Famous Chettinad Dishes

The Chettinad community is tucked away in a corner of Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu and is famous for its taste buds-tickling cuisine as well as its amazing heritage homes. The Nagarthar Chettiars of Chettinad travelled far and wide over the south-east Asian countries and their traditional cuisine has picked up elements from these countries and fused them most amazingly with their own.

Every dish offered by the Chettinad cuisine is vivacious, vibrant and vivid in all its flavours. The cuisine is celebrated across the country with every dish being a masterpiece in its own right. Generally synonymous with spicy food, this spirited cuisine offers a complex blend of well-balanced flavours, making it an unforgettable gastronomic delight.

History tells that the Chettiars initially lived next to the coast before settling inland and trading in spices with south-east Asian countries. This has lead to a number of signature Chettinad dishes like ‘meen kuzhumbu’ (fish curry), ‘nandu masala’ (crab curry), ‘sura puttu’ (shark fin curry) and ‘eral masala’ (prawn curry). Most of their pre-dominantly non-vegetarian dishes are eaten with rice and rice-based accompaniments. These include dishes like ‘dosais’, ‘idlis’, idiyappams’, ‘appams’ and ‘addais’.

There is a popular saying in South India that lucky is the man who can eat like a Chettiar. Since they gave a lot of importance to food, a Chettinad kitchen is always large. The specialty of their cuisine is that they use freshly roasted spices ground in stone grinders for every dish. Living in a semi-arid area has further led to their using salted and sun-dried ingredients like meat, vegetables, pickles, and berries. Traditional dishes like ‘kavuni arisi’ (sticky black rice pudding) have a distinctly Burmese origin while the ‘idiyappam’ (string hoppers) has a Sri Lankan influence.

A traditional meal is usually served on a banana leaf with each dish having its own designated place on the leaf. A typical meal includes pickle, mor milagai, appalams, varuval, kootu (lentil curry), poriyal, urundai, masiyal, sambar, rasam, kuzhumbu, rice, and chapatti. Desserts like ukkarai or pal payasam are served last. The meal is usually finished off with a drink of buttermilk to neutralize the fieriness of the meal!

Some of the other signature Chettinad dishes include ‘kozhukattai’ (rice dumplings), Chettinad chicken curry, ‘vazhaipoo meen kozhambu’ (banana flower gravy), ‘milagu kozhi varuval’ (pepper chicken fry), ‘karaikudi eral masala’ (spicy prawn fry), ‘ennai kathrikai’ (fried brinjal gravy), mutton chukka, ‘meen kuzhumbu’ (fish curry), ‘kuzhi paniyaram’, etc.

The best way to relish traditional Chettinad dishes is by going to Chettinad. Time to make a trip to Karaikudi….!