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Then Indhiya Samayal Iravu -An Evening of South Indian Cooking: 

Then Indhiya Samayal Iravu -An Evening of South Indian Cooking Anita Subramaniam, Ph.D.

Tradition, Tradition, Tradition!: 

Tradition, Tradition, Tradition! "India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition." -Mark Twain

Differences within ethnicity: 

Differences within ethnicity Rice eaters Spices- red chilies, green chilies, cumin, coriander seeds, asafetida, turmeric, pepper, fenugreek seeds. Jaggery instead of sugar Coconut and tamarind used for gravy Steaming, pressure cooking, fermenting, boiling, roasting North Indians eat whole wheat (chapattis and rotis), Maida (refined wheat) (naans, parathas) Cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pomegranate seeds (ajmer) Sugar more than jaggery Tomatoes and onions for making the gravy Frying, roasting, baking, marinating

Differences in South Indian Cooking: 

Differences in South Indian Cooking Kannadigas – jaggery, has sweet and sour taste Telugus – extra hot foods Keralites – a lot of coconut, coconut milk, use coconut oil for frying Tamils – tamarind, coconut Madurai/Kancheepuram (idlis) Chettinad (mainly non-vegetarian, extra spicy) Thanjavore/Trichi (Rice Bowl of India) Tirunelvelli (Halwa) Palghat (coconut milk, elliseri, jackfruit payasam) Indo French cooking (Pondicherry, Cheeses) Anglo Indian cooking (soups (mulagitawny soup), breads, chips)

Tamil Society – Clothing & Food: 

Tamil Society – Clothing & Food Tamils live all over the world. There are Tamils in Singapore, Thailand, Madagascar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia, UK, and US.

Introduction to Tamil Cooking: 

Introduction to Tamil Cooking Today’s menu consists of home recipes A few of the innumerous items using traditional Indian vegetables and recipes Variety of items prepared for one wholesome meal Vary from laborious and very simple Vary from spicy hot to very sweet Healthy and unhealthy foods Combination of several ingredients to prepare one dish Many of these items are prepared in more than one way.. there is no single way of preparation

Tamil Nadu: 

Tamil Nadu Food Crops Rice Ragi Bajra Masoor Dal Moong Dal Cash Crops Cotton Sugar cane Jute Tea Coffee Rubber Plaintain Mango Tamarind Spices

History of Agriculture: 

History of Agriculture Early Humans were good gatherers not producers In India, food production is evident from Indus Valley period. Intensive excavations at Kalibangan, one of the important pre-Harappan sites in Bikaner division of Rajasthan have laid bare a furrowed field showing in the third Millennium B.C., farming was well developed. Ploughing using oxen and bulls Six, eight & repeated ploughing was done to acquire desired quality of the soil. Cow dung was used as manure. Earthworms grown to till the soil The Vedic farmers knew the method of improving the fertility of the soil by crop rotation method. Agricultural Traditions are Maintained!

Rice - the main food crop: 

Rice - the main food crop India one of the largest exporters of rice, ranking second in the world next to Thailand (Money Matters, 2004) India produces about 78 million tonnes of rice (rice consumption of the world is around 408 million tonnes) (Business Standard, 2003) Profile of a Rice Producing Factory : Rice production for this year is going to be affected both in India and China due to poor monsoon season Rice grown in India is of different varieties Kuttharisi (parboiled) Ponni Samba Idly Jasmine flavored rice Rose flavored rice Red rice Parboiled rice Rice steamed with the outer husk before dehusking This enables the rice grain to retain B-Vitamins that are usually lost during the dehusking process. converted rice = parboiled rice   Fast-cooking white rice  When cooked, the grains are more nutritious, firmer, and less clingy than white rice grains.   Uncle Ben's is a well-known brand. Parboiled rice is now available in other cities in India and in the US and UK

Pulses – Main Protein Source: 

Pulses – Main Protein Source Peas, beans and lentils are known as pulses. They are the seeds of plants belonging to the family Leguminosae Rich in Protein, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Vitamins (C) Low in Fat; contains unsaturated fats Some are high in iron and calcium

Indian Vegetables and Fruits: 

Indian Vegetables and Fruits The common South Indian vegetables are: Snake gourd Bitter gourd Avaraikai (broad beans) Thondakai Drumstick Raw plantains Banana flower (Vazha poo) Banana stem (Vazha thandu) Taro root (Shepangazhangu) Karamani (long beans) Small brinjals White pumpkin Different varieties of greens Yams (Karnakazhangu) Kothavanrangai (cluster beans). Fruits that we use are: Papaya Jack fruit Different varieties of mangoes Sapota Guavas Different varieties of bananas Perichampazham Pomegranate Nagapazham.

Spices and Condiments: 

Spices and Condiments Coriander seeds Curry leaves Mustard Cilantro Red chilies Green chilies Cumin seeds Fenugreek seeds (Vit. E) Asafotida Tamarind Til (Gingili seeds) Ginger Turmeric Cardamom Black pepper Vanilla Rose essence Saffron India is known as the 'The home of spices'. There is no other country in the world that produces as many kinds of spices as India. The climate of the country is suitable for almost all spices.              According to the International Organization For Standardization (ISO); The term 'spices and condiments' applies to such natural plant or vegetable products or mixtures thereof, in whole or ground form, as are used for imparting flavor, aroma and piquancy to and for seasoning of foods". There are over 80 spices grown in different parts of the world and around 50 spices are grown in India. ROLE OF SPICES They add tang and flavor to otherwise insipid foods. Some of them also possess antioxidant properties, while others are used as preservatives in some foods like pickles and chutneys, etc.  For good breath ..Chewing certain spices like cardamom, cumin, clove;  improves digestion and acts as a mouth freshener. Some spices also possess strong anti-microbial and antibiotic activities. Many of them possess medicinal properties and have a profound effect on human health, since they effect many functional processes. Spices act as a stimulates to the digestive system and help digestion in many ways. Spices possibly activate the adreno-cortical function and fortify resistance and physical capacity. Stroke frequency , and blood pressure can be diminished or augmented by means of spices.  (

Cooking Methods: 

Cooking Methods

Traditional Tools: 

Traditional Tools Aruvamanai Ammi, Attukkal

Traditions in Meal Preparation: 

Traditions in Meal Preparation Always cooked the same day Cooks get to work very early in the morning – 5 a.m. Cooking only after shower Must wear proper clothing No footwear Usually cooking done by women Although some households have male cooks Male cooks (only) for wedding and festive occasions Male and females do not usually cook together Feet always washed before entering the house (guests) (WHY?) Vegetables are washed before cutting Hands washed after each activity Must not touch old food (if any) while cooking; if done, wash hands Utensils washed before use (even if washed before) Cooking area cleansed after every meal preparation Cooking area is decorated with kolams in the night

Pressure Cooking: 

Pressure Cooking Healthy, no fat Several items cooked at the same time Conserves time and fuel Cooks food well No loss of nutrients as water is not drained Can be dangerous if not properly installed Pressure can cause food burst and to be thrown out Makes noise May undercook/overcook food

Wet Grinding: 

Wet Grinding Indian wet grinders use the same concept as used in hand grinding Wet grinders are quicker than hand grinding Wet grinders grind food for idlis and dosas better than food processors Not useful for small quantities


Steaming Idlis and many items used are cooked by steaming Healthy No fat used Quick


Frying Less frequent than pressure cooking, steaming or roasting Frying limited to side items such as chips like varuvals, appalams, and pappadams These are usually made once a week and saved Frying also for Tiffin – afternoon snacks Shallow frying more common than deep fat frying (dosa, adai, appams) Limited to festive occasions and social get together Only vegetable oil used- sunflower oil most common in India; gingili oil and coconut oil used a few decades ago Ghee used for seasoning and desserts

Food Eating Patterns: 

Food Eating Patterns

Food Eating Patterns: 

Food Eating Patterns One of the main influences on Indian cuisine is the Hindu religion Many Hindus are vegetarians In addition, most of the Hindu people, as far as I know, don’t eat beef. Cows are considered sacred in India and are worshiped by Hindus Pork is also not common ( Mutton and Chicken are the most common types of meat consumed Region and religion affect Indian eating patterns Muslims are forbidden to eat pork and pork products. All Jains and some Hindus are strict vegetarians, though they do consume dairy products In addition, Indians follow restricted diets for pregnancy and mourning. There is also a selected system of fasting related to religious practices At home, Indians often eat meals sitting cross-legged on a floor mat. Instead of cutlery, the right hand is used for eating and a piece of fresh banana leaf or stainless steel plate (thali) serves as a plate. While the rest of the household eats, women serve the meals and wait until everyone has finished dining before sitting down themselves. (

Traditions in Serving Food: 

Traditions in Serving Food Food generally served on banana leaves Leaf is placed before the guest The corner of the leaf faces right of the person Water is served first, no other beverage is served Leaf is cleaned by sprinkling water and brushing the water with fingers (left to right) Food eaten with hands –using only fingers not the palm Only right hand is used for eating Food eaten sitting on the floor on the full lotus position with erect back Seating is from left to right – no gaps The most important person served first Sometimes the first leaf is for “puthras” (ancestors) Usually in most Hindu homes, the crow is served rice, dal and ghee first outside the house Food served clockwise Food served from top right corner of the leaf to left

Order of Serving/Eating Food: 

Order of Serving/Eating Food Foods served first: Serving starts with a spoon of “payasam” Dhal Followed by salads – vegetable and fruit Vegetable dishes Chutneys and pickle Vadas, laddoos and other items First Serving of Rice: Rice Ghee Sambhar Appalam Second Serving of Rice: Morekozhambu Second serving of all dishes that has been consumed Third Serving of Rice: Rasam Appalam Main Dessert: Full cup of payasam Fourth Serving of Rice: Yogurt Wash Hands and chew betel leaves Digestive: Betel leaves with betel nut and Calcium Carbonate (lime) Some men and women combine chewing tobacco with betel leaves

Traditions After the Meal: 

Traditions After the Meal All food served must be consumed Unconsumed food generally set in one side of the leaf Leaf must not be folded Guest gets up and washes hands Hostess always takes away the leaf after ALL the guests get up Concept of Dharma- serving food to guests is considered dharma (a generous act) Hostess cleans the place with her hands Burping is sign of contentment of food Guest must sit for sometime before leaving Betel leaf with lime and betel nuts served when the guest is seated with washed hands

Festive Occasions: 

Festive Occasions Are many and celebrated with a lot of sincerity and regularity All members participate Certain festivals all extended family members attend Several gods and each god is revered Flowers, betel Leaves, betel nut, fruits, and, coconut are sacred offerings for all the festivals Special items of food are prepared specific to each festival

4 Meals a Day!!: 

4 Meals a Day!! Common Breakfast items Coffee Idlis Dosas Uppuma Poori Pongal Accompanied by sambhar, chutney, podis Common Tiffin items: Vadas Bondas Pakodas Savai Adais Lunch/Dinner items Rice Rasam Sambhar Kootu Curry Appalam Yogurt Pickle Thokayal Podis In some households, tiffin items are served for dinner.

A Typical Meal: 

A Typical Meal Rice Rasam Sambhar Kootu Poriyal/Curry Yogurt Ghee Plain cooked Dhal One or two of the below: Chutney Pickle Pachadi Appalam Salad Sweets on occasions only

Snacks & Sweets: 

Snacks & Sweets Ribbon pakoda Muthsarai Mixture Chips – banana, nenthranga Omapodi Murukku Thattai Mysore pakku Cashew nut/Almond cake Athirasam Kesari Halwa Jamun Payasam Usually prepared on festive occasions

Some Traditional Recipes: 

Some Traditional Recipes

Traditional Juice: 

Traditional Juice Panagam (PAAnagam) Jaggery Lime Ginger Cardamom Served before food Only beverage served with food is water.

Traditional Beverage: 

Traditional Beverage Coffee Made from fresh decoction Decoction made through filtration Freshly ground coffee powder (powdering usually done in coffee mills – shops specifically that powder coffee) Add coffee powder to the top compartment of the filter Add boiling hot water over a spoon Consumed with milk and sugar


Yogurt One of the most important sources of Calcium Yogurt is consumed more than milk in some households Yogurt used in cooking preparations Always the last item to be consumed in a meal If one does not wish to eat rice and yogurt, s/he usually consumes buttermilk Yogurt consumed at least two times a day 2 cups Thick form Made from whole fat milk Sometimes from cow’s milk (yellowish in color) Buffalo milk – whitish in color The cream of the yogurt is collected to make butter Butter prepared by churning with hand Churner tied to a rope


Ghee Prepared from butter Ghee is prepared by boiling butter until it turns transparent and dark brown sediments begin to form Ghee is served with rice except when rice is served with yogurt Ghee reduces the spiciness of food

Ghee and Yogurt: 

Ghee and Yogurt Ghee Melt unsalted butter and let it boil until a light brown sediment is formed Store ghee in a cool place No refrigeration required Yogurt Boil milk Let it cool Add some old yogurt (about 2 tsps.) Let it set in room temperature Once set, refrigerate.


pakodas Ingredients Channa flour (besan) 2 cups Rice flour 1 cup Onions 2 chopped length wise Ginger a small piece grated Green chilies 4 chopped Red chili powder Cashews 1/4 cup Curry leaves a few Ghee (melted butter) 2-3 tsp Cooking Oil 4 tsp Cilantro a small bunch washed and finely chopped Salt 1 tsp Cooking Oil for frying Method Mix channa flour, rice flour, chili powder, cilantro and salt Heat 4 tsp of oil, and 3 tsp of ghee in a pan and add it to the above Now add chopped onions, green chilies and mix everything well Make small irregular balls and deep fry in oil.


idlis Ingredients Par boiled rice 3 cups Urad dhal (Black gram- deskinned) 1 cup Salt 2 tsp Method Rinse and soak rice and urad dhal separately in water for 2 hours Grind the two separately, and mix them together with salt Let it ferment overnight Make idlis using idli trays Steam (no pressure).


rice Jasmine or Raw Rice 1 cup 3 cups of water Pressure cook using pressure cooker Or use rice cooker Or cook in an utensil using excess water and drain the water

onion sambhar: 

onion sambhar Ingredients Tur dhal 1 cup Coriander seeds (Dhania) 3 tsp Channa dhal 2 tsp Red chilies 6 Fenugreek seeds (Methi) 1/4 spoon Pearl Onion (1 frozen pack) Tomato 1 (optional) Tamarind paste 2 tsp Grated coconut 3 tsp Green chilies 4 Turmeric 1/4 tsp Cilantro a small bunch washed and finely chopped Curry leaves a few Mustard 1/2 tsp Cooking Oil 2 tsp Salt 1 tsp (or to taste) Method Cook Tur dhal and turmeric with extra water. Drain water and save in a separate container Scrap coconut Fry channa dhal, red chilies, dhania, methi, and little onion. Grind this mixture with tomato and coconut Peel onions (if fresh raw onions are used) Fry onions and green chilies in a pan for a few minutes, and cook this in the tur dhal water with salt After it is cooked, add tamarind paste and cook for a few minutes, and finally add the ground paste After this is cooked add the cooked tur dhal Heat little oil in a pan, splutter mustard, and add this to the sambhar Garnish with cilantro and curry leaves.

cumin and pepper rasam: 

cumin and pepper rasam Ingredients Tur dhal 2 tsp Cumin seeds 1/2 + 1/4 tsp Pepper 1/2 tsp Red chili 3 Tamarind paste 1/2 tsp Turmeric 1/4 tsp Curry leaves a few Water 3 cups Ghee 1/2 tsp Salt 1 tsp (or to taste) Method Dry roast tur dhal and pepper without oil for 1 minute Soak this in water along with red chili & cumin seeds for 10 minutes Wet grind to a smooth paste Boil tamarind in water, add salt, turmeric, and add the above mixture until the flavor comes out Fry 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, curry leaves and 1 red chili in ghee and add this to the rasam.

moor kozhambu: 

moor kozhambu Ingredients Cumin seeds 1 tsp Red chilies 4 Green chilies 2 Rice flour 1/2 tsp Asafetida (hing) a small pinch Coconut 4 tsp Coconut oil 1 tsp (optional) Sour cream or butter milk 4 cups Turmeric 1/4 tsp Mustard 1/4 tsp Salt 1 tsp (or to taste) Curry leaves a few Cilantro a small bunch washed and finely chopped Vegetables - White pumpkin or okra, or zucchini or squash Method Cut vegetable into big pieces and cook in water. If using okra, need not cook but have to fry a little Grind cumin, rice flour, red chilies, with coconut and little salt and butter milk Heat some coconut/vegetable oil, splutter mustard seeds Add curry leaves, little hing, salt, turmeric and the vegetables, and fry this for a few minutes Now add the ground paste and the remaining butter milk to the above and bring this to a boil on a low flame Simmer for a few minutes Garnish with cilantro.

potato roast: 

potato roast Ingredients Potatoes 1 pound Turmeric 1/4 tsp Asafetida (Hing) a small pinch Chili powder 1 tsp Urad dhal 1/2 tsp Mustard 1/4 tsp Curry leaves a few Cooking Oil 5 tsp Salt 1 tsp (or to taste) Method Boil or microwave peeled potatoes with turmeric and salt. Peel skin and dice them and keep aside Heat 5 tsp of oil in a kadai/wok, splutter mustard and urad dal Add curry leaves Add hing, chili powder, turmeric, salt and diced potatoes Simmer the stove and let it cook until the potatoes turn light brown.

Taro root roast: 

Taro root roast Taro root Chili powder Curry leaves Salt Turmeric powder Asafetida Besan Rice flour Boil taro root in a pressure cooker Peel skin Dice cross sectionally Mix chili powder,besan, rice four, salt, turmeric powder, asafetida powder and curry leaves (finely chopped). Dip or sprinkle on the diced taro root Deep fry in oil.


kootu Ingredients Coconut 1-2 tsp Cumin seeds 1 tsp Red chilies 5 Turmeric 1/2 tsp Urad dhal 1 tsp Coconut oil 1 tsp Salt 1 tsp (or to taste) Curry leaves a few Vegetables: Carrot, cabbage, peas, potatoes, etc., OR Chow chow OR Spinach OR Snake gourd, OR Squash OR Nool Kohl OR Zucchini Method Wash and dice vegetables into uniform pieces Cook them with a little salt and turmeric Wet grind coconut, cumin seeds, and red chilies and add this paste to the boiling vegetables Cook until the flavor comes out Heat some coconut oil in a pan, splutter mustard and urad dhal, 1 red chili, curry leaves, and add this to the kootu.


Chutney Coconut chutney Ingredients Coconut 1/2 cup grated Roasted channa dal (Pottu Kadalai) 3 tsp Green chilies 2 Salt 1/2 tsp Method Grind all the above ingredients. Cilantro chutney Ingredients Urad dhal 4 tsp Channa dhal 2 tsp Red chilies 2 Green chilies 2 Cilantro 1 bunch Hing 1/4 tsp Tamarind paste 1/4 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp Oil 2 tsp Method Fry urad dhal, channa dhal, red chilies, green chilies, and hing in oil. Wet grind the above with chopped cilantro, salt, and tamarind paste.

mango pickle: 

mango pickle Ingredients Mango 1 large or 2-4 small Red chili powder 1/2 cup Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds (Methi seeds) 1/2 tsp Mustard 1/4 tsp Hing 1/4 tsp Salt 1/4 cup Cooking oil 1/4 cup Method Cut mango into small dices, removing the pitt, add salt, turmeric, and keep it aside for 4-5 days. Add red chili powder to this mango and mix it well. Roast methi seeds and dry grind it and keep it aside. Heat oil in a pan, and add mustard, and hing and let it cool. When the above oil becomes room temperature, mix it with the mango, and add the roasted methi powder.

tomato pachadi: 

tomato pachadi Ingredients Tomato 1 big and a few small ones washed and chopped Yogurt 2 cups Curry leaves a few Mustard 1/4 tsp Asafetida (hing) a small pinch Green chilies chopped 2-3 Cooking Oil 1.5 tsp Cilantro a small bunch washed and finely chopped Salt 1/2 tsp (or to taste) Method Splutter mustard, and add hing, curry leaves, green chilies Add tomato in oil and fry for 5-10 minutes Add salt, and mix this with yogurt Garnish with chopped cilantro.

mysore pakku: 

mysore pakku Ingredients Besan flour - 1 cup Sugar - 2 1/2 cups Water - 1 cup Ghee - 2 1/2 cups Cardamom (optional) Method 1 Dry roast the gram flour to a golden color. Keep aside. Make a syrup with sugar and water to one string consistency. While stirring, slowly add the gram flour. Continue stirring Add melted ghee simultaneously. Add all the ghee in this manner. Cook till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add cardamom powder. Smear a plate with the ghee. Pour in the mixture ,spread and level. Leave it to cool. While still warm cut into diamond shapes. Mysore pak should be porous, light and crisp.   Method 2 Mix gram flour, sugar and water smoothly. Pour this into a pan and cook in low heat. Keep ghee in another vessel in low heat and add this ghee to the gram flour mixture in steps and with constant stirring. Do this until the mixture turns into a non-sticky paste. Grease the inside of a large bowl with ghee and pour the cooked mixture on this large bowl. When it is still hot, cut into cubical pieces by drawing parallel lines on its surface.

Web sites with interesting recipes: 

Web sites with interesting recipes Thamizhar Pakkam URL: India URL: Saroj’s cookbook URL:


Websites… Dhinakarn Recipes URL:

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