In her third cookbook, the author of Dakshin and southern spice offers a new and exciting range of traditional vegetarian cooking from the kitchens of south India. This book covers rare, unusual easy-to-follow recipes from kongunad, North Arcot in Tamil Nadu, Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh and the cuisine of the Hebbar lyenger community of Karnataka. Chandra Padmanabhan takes the novice and the expert cook alike on a journey through different cooking styles in this authoritative and warm tour of vey special household recipes.
The arrangement of the chapter Sambar & Kuzhambu, Rasam, Poriyal & Kootu, Rice, Snacks, Sweet and Accompaniments makes it easy for the busy cook to find recipes. Dishes range from the familiar lemon sambar, lentil rasam, stir fried potatoes with coconut to the unusual, such as the margosa flower rasam. Suggested menus take the hard work out of meal planning. This book will be welcome by food historians as well as keen cooks looking to expand their knowledge of vegetarian cuisine.
Chandra Padmanabhan, a graduate from Calcutta University, did her post-graduation in education at Delhi University. She has long been associated with the publishing industry.
But it is cooking that has been the author's forte for nearly four decades. She is the author of four best-selling titles, Dakshin (Harper Collins), Southern Spice (Penguin), Simply South (Westland) and Southern Flavours (Westland). Simply South won the international GOURMAND Award for Second Best Vegetarian Cookbook in 2009.
Dakshin's international edition, published by Harper Collins, Australia in 1994, is still a pick on the shelves of bookshops all over the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia.
It is a popular belief that most people in South India are vegetarians. In fact this is not so; they constitute a very small minority and I happen to be one of them. All over the world more and more people are turning to vegetarianism for health reasons. When I started research for my two earlier books, I realized that South Indian vegetarian cooking was one of the most balanced cuisines in this part of the world.
Nutritionists the world over, believe that it is important to eat like a king at breakfast. It kick-starts your metabolism, and gives you the energy to cope with the day's work.
Traditionally, in South India, the previous day's leftover rice was soaked in water overnight; the water was drained, a little salt was added and the rice was mixed with curd or buttermilk, and eaten as breakfast. The dish is called pazhayadu. It is regarded as nutritious and this practice is still prevalent in some homes.
With the spread of education, an increasing number of people started migrating to cities to work. To make life easy, they started eating full-fledged meals by 9 a.m. in the morning, before catching a bus or train to work. The meal normally consisted of rice with sambar, rice with rasam, and rice with curd accompanied by a vegetable poriyal and a curd pachadi. Even today, some families eat such meals that resemble a lunch in the morning in place of breakfast.
As a result of Westernization and modernization, some of us have started eating a regular breakfast. Our breakfast tiffins are popular not only in the South, but all over India. The most popular tiffin is idli sambar with vadai, which is not only nutritious, but also light on the stomach. Today this tiffin is served on board aircrafts and trains, and it is available in most restaurants all over India. Other popular breakfast tiffins are dosai, masala dosai, oothapparn, pongal, uppuma, appam and idiappam. There are innumerable ways of cooking these items, so one can never tire of them.
When I wrote my second book on South Indian cuisine, I came to the conclusion that I had more or less covered most of the popular South Indian recipes. However, since my earlier books were not published by Westland, my son Gautam, who heads this publishing house persuaded me to write a book for him. When I started researching for my third book, I came across some interesting dishes from Kongunadu, the North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu, Rajahmundry district of Andhra Pradesh and the Hebbar Iyengar community of Karnataka. This whetted my appetite for more information on these regions.
The name Arcot is derived from the Tamil words, aaru kaadu, meaning six forests, and the area is lush green. While studying the cuisine of this region, I discovered that they use wheat in their spice mixes. This intrigued me, since wheat is not indigenous to South India. Curiosity got the better of me, and further research revealed that the Mughal viceroys controlled this region at one point, and this probably explains the use of wheat. The famous pulliyogaray (tamarind rice), for example, is made with wheat lapsi and not rice, as in other parts of South India.
The Hebbar Iyengar community today, is a small one, and they are Vaishnavites. There are several theories regarding their origin. One theory claims they were local Kannadiga Brahmins who converted to Vaishnavism during Ramanujacharyar's stay at Melukote, while according to another theory, they migrated from Tamil Nadu, and others maintain that they were originally Jains. They speak a quaint language, which is a combination of Tamil and Kannada and their cuisine is unusual. I had provided their recipes for rice dishes like manga ogoray (mango rice) and ullundu ogoray (husked black gram rice), in my earlier books. Here I have included other dishes such as tengaipaal kuzhambu (coconut milk curry), kollukai satumadu (horse gram rasam) , and ghasgase payasam (poppy seed dessert).
Rajahmundry lies in the Godavari delta in Andhra Pradesh. The area is rich in alluvial soil, and is called the rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh. With a vast variety of food growing in this region, it is well known for its delicious cuisine. High spices mark their dishes, and I have provided recipes for their famous pachadis (chutneys): allam pachadi (ginger chutney), aratikai pachadi (green plantain chutney) and menthukura pachadi (fenugreek leaf chutney). They make excellent dals: molapappu (curried mung), pesharattu kurma (dumpling curry); unusual rasams: mulakkada charu (drumstick rasam), cobbari paala pappucharu (coconut milk and lentil rasarn): and a delicious payasam: paravaannam (rice dessert). Their snacks too differ from the usual south Indian fare: atukula dosai (parched rice pancake), challaatlu (sour curd pancake) and the famous pesharattu (mungpancake).
Kongunadu is the area around Coimbatore, Erode, Salem and Pollachi. It is located in the northwest of Tamil Nadu. The name is derived from the Kongu Vellala Gounder caste. The cuisine has a subtle flavour and is neither spicy nor oily. Copra is used in abundance, since plenty of coconut trees grow here, and turmeric is always added to their curries, giving them a rich colour.
Apart from these cuisines I have gathered other recipes from the four states of South India - Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Once again, I could only provide a sample from each state and community - a single book cannot do justice to all the districts and communities of South India.
I have had fun researching this book and hope you enjoy cooking from it.
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