South Indian Kitchen Traditions

Guest Blogger - Jan 02, '20 - general


Pavani also known as I’m “the Cook” in this hideout. She is from Hyderabad, a bustling city in South India that is famous for its Pearls and of course the delicious Hyderabadi cuisine. She has lived in the United States for the past 18 years and my real hideout currently is in beautiful Colorado where she lives with her husband and her 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Pavani started Cook’s Hideout in 2006 as a recipe journal where she writes about the new (and old) recipes that she tries in her kitchen.

South India consists of 5 states – Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. It is said “in India, taste of water changes every 4 kilometers and the language/ dialect changes every 16 kilometers”. In the same way, the cuisine or the culinary characteristics change regionally every couple of hundred kilometers. So even though these 5 states geographically fall under ‘South India’, their cuisines have as many differences as there are similarities. 

South Indian cuisine is subtly flavored yet rich in variety. It is simple, wholesome, nutritious and above all, retains the basic essence of its flavor. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes feature in all of these states. It is almost impossible to capture South Indian cuisine in one page. Here is a brief introduction into each of the five South Indian cuisines.

Andhra Pradesh

My parents are from Andhra Pradesh and I grew up eating Andhra dishes. It is called the ‘Rice bowl of India’, so a lot of cooking revolves around dishes made with rice. In addition to rice, dry red chilies from Guntur are very popular and considered to be one of the spiciest in India. Legumes, vegetables, tamarind, chilis form the basis of Andhra cuisine. Here are some Andhra dishes: Alasandala Vada (black eyed peas fritters), Purnam boorelu.


I grew up in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana. It was considered one of the most prosperous ‘Princely’ states during the Nizam times. Hyderabad and Telangana have strong influence from Nizami cuisine. The dishes from this region are rich in spices, herbs and other locally available ingredients. Here’s a Hyderabadi Vegetarian thali (platter) with Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani, Khatti dal and Bhurani Raita.

Tamil Nadu

The cultural influences from different regions from Kongunadu to Chola nadu to Pandya nadu, have helped to define the incredible culinary history of this state. A typical Tamil meal is called ‘sappadu’. It is traditionally served on a banana leaf which adds a different flavor to the food and also has excellent health benefits (and environmental benefits too). Sappadu accommodates all the six tastes - salt, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent. It consists of a wide array of dishes such as a Poriyal, Rice, Pachadi, Sambar, Idli, Dosa, Vada and on and on the list goes. Some Tamil Nadu recipes to try at home are Moongdal Sundal (Mung bean salad), Kadamba Saadam (Mixed vegetable Lentil Rice), Mor Kuzhambu (Buttermilk based stew).


This is the southernmost state in India. It is known as the ‘Land of Spices’ because the climate in Kerala is ideal for the cultivation of a wide variety of rich spices like peppercorn, cardamom, vanilla, clove, cinnamon and so on and so forth. All of these aromatic spices along with coconuts and bananas feature in Kerala dishes. Traditional Kerala ‘Sadya’, a vegetarian feast can consist of as many as 24~28 dishes at a time. It is served for important occasions like weddings, birthdays and Onam (harvest festival in Kerala). Some Kerala recipes to try at home are Kerala style Dal, Yam fry,Kerala Christmas fruit cake.


This state in South India has a large variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in it’s cuisine. While some of the dishes are similar to other South Indian states, there are many dishes that are very unique to this region. The number of breakfast, snacks or desserts from this state are endless. A typical Kannadiga meal, called Oota is a delicious combination of various flavors. There is rice, sambar, gravy dishes, vegetable curries, ghee and dessert. Some of the most popular Karnataka dishes are Chitrannam (Tangy lemon rice), Karnataka style Sambar (Lentil stew).

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Caption for Photo for South Indian Thali/ Platter included in the folder: 

Clockwise on the plate: Rice, Sambarl, Avial, Cabbage Poriyal, Potato fry, Pickle and Papad in the middle.

Clockwise around the plate: Yogurt, Vermicelli Kheer (dessert) & Water.

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