plates in
order to indicate that their hunger has been satisfied (Kittler 2001). Cooks from other locations
might be offended if food is left on the plate, indicating that the guest may have disliked the
food. Similarly, a clean plate might signify either satisfaction with the meal or desire for more
food.
Even the role of conversation during mealtime varies from place to place. Many families believe
that mealtime is a good time to converse and to "catch up" on the lives of family and friends.
Among other families, conversation during a meal is acceptable, but the topics of conversation
are limited. In some Southeast Asian countries it is considered polite to limit conversation during
a meal (Kittler 2001).
Food plays an important role in the lives of families in most cultures. However, the degree of
importance varies from culture to culture. For example, in American Samoa most family
activities and ceremonies center on eating. A host family demonstrates its prosperity or societal
rank by providing large quantities of food (Shovic 1994). Among other families in other
locations, activities and celebrations include food, but food is not necessarily the center of the
event.
Food traditions vary widely throughout the world. Even among people who share similar cultural
backgrounds and some of the same food habits, eating patterns are not identical. Further, families
vary from their own daily routines on holidays, when traveling, or when guests are present. Men
eat differently from women. People of different age groups eat differently. However, in most
parts of the world, food is associated with hospitality and expression of friendship. Therefore,
sensitivity to food rules and customs is important in building and strengthening cross-cultural
relationships.

TAMILNADU TRADITIONAL FOODS,.

Tamil cuisine is quite incredible and it's not all dosas and sambars. The versatility of their food
reflects a meeting of cultures. Be it Kongunadu or Arcot, Chettiars or the Iyengar Community food assumes different characteristics across borders. Yet there's one thing that binds all, every
dish demands your attention when you sit down to savour.

I
my

remember
time

in Chennai,
when my aunt cooked us a traditional spread. The aroma coming from the kitchen was magical.
From tangy tamarind to fresh turmeric to pungent pods of chillies and curry leaves crackling in
coconut oil, a symphony of tastes played out on the palate. The Classic Anglo-Indian soup,
Mulligatawny, was rich with spices and meat. Mulligatawny literally means 'pepper water'. It
was so satisfying and delicious that you could get addicted. The Chicken 65 was red, hot and
crispy. Total fire-cracker, this one. A strong dose of Filter Kaapi, that followed, was all that was
needed to soothe my tongue.

The food from down South is very different from North India - much lighter and dominated by

spices, seafood and vegetables. Rice is a staple and a type of short-grained, fluffy variety called
Ponni is used most often.Few cuisines use rice and lentils with such creativity as
them. Turmeric and tamarind find their presence in many dishes. Coastal areas are where seafood
is king, you'll find everything from King fish and Ravi fish to squids, mud crabs and prawns - the
ones from Bay of Bengal tend to be bigger in size and juicier.

Tamil cuisine in its authentic form is that of the Iyengars or Tamil Brahmins which remains true
to its roots. It originated from the ritual of Annadana, a custom of serving food to God and then
distributing it to the people in Tamil temples. The meal is pure vegetarian fare served on banana
leaves and is called Ilai Sappadu. 'Sappadu' means a full course meal that accommodates all the
six tastes - sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent and astringent. It consists of a never-ending array of
dishes such as Poriyal, Rice, Varuval, Pachadi, Idli,Payasam, Sambar, Thokku, Vadai, Rice,
Kuzambu amongst others.

"The Sambar from Tamil Nadu varies from other Southern regions. It's tangy and thicker with
more of lentils and local vegetables like drumsticks, brinjal, white and red pumpkins and
doodhi. It has a distinct flavour and aroma that comes from adding asafoetida or heeng. In

Kerala, they use coconut. The one from Karnataka has a subtle sweetness and in Andhra it is on
the spicier side," shares Chef Naren Thimmiaiah from Karavalli in Bangalore. The dosas are
crisp

and

paper-thin

with

glistening

golden

hue.

What's Indian food without the heat? The Chettinad cuisine from Tamil Nadu is famous for its
use of spices. "Back in the day, Chettiars were a community of spice merchants. They travelled
all around world and got home exotic varieties. They use certain spices like Marathi Moggu
which has a flavour similar to that of mustard and pepper and Kalpasi flowers that you may not
find in other parts of the country. Black peppercorn and dry ginger are used to lend a hot
character, chillies were introduced to India much later," remarks Chef Manu Nair from BonSouth
in Bangalore.

Tamil cuisine is also heavily influenced by its various rulers and foreign inspirations. Angaya
Podi is a beautiful blend of spices and herbs including dry ginger, pepper, cumin seeds, toor dal,
Bengal gram, Black gram, dried manathakkali keerai, dried need leaves, coriander leaves and
mustard seeds. It was created in the royal kitchens of Pandayas and Cholas. Usually eaten with
hot rice and ghee, it serves as digestive aid. The use of sesame oil in most Tamil dishes is also
believed to be a culinary contribution of the Sangam period. Similarly, the region around
Coimbatore is popular for its bakery goods borrowing from the French cuisine. The flaky puff
pastry is an absolute delight. Together with neighboring cities of Salem, Tirupur, Erode and
Palani it forms the Kongunadu cuisine. It derives its unique flavours from the use of dry coconut,
roasted turmeric and milk in curries.

Lastly, the food from the Arcot which is a Muslim-dominated area stands apart from the others. It
boasts of rustic flavours while Tamil cuisine is generally believed to be more refined. This region
is known for its meaty preparations like the Arcot Mutton Chops and Arcot Biryani. The
Acrot Biryani is distinguished by the use of Seeraga Samba rice which is more like Arborio rice
used in risottos and its cooking technique. Unlike Hyderabadi biryanis, the meat and rice is
prepared separately and then placed in a vessel over coal to cook further on dum.

10 BEST TRADITIONAL TAMIL RECIPES

1. Meen Kozhambu
A Kozhambu recipe to rule them all. Kozhambu is a gravy preparation with a base of tamarind,
toor dal and urad dal. This one is a fish curry is made with whole of chillies and tamarind that
makes it hot and sour in one bite.
2. Milagu Pongal
Recipe by Chef Niru Gupta
This could be a light and lovely breakfast recipe. With cumin seeds, pepper and asafetida, it
smells divine.

3. Urlai Roast
Recipe by Chef Praveen Anand, Dakshin Restaurant, ITC Park Sheraton, Chennai
Baby potatoes are roasted and cooked in a freshly grounded masala, this recipe comes straight
from the homeland.

4. Chicken 65
Recipe by Chef Velu Murugan.P, Dakshin Restaurant, ITC Park Sheraton, New Delhi
Learn from an expert how to make restaurant-style chicken 65 at home.

5. Chicken Chettinad
Chicken Chettinad a fantastic dish worthy of learning how to make it perfectly. Chef Nair
tells me that the traditional recipe uses a mix of 28 spices!
6. Archuvitta Sambar
In the traditional recipe, the sambar powder is made with roasted and freshly grounded spices. It
is a regular in most Iyer households.

7. Cabbage Poriyal
A simple vegetarian side with stir-fried cabbage, mustard seeds, some roasted lentils and fresh
coconut.

8. Mulligatawny Soup
Apples, carrots, potatoes and red lentils simmered with coconut milk, tamarind pulp and black
peppercorns. Perfect for a cold day.

9. Medhu Vada
Serve this crisp delight as a meal with sambhar or a quick snack with coconut chutney.

10. Arisi Thengai Payasam


A traditional Tamil Sappadu would be incomplete without the sweet, sweet Payasam. It is a
Kheer-like dessert and this one is made with rice, coconut and jaggery. Another stunner from the
Iyer community.

MADURAI
Madurai is a major city and cultural headquarters in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. It is the
administrative headquarters ofMadurai District and the 31st largest urban agglomeration in India.
[4]

Madurai is the third largest city by area and third largest city by population in Tamil Nadu.

[5]

Located on the banks of River Vaigai, Madurai has been a major settlement for two millennia

and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.


Madurai is closely associated with the Tamil language, and the third Tamil Sangam, a major
congregation of Tamil scholars said to have been held in the city. The recorded history of the city
goes back to the 3rd century BCE, being mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to
India, and Kautilya, a minister of the Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Signs of human
settlements and Roman trade links dating back to 300BC are evident from excavations
by Archeological Survey of India in Manalur.[8][9][10] The city is believed to be of significant
antiquity

and

has

been

ruled,

at

different

times,

by

the Pandyas, Cholas,Madurai

Sultanate, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Carnatic kingdom, and the British.

The

city

has

number

of

historical

monuments,

with

the Meenakshi

Amman

Temple and Tirumalai Nayak Palace being the most prominent. Madurai is an important
industrial and educational hub in South Tamil Nadu. The city is home to various automobile,
rubber, chemical and granite manufacturing industries.[11] It has developed as a second-tier city
for information technology (IT), and some software companies have opened offices in Madurai.
The Tamil Nadu government has planned a satellite town for Madurai near Thoppur.
Madurai has important government educational institutes like the Madurai Medical College,
Homeopathic Medical College,[12]Madurai Law College, Agricultural College and Research
Institute. Madurai city is administered by a municipal corporationestablished in 1971 as per the
Municipal Corporation Act. Madurai is the second corporation in Tamil Nadu next to Chennai
corporation. The city covers an area of 242.97 km2 and had a population of 1,017,865 in 2011.
[13]

The city is also the seat of a bench of the Madras High Court, one of only a few courts outside

the state capitals of India.

Madurai cuisine mainly comprises of vegetarian food viz. dosai, idly, pongal and sambar. The
food of Madurai is cooked in coconut oil using minimum condiments and spices. In fact,
Madurai food is known to be both simple and tasty. Some of the common ingredients used in
food of Madurai are lettuce leaves, carrots, brinjals, potatoes, ladies finger, tomatoes and
cauliflower.
Madurai cuisine is very popular all over the country. Since the food is easy to cook people from
various

parts

of

the

country

are

tempted

to

try

out

Madurai

cuisine.

Madurai is also known for its filter coffee, which is very popular among the tourists coming to
the city. Besides, the city is also famous for its drinks such as Paruthi Pal, Jil Jil Jigarthanda and
Ambatbath. Paruthi is a popular drink in Madurai, which is made from coconut, raw rice flour
and jaggery. Jil Jil Jigarthanda is yet another favorite drink, which is loved by the people of the
city.

Madurai houses many hotels and restaurants that specialize in local cuisine. Some of the hotels,
which

offer

excellent

Hotel Germanus

Hotel Royal Court

Hotel M.R. International

Hotel The Madurai Residency

Hotel Chentoor

Madurai

food

Sambar Idli - Mini idlis floating in sambar as served in Tamil Nadu

Appam served with Coconut Milk in Tamil Nadu

are

as

follows:

Veg Kothu Parotta served in Tamil Nadu


Madurai, Tirunelveli and the other southern districts of Tamil Nadu are known for nonvegetarian food made of mutton, Beef,chicken,biryani fish. Parota made with maida or allpurpose flour, and loosely similar to the north Indian wheat flour-based Paratha, is served at food
outlets

in

Tamil

Nadu,

especially

in

places

like Madurai, Nagercoil, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar and the adjoining areas. Parota is
not commonly made at home as it is laborious and time-consuming. Madurai has its own unique
foods such as jigarthanda,muttaiparotta (minced parotta and scrambled egg), paruthipal (made
of cottonseeds), Karidosai (dosai with mutton stuffing) & ennaidosai(dosai with lots of oil)
which are rarely found in other parts of Tamil Nadu.

Jigarthanda
Nanjilnadu (Kanyakumari district) region is famous for its fish curry since the region is
surrounded by the three great water bodies of Asia: (Indian ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of
Bengal). Fish forms an integral part of life. Owing to its unique cultural affinity and the
availability of coconut, coconut oil forms a base for almost all the preparations of the region.
The western Kongunadu region has specialities like Santhakai/Sandhavai (a noodle like item of
rice), Oputtu (a sweet tasting pizza-like dish that is dry outside with a sweet stuffing), and kola
urundai (meatballs), Thengai Paal (sweet hot milk made of jaggery, coconut and cotton seeds),
Ulundu Kali (Sweet made out of Jaggery, Gingely Oil and Black Gram), Kachayam (sweet made
out of jaggery and rice), Arisimparupu sadam, Ragi puttumavu, Arisi Puttumavu, Vazhaipoo
Poriyal, Kambu Paniyaram, Ragi Pakoda, Thengai Barbi, Kadalai Urundai, Ellu Urundai, Pori
Urundai. The natural crops of this region forms the main ingredients in this Kongunadu cuisine
Ceylon Tamil cuisine bears similarities to Tamil Nadu cuisine but also has many unique
vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It features dishes such as (steamed rice cake)
and idiyappam or sevai, (known in other parts of the world as string hoppers).
Eating-out in its capital city Chennai, is a great experience and provides a glimpse of the unique
lifestyle of the city. Chennai is known for its cuisine, brought to the city by people who have
migrated from different parts of Tamil Nadu. Chennai has a large collection of restaurants, some

of them are unique 'Speciality Restaurants,' which serve 'South Indian Cuisine' with an ambience
to match, while most others cater South Indian tiffin and meals, at very reasonable prices.
Meal - Restaurant
A meal (called Saapadu) in a restaurant consists of rice with other typical Tamilan dishes on a
banana leaf. A typical Tamilan would eat in banana leaf as it gives different flavour and taste to
the food. But it can also be served on a stainless steel tray - plate with a selection of different
dishes in small bowls. Rice is essential to the popular definition of meals. While North Indian
thali (meals) consists mainly Indian breads like roti, paratha and naan, Tamil meals (Saapadu)
comes mostly with rice.
Paayasam is usually served at the end as a dessert to finish the meal.
Finally a banana, beeda, and a glass of juice or lassi will be offered. One can eat the authentic
Tamil dishes in a typical restaurant in Tamil Nadu. A restaurant in other south Indian states
like Andhra, Kerala and Karnataka and also those in the rest of India have their own versions of
meals native to each state.
Though most restaurants use the south Indian cuisine or the name "madras" in the name, there is
a marked difference between the cuisines, preparations and ingredients in different regions. An
udipi restaurant, andhra restaurant, a kerala or a chettinad restaurant have different preparations
and speciality. For example, sambar from an Udipi restaurant cannot be equivalent to that from a
Tamil Nadu restaurant, though both call themselves South Indian..

Ambur biryani

Chicken Dum Biryani


Ambur/Vaniyambadi

biryani

is

type

of biryani cooked

in

neighboring

towns

of Ambur & Vaniyambadi in the Vellore district in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, which
has a high Muslim population. It was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot who once ruled the
place.
The Ambur/Vaniyambadi biryani is accompanied with 'dhalcha', a sour brinjal curry and 'pachadi'
or raitha, which is sliced onions mixed with plain curd, tomato, chillies and salt. It has a
distinctive aroma and is considered light on stomach and the usage of spice is moderate and curd
is used as a gravy base. It also has a higher ratio of meat to rice.[1]
Dindigul biryani
The Dindigul town of Tamil Nadu is noted for its biryani, which uses a little curd and lemon
juice to get a tangy taste.
Influence abroad
Historically, Tamil cuisine has traveled to many parts of the world. Most notably traces were
found by archaeologists that Tamil cuisines were supplied to the ancient Rome. It travelled
to Philippines, Greece, Middle

East, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand via

traders

(Nagarathar) from Tamil Nadu who are Karaikudi Chettiars. Along with Chinese, it has
influenced these international cuisines to what they are today, especially one can see the impact
of Tamil cuisine in Malaysian cuisines like parotta kurma (Roti canai/Roti Telur) and curried
items. South

Africa, Trinidad

and

Tobago, Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mauritius,

and Runion Indian cooking is also influenced by Tamil cuisine, which was brought by Indians
in the late 19th century.
Typical Tamil feast - Virundhu Sappadu[edit]
Virundhu in Tamil means feast, when guests (friends and relatives) are invited during happy
ceremonial occasions to share food. Sappadu means a full course meal, which will usually be a
lunch or dinner affair. Marriage festivities could also be a 'virundhu' saapaadu at breakfast times
if the marriage is solemnized in the morning hours.
In the olden days guests would sit on a coir mat rolled out on the floor and a full course meal was
served on a banana leaf. Nowadays, the same exercise is done but guests sit on a dinner table and
have the same type of food. Traditionally the banana leaf is laid so that the leaf tip is pointed left.
Before the feast begins the leaf is sprinkled with water and cleaned by the diner himself even
though the leaves are already clean. This exercise is seen mandatory in most of the occasions and
even in a few restaurants, which may deny its service to the diner, if he/she has not cleaned the
leaf plate.

\Virundhu - Sappadu served on a Banana leaf. See Image for extended descriptions.
The host will ensure that the menu includes as many variety of dishes as possible and guests are
served as many helpings as requested. The dishes are served in a particular sequence, and each
dish is placed on a particular spot of the banana leaf. Guests are expected to begin and end eating
the meal together and do not leave in middle of a meal. With a look at the food on the leaf, guests
will have a good idea of the community, wealth, and the region from which part of Tamil Nadu
the hosts originate.

Indian meals(Thali) served on either a Silver or Stainless steel plate.


The top half of the banana leaf is reserved for accessories, the lower half for the rice. In some
communities, the rice will be served only after the guest has been seated. The lower right portion
of the leaf may have a scoop of warm sweet milky rice Payasam, Kesari, Sweet Pongal or any
Dessert items. While the top left includes a pinch of salt, a dash of pickle and a thimbleful of
salad, or a smidgen of chutney. In the middle of the leaf there may be an odd number of fried
items like small circles of chips either banana, yam or potato, thin crisp papads or frilly wafers
aruna Appalams and vadai.
The top right hand corner is reserved for spicy foods including curry, hot, sweet, or sour and the
dry items. If it is a vegetarian meal, the vegetables are carefully chosen, between the country
ones-gourds, drumsticks, brinjals-and the 'English' ones, which could be carrot, cabbage, and
cauliflower. (If it is a non-vegetarian meal, a separate leaf is provided for the fried meats,

chicken, fish, crab, and so on.) But again, the variations are presented carefully, one dry one next
to a gravied one.
There may be side attractions such as poli, poori, Chappati, some of the famed rice preparations
such as Ghee Pongal or Puliyodarai(tamarind rice) particularly if the family comes from
Thanjavur, known as the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu.
Traditionally, sweets are eaten first. After having worked through the preliminaries, the long haul
starts with rice. Sambar is added to rice and eaten with maybe a sprinkling of ghee. This is
followed by rice with Kuzhambu and rice with Rasam. A final round of rice with curd or
buttermilk signals the end of meals. Though there are varieties of kuzhambu, only one will be on
offer in a given day. A banana may be served last.
After the meals, betel leaves and nuts are chewed in a leisurely way. Hearty banter and small
talks of the times gone by are discussed with nostalgia. It is a time to reminisce the past. The
betel leaf chewing is a traditional habit and was a preserve of the older folks. The betel leaf is
packed into a little 'package' with edible calcium paste layered on top and a pinch of coarsely
powdered betel nuts.
Common dishes[edit]

Medhu Vadai is a popular snack in Tamil Nadu served with chutneys.


Rice is the major staple food of most of the Tamil people. Lunch or Dinner is usually a meal of
steamed rice (choru), served with accompanying items, which typically include sambar, dry
curry, rasam, kootu and thayir (curd, but as used in India refers to yogurt) or more (buttermilk).

Kothu Parotta (Chicken) as served in Tamil Nadu, India


Kalaki (An Omelette half cooked with chicken curry on it) as served in Chennai, Tamil Nadu,
India.
Breakfast usually

includes idli, pongal, dosai, paniyaram, aval (flattened

rice), puttu, idiyappam,appam with sweetened coconut milk, chapathi, sevai, Vadai which are of
2 kinds (medhuvadaimeaning soft vadai and paruppuvadai meaning lentils vadai) Vadai, along
with coconut chutney,sambar and Milagai podi. Tiffin is usually accompanied by hot filter
coffee, the signature beverage of the city[specify].
Uthappam.
Arisi Maavu Koozhu (read: koolu), made from fermented rice batter and spiced with asafoetida,
cumin seeds and chilli paste. An instant version of the Koozhu is called Mor Kali, which is made
with Rice flour & buttermilk, to bring the sourness.
Upma, made from wheat (rava), onion, green chillies. May also be substituted with broken
rice granules, flattenned rice flakes, Or almost any other cereal grain instead of broken wheat.
Thogaiyal, made from coconut, dal or coriander leaves

Filter coffee is very popular around Tamil Nadu


Coffee is the most popular beverage. Coffee is a major social institution in Southern Indian Tamil
tradition. It is also called the Madras (a) Chennai Filter Coffee and is unique to this part of the
world. They generally use gourmet coffee beans of the premium Peaberry or the less expensive
Arabica variety. The making of filter coffee is like a ritual, as the coffee beans are first roasted
and then powdered. Sometimes they add chicory to enhance the aroma. They then use a filter set,
few scoops of powdered coffee, enough boiling water is added to prepare a very dark liquid
called the decoction. A 3/4 mug of hot milk with sugar, a small quantity of decoction is then
served in Dabarah/Tumbler set, a unique Coffee cup.
Another popular beverage is strongly brewed tea, found in the thousands of small tea
stalls across the state of Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas.

The South Indian Breakfast and meals served on a banana leaf.


Dosai, crepes made from a fermented batter of rice and urad dal (black gram), and is
accompanied by Sambar; also see Masala dosai.
Idli, steamed rice-cakes, prepared from a fermented batter of rice and urad dal (black gram), and
side-dishes are usually different kinds of chutney or sambhar.
Puliyodarai, Puli=Tamarind, thorai/thoran=fry, is a popular Tamil dish and widely specialised
among Tamil Iyengars and famous throughout Andhra Pradesh as Pulihora and Karnataka as
Puliyogare. It is a mixture of fried tamarind paste and cooked rice. The tamarind paste is fried
with sesame oil, asofoetida and fenugreek powder, dried chilly, groundnuts, split chickpea, urad
dal, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder and seasoned
with light jaggery and salt.
Sambar, a thick stew of lentils with vegetables and seasoned with exotic spices
Rasam, lentil soup with pepper, coriander and cumin seeds
Thayir sadam, steamed rice with curd
Sevai or Idiyappam, rice noodles made out of steamed rice cakes.
Kottu

South Indian Coffee, also known as Filter Coffee, is a sweet milky coffee popular in Tamil Nadu.
There is also a version called Kumbakonam Degree coffee. It is quite similar to
the cappuccino and latte varieties of coffee. Masala Paal (masala milk), sweetened milk with
aromatic spices.
Other snack items include murukku, seedai, bajji, karapori, mixture, sevu, and pakoda which are
typically savoury items.
Specialities[edit]

Breakfast at Nagercoil
Koozh - Porridge, also called Kanji (rice congee). It is made from cereals.
Kootu - a stew of vegetables or greens, usually made with lentils, and spices which makes for a
side dish for a meal consisting of rice, sambhar and rasam.
Aviyal - a stew of vegetables with fresh coconut, and coconut oil which makes for a side dish for
a meal consisting of rice, sambhar, rasam and equally for dishes like Adai and Thosai. In hotels it
is an evening specialty food and advertised as Adai Aviayal.
Puttu - Steamed layered, cylindrical cakes made with flour; usually rice flour is used but any
miller flour can be used. The flour is sparsely mixed with water and packed into puttu cylinder
and steamed. The flour is usually layered with grated coconut.
Kozhukkattai - Steamed dumplings made with rice flour. The fillings are varied: from grated
coconut and jaggery to various savoury preparations.
Kali and kootu
Paal Kozhukkattai - Small dumplings are made with rice floor, then they are added in Boiling
milk. Sugar or Jaggery is added for sweetness. It is mostly consumed in rainy season.

Culinary influence from other parts of the world


Chennai is a major tourist destination, so it is also popular for cuisines from other parts of the
world. While Indian (which includes a diverse range of cuisines from other states of
India), Continental (European) cuisine, and Chinese cuisine have been around for a long
time,Mexican, Italian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine, amongst others, have
become popular with many restaurants exclusively specialising in these cuisines.
Tamil culinary terminology absorbed in English
The word curry is an anglicisation of the Tamil word kari.[3]
The Tamil phrase milagu thanneer meaning pepper soup, literally pepper water, has been adapted
in English as mulligatawny.[4]
The word Mango is derived from the Tamil word Maangaai.[5][6]
The English word rice may have been ultimately derived from Tamil Arisi, although it is similar
to

the Latin oryza and

the

derivativearroz in Spanish.

The

Kannada Akki and

the

Malayalam Ari are a cognate with the same roots.


The word "orange" originally comes from Tamil ( ) via Sanskrit, Arabic, Spanish, and
Dutch.

EAT LIKE A LOCAL: MADURAI

Madurai has always been a city of commerce, with trade relations extending to the
Romans and Greeks. When Greek ambassador Megasthenes visited the city in 302 BC, he wrote
about it magnificence. Arab merchants and Sufi saints also made their ay to Madurai to trade
with the Pandya kings since 900 AD. Closer home, the local Chettiar community traded
extensively with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Singapore and Malaysia. Further, silk weavers and
merchants from Saurashtra in Gujarat have made Madurai home for several centuries now.
Today, Madurais food is a happy union of all these influences, mainly that of Chettinad cuisine,
known for its fiery flavours. The Chettinad region, comprising 75 odd towns and villages, is less
than two hours drive away from Madurai.

The Chettinad story is seen in the


rice-based snacks likepaniyaram (savoury snack shallow fried in a special mould)
and idiyappam (string hoppers), kuzhambu (spicy stew) varieties and a wide repertoire of meat
dishes, from chicken and mutton to crab and rabbit. Kothu parotta flaky paratha that is spiced
and minced on a hot griddle is the culinary legacy of Sri Lanka. Popular on the streets of
Colombo, kothu parotta today is served everywhere in Madurai in various avatars that include
vegetables, eggs and meat.

The Madurai version of biryani is


spicier than the more famous Hyderabadi and Lucknowi versions, with coconut milk added
occasionally. It is believed to have been brought in by the Muslims, as also Madurais famous
Jigarthanda. Literally a heart cooler, it is a tall glass of sarsaparilla syrup (locally known as
Nannari), almond jelly (also called badam pisin), sugar, milk, cream and ice cream with a
garnish of pista or badam.
Madurai is also inordinately fond of fried snacks, with shops proudly carrying names like
Tamizhaga Ennai Palagaram (Tamil Nadu Oil Snacks). And desserts are considered incomplete
unless they come dripping with ghee, such as the popular gooey Thirunelveli halwa at Prema
Vilas Lala Sweet Shop.
One of the main properties of Madurai cooking is that masalas are used in abundance and always
ground fresh. Red chilli, fresh coconut, garlic, tamarind, fenugreek and curry leaves are the most
common condiments. Star anise, kalpasi (a lichen, also known as dagad phool) and Marathi
moggu are used primarily in gravies, along with bay leaves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, black
pepper and poppy seeds in varying proportions. In a nod to the sweltering heat of the region,
salted and sun-dried vegetables and meats (known as vatthal) are also used.

As a temple and trading city, Madurai takes its sobriquet of thoonga nagaram (the city which
never sleeps) very seriously. Well till midnight, street stalls resound with the clang clang of kothu
parotta being chopped up and special Madurai biryani being ladled out by the platefuls for the
thronging locals and tourists alike. Irrespective of season, the Jigarthanda shops sell over 1000
glasses of the refreshing drink every single day, going up to 5000 glasses in peak summer. The
flower markets are bustling by 3 in the morning, while prayers at the Meenakshi temple begin by
5 am. By then, the city is awake and the food vendors are back in business.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
~ The Meenakshi temple is at the heart of Madurai, with the main streets spreading out as
concentric squares around it. Most of the important shopping and eating joints are in the temple
area.
~ Madurai is known for its food from the mess, local eateries serving home cooked nonvegetarian food. This is believed to have started with the influx of a large number of people from
neighbouring towns and villages during festival times at the Meenakshi temple.
~ Rice is present at every meal in Madurai, either as plain white rice, or flavoured rice such as

lemon rice, puliyodharai, tomato rice and biryani, or in the form of idli, dosa, paniyaram, appam
or idiyappam. The favoured rice, even for biryani, is the local Ponni and not Basmati.

MINI GUIDE TO MADURAI EAT


~ Madurai Idli Shop is a mandatory pit stop for visitors to this city, with idlis that are said to be
as soft as Madurais famous malligaipoo (jasmine). Definitely try their onion uttapam, topped
generously with a dollop of Amul butter or ghee and small shallots. Ignore the sambhar and
focus

on

the

four

varieties

of

chutney

served

on

the

plantain

leaf.

~ Drop in at the no-frills Amma Mess at Thallakulam for a hardcore carnivorous meal; try the
chicken

dosa,

prawn

biryani

and

mutton

kola

(fried

mutton

balls).

~ Beat the heat with Bovonto, the local grape-cola or Nannari sherbet, both available at all
roadside

stalls.

~ At the end of the day, wash it all down with a glass of Jil Jil Jigarthanda at the Famous
Jigarthanda shop on East Marrat Street.

SLEEP
~ Heritage Madurai once housed the prestigious Madurai Club, designed by Sri Lankan architect
Geoffrey Bawa. The extension overseen by Bawas disciple Vinod Jayasinghe, preserves the
original architectural flavour, which includes rough granite floors and pillars and lush open
spaces.
~ Get away from the crowds at the Taj Gateway. Set on Pasumalai hill on the outskirts of
Madurai, it offers great views of the city.
DO
~ Explore local street food, including soft rice and millet idiyappam with coconut milk, and
paruthi paal (a drink made of cotton seed, sweetened with jaggery with a dash of ginger)
with Foodies

Day

Out.

~ Visit the sprawling Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal, the 17th century palace of the emperor of the
Nayak

dynasty.

~ Shop for soft cotton Sungudi saris, made with local tie-and-dye techniques, at Rangachari
Cloth Store at South Masi Street.

***
A slightly edited version of this was published in the December issue of BBC Good Food in the
Eat Like A Local section. Read it in original form here and learn the authentic recipes for local
Madurai dishes, including the kothu parotta and kaara kuzhambu.

Of Mutton Balls & Idli Indulgences: Madurai is a Food Lovers City


This is no city for a relaxed Sunday brunch. You need to roll up your sleeves and remember not
to ask for cutlery. I asked for a spoon at one of the restaurants and was bluntly instructed to eat
with my hands by the waiter. Our food is meant to be relished with your hands. I learnt my
lesson.
You dont need a spoon to dig into Madurais most famous dosa though. Simmakal Konar
Mess kari dosai is thick enough to qualify for a deep dish pizza. This three layered dosa begins
with an omelette at the base, a thick dosa in the centre and ends with a layer of finely minced
mutton on top. Awesomeness.

The kari dosai at Konar Mess. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)

The Konars are proud of their history a community of cowherds and goatherds. Offal dishes
which can shock the mild carnivores dominate the menu at this restaurant.
The city loves its mutton and the villages around the city ensure a never ending supply of high
quality meat.
My last two visits to Madurai in search of another local specialty proved futile. (Ratha Poriyal or
stir-fried blood is still served in some homes in southern Tamil Nadu.) This is goats blood,
quickly stir-fried with finely chopped onions, green chillies and seasoning. Many restaurants
pulled it off their menu to ensure they dont lose their halal certification.
Theres Something in it For the Vegetarians Too
Madurai flower market. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)
One of the best places to start your day in Madurai is the citys flower market which is among
the busiest in India. This market is also home to the famous Madurai Malli (jasmine) that
fragrance houses from Paris make a beeline for.
Madurai is not a complete lost cause for vegetarians Murugan Idli shop is not too far from the
flower market and it churns out its trademark soft (and slightly sticky) idlis with factory-like
precision through the day. This shop also has one of the citys best known all-vegetarian dining
experiences.

Bharma
Idiappa Kadai. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)
Then theres Bharma Idiappa Kadai one of my favourite street food experiences in the city.
Devikas family used to run a successful rice noodle business in Burma before moving to
Madurai

as

part

of

the

massive

exodus

in

the

early

1960s.

This

establishments idiappams (string hoppers) are served with coconut milk or tomato chutney.

tiny

Of Mutton Balls and Jigarthanda

Kola urundai (mutton balls) at Chandran Mess. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)
The citys restaurant scene is dominated by family run establishments that are fiercely proud of
their recipes. Chandran Mess is one such restaurant where the owner is happy to let me walk into
his kitchen. Its remarkably clean and is managed by his family. They dont use packaged
masalas here instead, every dish features hand-ground masalas with unmatched flavours. The
most famous dish here is the kola urundai (mutton balls), a melt-in-your-mouth mutton delicacy
made with finely ground mutton that actually comes from the nearby Chettinad region.

Parotta Madurai style. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)


Recent curbs have meant that some of Madurais round-the-clock establishments have to shut
earlier than before. And yet, its possible to sample the citys famous layered parotta with a fiery
mutton kurma past midnight at establishments like Sulthans or wash it all down with the
unique Paruthi Paal (cotton seed milk).
But dont leave town without sampling Madurais best known dessert. Queue up at Famous
for jigarthanda, the cloyingly sweet dessert that features condensed milk, hand-churned icecream, cream and tree gum in the mix.Enough said.

Jig
arthanda is Madurais best known dessert. (Photo Courtesy: Ashwin Rajagopalan)
Getting there and around: Madurai is well connected with major airports in India. Its nine
hours by road from Chennai. Autos are the best way to get around the old citys crowded streets.
Accommodation: Heritage Madurai is a 100-year old property spread over 17 acres with a
gorgeous pool styled like a temple tank. (www.heritagemadurai.com)
(Ashwin Rajagopalan enjoys communicating across boundaries in his three distinct roles as a
widely published lifestyle writer, one of Indias only cross cultural trainers and a consultant for a
global brand services firm. Ashwin writes extensively on travel, food, technology and trends)

What new could Madurai offer?, I wondered, till the young voice from foodiesdayout.com
roped me in, I promise you will enjoy!
It is the time when the sun turns bleary-eyed, the air is little cooler and everybody is in a rush to
get home. But I was not. And neither were Alba Bordes, a chef-cum-blogger from Cantalonia
(Spain) and Thomas Leppa, a graphic designer-cum-foodie from Helsinki (Finland). The couple
was in Madurai for just the night and chose to walk the city after dusk.
Where to start in a city like Madurai with a personality and lot of history, which basks in the
flavours of its street cuisine and where a story unfolds at every corner?
We stood at the junction of West Veli Street and Town Hall Road. Thomas, after three weeks in
Kochi and Bangalore, said, Lets keep it simple. It should be fun, followed up Alba, after
three months in Goa. We crossed over to decades-old Prem Vilas famous for its Tirunelveli halwa
for a sweet start.

A swelling group of people beat their own rhythms and in mismatched steps vied to walk on the
sidewalks as vehicles honked an orchestra. There was no sign of an interruption. The counter at
the sweet shop got busier by the minute.
We managed a foothold on the edge of the pavement. It is an art to elbow your way in a crowd.
Unmindful of flies, dust, sweat and noise, people jostled and shouted to get their orders through
first. The delicious and piping hot ghee-dripping gooey halwa made up. The guests pinched out
rounds of the slippery halwa generously wrapped in a lotus leaf. Its yummy, they echoed,
signalling a perfect start to the culinary excursion.
We snaked around North Masi Street to get the business of the city streets. There is a strange
delight about walking err, hopping down congested streets. We did it here and there over
strewn garbage from the fruit market on the perpendicular Keezhamasi Street, chock-a-block
with trucks off-loading goods, vendors arranging their baskets for the evening sales, buyers
haggling over the price.
We competed with stray dogs and cattle in frightfully jumping out of the way of several honking
four-and-two-wheelers. We ran across a zebra crossing at the switch of traffic lights. We passed
our feet over puddle to slush on Dhalavoi Street. The place teemed and an unflustered Alba
screamed, Wow, this is real India!
Praveena from foodiesdayout quickly ushered us inside Murugan idli kadai. We were the first
customers and the freshly prepared super soft white idlis with four chutneys and paruppu podi
and butter dosa with hot sambar -- were promptly served on a plantain leaf. By the time we came
out, the sky had changed its colour.
The street was now wrapped in a transparent shawl of darkness. The East Tower of the
Meenakshi Temple with its intricate colourful carvings glowed under the flood lights. The
cobbled street at the entrance was hijacked by jasmine sellers and other vendors. The face of a
little girl finishing her homework under the street light with her mother by her side selling
jasmine strings stuck with me. Mystery of the night deepened as we made a diversion to the East
Veli Street up to the elegant St.Marys Cathedral built in 1840. In the greyness of the night, the

countrys oldest Roman Catholic Church with its two tall bell towers lit up in blue lights looked
imposing. It felt as though time is buried in eternity here.
Shutters were mostly down on this stretch barring one hotspot, the Burma Idiyappam Kadai. We
opted for ragi string hoppers soaked in coconut milk and sprinkled with coconut shavings that
went down easily.
A tipsy man ambled off blabbering incomprehensibly. The idiyappam maker was keen to pose
with the foreigners. He is my favourite type, gushed Alba. I love to see their proud face after
the photo is taken, she said, simply undemanding, they continue with their business with a
smile.
We moved on to Kamarajar Salai, which changed to a picture in contrast. The Vilakkuthoon,
Madurais oldest symbol of street lamp, at the East-West Masi junction was a hub of unusual
activity.
Our gentle two hour stroll had many stops with frequent tastings along the way. Alba and
Thomas greeted strangers with a hello or a hand shake, some asked them their names or
countries. In between we picked up a piece of jackfruit each and also stopped by Husains cart
selling Thennang kuruthu. At Rs.10 for two slices of the tender coconut bark, we contributed to
his earnings.
The spice market on Keezhamasi resembled a brisk day bazaar. Mounds of coriander seeds,
cloves, cardamom, tamarind, red chillies and garlic were a riot of colour. Women made late night
purchases fearlessly. Mohans four decades old shop stood out with its digital display board and
his photograph.
Tucked in between the pungent and aromatic spices, we found a small old sweet shop famous for
adhirasam. Thomas, relishing the sweet made with rice flour and jaggery, compared it to a donut.
We followed it up with a cup of paruthi paal -- cotton seed milk boiled with jaggery and spices.

We spotted more local flavours on the Kamarajar Salai and soon steaming hot sundal and crispy
keera vadai and bhajjis made their way into our stomachs. Though the clock ticked, the night was
still young on the busy market road.
We walked past scores of sweet shops and street stalls by the side of which makeshift benches,
plastic chairs and tables were being laid. We stepped inside textile and untensil shops and met
people whose families have traded in the area for generations.
We thought we wouldnt need dinner. The Ashok Evening Mutton stall inside a narrow lane was
the kind of outlet you would normally ignore. But wait till somebody introduced you to its
signature dish the stuffed Ceylon parotta with mutton chukka. Alba and Thomas sportingly dug
into the spicy dish, sipping Bovonto in between to neutralise the fire on their tongue.
We reached Konar Mess in Anna Nagar after 10 and it was brimming with customers. And who
could stop us from joining the bandwagon for the Kari Dosa (mutton and egg spread over dosa
and pan cooked liked a pizza).

We longed for a break now. Theppakulam at this hour presented a different world. Pillows of
clouds shadowed our steps. A light breeze caressed our faces. People thronged the dry tank for a
late sit-out waging a war with mosquitoes. The push carts selling Chinese and fried food still had
cash ringing in.
We met a few regulars like Bhagyaraj from Teachers Colony. It is like Madurais beach!, he
exclaimed, instead of wasting time and money at the cinema, it is better to spend time here and
watch the world go by.
A tiny spot near Golcha complex in Anna Nagar chilled us out with its glass of lassi and Jil Jil
Jigarthanda. By now silence had descended on the road and we could hear the sound of our
footsteps. There is no limit set for such a night out, said Praveena, you can go on as long as
you want.

Till you actually step out to gaze at lit up streets and shops, bump into people at unexpected
hours, walk on the streets embraced by darkness, stare at the mysterious silhouettes of buildings
or the surviving sections of forts and monuments that look like illustrations from the pages of a
novel, smile at the stars and the moon in the sky, fall in love with the cacophony of sound at the
midnight market or the silence by another roadside, you will never know or feel the difference
between Madurai in the day time and at night.
My mind is still intrigued by the sight of the city by night giving me one more reason to love
Madurai. As much as Alba and Thomas who left saying, this is what we wanted to experience,
the real sense of an old city. The quest must continue.

Best places to Eat in Madurai

1. Madurai Malli: Periyar Busstand


2. Masala milk : Arya Bhavan- By night..
3. Lassi : Arya Bhavan - By night
4. Jil Jil Jigar Dhanda: Famous vilakku thoon, East Marret Street
5. Biriyani & Apple Milk: Amsavalli
6. Briyani and Fossil Chicken: Jaffer
7. Kottu purotta and Nattu kozhi muttai Omlett : Hotel tamil Nadu Kamarajar Salai
8. Amma Mess Viraal Varuval
9. Rasam, Mutton chukka, Ayirai Meen Kuzambu : Hotel Arulanandham
10. Konar kadai Curry Dosai, muttai dosai
11. Murugan Kadai idly chutney sambar kara chutney and idly podi
12. Idly paaya, Porota Salna Muniyandy Vilas
13. Fruit Mixture : Near Periyar Busstand
14. Cashew Macroons - Raja Barley
15. Idlis : Old modern restaurant
16. Roti, Green Chilly and Mango Juice: Chunkwala
17. Bone Less Crab : Kumar mess
18. Paruthi Pal : Road side hotel
19. vellaiappam and karra chatni : Gopu iyengar hotel
20. Mullu Murunga Vadai : South Masi Street & in Town Hall Road
21. Soan Papdi - Arya Bhavan
22. Kothu parottas - Bhai kadai in West Masi St
23. Ginger biscuit / susberry - Vincent Bakery (West Masi St, next to old Shanthi Talkies)
24. Idli with different Chutney, Ennai Dosai : Goripalaym Mudaliar Kadai
25. Bakery -Puppy shop kochadai
26. Dominc pizza Anna Nagar
27. Sapathi World - Hindu office
28. Variaty thosai - hotel Krishna -inmayil nanmai tharuval kovil street
29. Dindigul velu briyani

30. Cancane -variety can juice


31. Sidewalk Germans -cookies
32. Chilly Parotta From Guruprasad Hotel,Periyar Busstand,Madurai
33. Chithiral porutkaachi - delhi appalam, cauliflower roast
34. Malligai tea shop (behind outpost) - badam milk
35. Hotel gangagowri - special dosa
36. Ganesh mess - lunch, especially soyabeans curry
37. Simmakkal busstop - kaiyendhi bhavan
38. Pudur meenakshi bhavan - wings of fire (gobhi)
39. Jayaram bakery (periyar busstand) - pastry
40. Pani poori (homemade sold by N.I) - near krishna garments
41. Poori, kilangu - hotel abirami - simmakkal
42. Sriram mess - wholesome lunch
43.JB - grill chicken & poratta near dinamalar office dsp nagar..
44.Poricha poratta in karimedu..

ANNEXURE