Cuisine of Chennai, India
Chennai is noted for its delectable South Indian cuisine, so distinct from North Indian cuisine but equally famous and much sought after everywhere. From the idli, vada, and idiyappam to uppuma and dosa, Chennai provides delicious variety for the taste buds. There are numerous vegetarian restaurants in Chennai serving simple meals where a thali lunch is served on a banana leaf to sumptuous spreads in the big hotels. One can also savour non-vegetarian Chettinad cuisine that is a specialty in Tamil Nadu and will be a delight for those who like hot and spicy non-vegetarian food. This type of food has several variations of fish, mutton, and chicken dishes of which the Chettinad Pepper Chicken is special.
Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, is famous for its filter coffee as most Tamils have a subtle contempt for instant coffee. The making of filter coffee is almost a ritual, for the coffee beans have to be first roasted and then ground. The powder is put into a filter set and boiling hot water is added to prepare the decoction and allowed to set for about 15 minutes. The decoction is then added to milk with sugar to taste. The final drink is poured from one container to another in rapid succession to make the ideal frothy cup of filter coffee.
As Chennai is still a city absorbed in Tamil culture & tradition, the tradition reflects in the food of the Chennaites. Rice being the major staple food of the South Indians, Chennai is no exception. Riceforms an important ingredient of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch or meals consist of cooked rice served with an array of vegetable dishes, sambar, chutneys, rasam and curd (yogurt). For a non-vegetarian lunch, curries or dishes cooked with mutton, chicken or fish is included. The meals are incomplete without crisp papads or appalam. Breakfast or tiffin includes idly, dosai and lentils crisp fried on a pan, vada (deep fried doughnuts made from a batter of lentils), pongal (a mish mash of rice and lentils boiled together and seasoned with ghee, cashew nuts, pepper and cummin seed), uppuma (cooked semolina seasoned in oil with mustard, pepper, cummin seed and dry lentils.) There are several variations of the dishes mentioned above which are eaten with coconut chutney, sambar (seasoned lentil broth) and mulaga podi (a powdered mix of several dried lentils eaten with oil).
The Chennai cuisine has a variety of recipes. The menus are usually influenced by the menu of different people who have moved into Chennai from different parts of Tamil Nadu. Each ingredient in a dish has some medicinal value associated with it. On festival occasions, even today the traditional Chennai lunch is served on a banana leaf. It is an ancient Tamilian belief that the banana leaf has the ability to take away untraceable amounts of toxins in the food we eat.
The Chennaites also do not mind experimenting with their taste buds occasionally. The upcoming pizza centers and fast food joint explain it. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste. The Tamil style of Mughlai food can be savoured in the biriyanis and paya. The later is a kind of spiced trotters broth and is eaten with either parathas or appam.